I still remember the winter of 1995-96 like it was only a few months ago.
No, not the freezing Nor'easter Blizzard of January 1996 that paralyzed the DC-VA-MD region with four feet of snow and closed down schools and businesses for days...
I'm talking about the then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's high stakes stand-off with then-President Bill Clinton, which resulted in an unprecedented shutdown of the federal government.
During that time, I became one of nearly 800,000 "non-essential" government workers who were forced into a furlough for 28 days from November through January.
It was a miserable time. It's a sad and rotten feeling when your boss tells you to not show up to work, not because of anything you did wrong, but because your workplace is legally not allowed to remain open, even if the workplace's mission is to serve the public.
Worse still was the fact that, for me and for so many low-wage workers who were furloughed during that time, it was really hard to sustain even a few weeks without a paycheck.
In November 1995, I had been on the job at my federal agency for just a little over two months. I was a brand new federal employee who was eager to begin a career in public service, and I was grateful to have a job when so many of my graduate school classmates were still unemployed.
I earned a modest entry level salary, lived alone in a small studio in a rundown neighborhood, had to balance steep student loans, a car payment, and other living expenses while eating canned foods and instant ramen noodles to save a few bucks.
For me, going without those paychecks during the government shutdown meant that I had to dig into the very meager savings that I had scraped together by then.
Fortunately, Congress and the White House eventually came to their senses, and a compromise was reached after a couple of months of partisan finger-pointing.
Because of the huge political price paid, mostly by the Republican majority in Congress, I thought I would never see such a political standoff in Washington again.
Well, I was wrong.
Today, as a Virginia state lawmaker representing thousands of federal workers and others whose livelihoods depend on the national government, I am more upset over what happened last night and this morning than I was in 1995 when I was a direct victim of the shutdown.
I am astonished that the Republican majority in Congress has let this shutdown happen. Just like I was put on furlough for several weeks while finding a way to make ends meet, there will now be thousands of our neighbors and friends who will be without a paycheck for an indefinite time.
I am also disappointed that our President and the Democrats in Congress were unable to plan for this dire situation several months in advance, in an effort to avoid this crisis from reaching this deadline.
Most importantly, I am disturbed by those who think that this national crisis isn't such a big deal.
Although I've been in politics long enough, I didn't quite realize until now that some politicians can actually convince themselves into believing that their selfish and egotistical public grandstanding is in fact their way of "representing" their constituents.
Until the recent brand of extremists appeared in Washington, I didn't realize how bitter hatred for one's political opposition or loyalty to the ideological purity of one's own cause can have such a blinding force upon an entire national political party.
This childish behavior in Congress is not the government we the people want or deserve. I join the vast majority of Americans in calling for an end to this ridiculous and risky stalemate in Washington, and urge our leaders to come together for the sake of our nation.
And, for those of you who still cling onto the idea that government and public service can be a noble cause, we have an election to win in just five weeks.
As I stand for reelection on November 5, I hope you will join me in rejecting the politics of petty partisanship and work to put leaders in our state government who will put the priorities of our constituents and our Commonwealth first.
I am proud to stand with Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring and Stacey Kinkaid in working for progress and rejecting extreme partisanship.
I ask you to join me and send a signal to Washington by electing true public servants in Virginia's state government who will focus on the mainstream needs of our neighbors and friends in Northern Virginia.
Funds raised at this event will be used to help turnout Asian American voters throughout Virginia, which is a fast-growing and important swing constituency that could make the difference in a close statewide election.
Thank you for keeping the faith. Let's keep fighting for sanity to prevail in our government!