Del. Stacey Plaskett, 52, a Virgin Islands Democrat, talks about working in the George W. Bush Justice Department, being a “token” and why she doesn’t want to run against her daughter.
Q: Tell me something about the Virgin Islands that people in D.C. might not know.
A: When people ask me what the Virgin Islands is like, I always try and ask them, “Have you been to New York City?”
We’re kind of like the five boroughs because I would say Saint Thomas is Manhattan in a lot of respects — very busy, very hustle and bustle, a lot of commerce. Saint Croix is kind of like the island of Long Island, which is Brooklyn and Queens. … We have the two towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted. And then I always say Saint John is more like a tricked-out Staten Island.
Q: What kind of perspective do you bring as a nonvoting member?
A: I think my being a nonvoting member is kind of like how my life has been, where I’m kind of on the outside, looking in. I can be a little more observant than some of my colleagues, particularly on the floor because I’m not so caught up in the moment of what my vote is going to be. So I’m able to see what everybody’s vote is and really look at the different factions and the different groups that have formed around different issues.
I’ve always been, if you could say, the token in a class, whether it’s academically or where I live. I grew up in New York City but my parents are Caribbean, I went to boarding school in a predominately white environment and I was the black kid there. And now I feel like I’m in the minority once again where I’m the nonvoting member.
Q: What’s your relationship with FBI Director Christopher Wray?
A: Chris, Director Wray and I, we still communicate with each other. I worked in the Bush administration as a political appointee at the Justice Department. I came there to work with Robert McCallum. … He brought me in. I moved from his office to Larry Thompson, who was the deputy attorney general, and Chris Wray was one of his protégées. After Larry Thompson left, James Comey asked me to stay on when he had his deputy staff. We interacted with [Robert] Mueller, who was the FBI director at the time.
Chris Wray was the chief of staff that I worked for, so I think I understand where their personalities are and why they’ve done some of the things that they’ve done in a way that most of my Democratic, and even some of my Republican colleagues, don’t.
Q: Why did you decide to move your children to D.C.?
A: We decided after my first term because I lived in the Virgin Islands, we are limited in the number of flights back and forth, and then when I go home, I’m often on an island that my family doesn’t live on. So my husband, who’s more of a political junkie than I am — he likes politics a whole lot more than I do — he and the kids decided to come up to D.C. He works for the DCCC. My kids, the younger two who are still at home, go to school not too far from the Hill. So my daughter [Taliah Small], who’s now 9, has pretty much been raised on politics.
Q: What’s your daughter’s routine when she visits you?
A: She has a reputation, I’m sure. She drops in on my office but there is actually another member who she really thinks she works for. She is one of the Emmanuel Cleaver acolytes. She [made] an ID. She created business cards for herself. I’m just comforted by the fact that I’ll probably be retired before she’s old enough to run for office so it won’t be a head-on-head between us. My sons have told me that they’re more afraid of her than of me and that they would be working on her campaign and endorsing her, which would look pretty bad for me.
We were on the floor when Connor Lamb was sworn in. Afterwards, I was like, “Taliah, do you know who that was? Do you know what this means?” She looked at me like I was kind of crazy. She was like, “Uh, that’s Connor Lamb who won the Pennsylvania special election.” Like, “What kind of dumb question is that?”
Last book read: “Land of Love and Drowning” by Tiphanie Yanique.
Pet peeve: I hate bad table manners. There are quite a number of people around here I don’t like to eat with. I also hate when staff start sentences with “however.”
Cats or dogs: Big dogs.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: Alexander Hamilton, Harry Belafonte.
Closest friend across the aisle: I have running text jokes with Jenniffer González.