• Congressman Connolly Honors Memory of George Burke

    On December 7, 2015 Congressman Gerry Connolly honored the memory of our friend and Chairman George Burke with the following speech on the House floor:

    (From the Congressional Register)

    HONORING GEORGE BURKE — (Extensions of Remarks – December 07, 2015)
    [Page: E1719]


    MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2015

    Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to remember and honor a dear friend and colleague, George Burke. Full of passion and energy, he dedicated his life to fighting for our progressive Democratic values. A trusted, wise and gifted political mind, George’s vision and leadership helped build and grow our Democratic Party of Virginia.

    A man of many talents, he was an accomplished journalist, photographer, congressional staffer, senior labor leader with the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Chair of the 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee, and my trusted confidant and Communications Director.

    A constituent and friend of both George and mine, Mike Burke Kirby, recently endeavored to interview many of those who knew George and capture what George meant to so many. I submit Mr. Kirby’s eloquent tribute to George.

    For more than 30 years I have been fortunate to call George my close friend. We will all miss his stories, his unwavering optimistic approach to life, and his love for his friends and family. His loss will leave a great void in all our lives and I will miss him dearly. I ask my colleagues to join me in remembering George Burke.

    GEORGE BURKE [1951-2015]
    (By Mike Burke Kirby, Former Chair Fairfax County Democratic Committee

    With all of his spirit, I thought George Burke was going to keep beating cancer for another ten years. He certainly had ten more years of wisdom and advice, laughter and courage for all of us.

    After centuries of subjugation on their own island, many Irish Americans were conditioned to thrive in politics in this huge nation of democracy. Fighting for their own freedom here, and for the rights of other minorities and women. Those include Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran. George has been a hero in many of those fights.

    George was a Connector, like Paul Revere. Many people rode from Boston to tell people that the British were sending troops west from the city. For weeks, panicky calls were made. Finally, they only listened to Paul Revere because everyone knew and trusted him. George knew 50 times as many people as you and!. They all thought George was one of the best people they ever met.

    George never seemed to parse the issue differences among Democrats. He simply thought that any Democrat was more of a democrat than any Republican He fought to make sure the nominating processes were fair. With a nominee, he put his shoulder to the wheel.

    The print and broadcast media industries declined early in the 21st Century. When George got young people, journalists, press staff and politicians, into the Burke Zone, he mentored them into the integrity and responsibility, the professionalism and punctuality from that loss. George’s effect on Hill staffers was evident the week after his death–with a hundred young faces gathered outside of Rayburn Building for a memorial.

    For those who lived through the 1960s, the memory of Civil Rights, the Viet Nam War, the draft, the Kennedy and King Assassinations, the demonstrations, the politics and music can all come through with just a few words, which mean little to later generations. Many of us shared that with George, especially Gerry Connolly who was with him daily for many years.

    George often bragged about his independent ways, including his own travel routes. In the Snowmagedon, George left the office well after Gerry and James. Six hours after they left DC, the two were only at Bailey’s Crossroads, and on a radio station by phone. George called to say hi. He had been home already, far beyond Bailey’s, had a coffee from Starbucks and was on his way back to Sears to buy a washing machine on sale. Gerry asked where he was; actually George could see them from his inbound car across the street.

    After a broken neck George’s hearing suffered enough that he couldn’t pick up the vibrator on his phone. So, he never turned off the sound. In a medium sized event with President Obama, George’s phone went off. With everybody looking, he answered it. It was Rachel.

    An 8 X 10 Glossy Penny called him, with vast brain power, a pure political analyst and tactician. A total friend who always remained common, who persevered with a lot more than grace through four bouts with cancer. He attended all of her weekly campaign staff meetings until he went into the hospital for the last time.

    George held court at the Mason District Crab Feast. The next day, he showed up again to help dismantle the God awful tent. Even with the broken neck he still came to sit under the porch and spin tales.

    Rachel pestered him early to write the Mason Precinct Letter. George waited until the issues were ripe. Letters almost always perfect.

    Mark Levine got George into Public Access TV, where he covered local politics. The stage may have been small; but George covered it like Dan Rather. He was proud of a large new set, and was completely unfazed when the lighting panel dropped and other parts of the set disintegrated,

    George’s last student, Jake, was grateful for the little time he was able to spend with George. No conversation, no detail, and definitely no person was too big for George–it all mattered to him. Over their 20 to 30 to 90 to 180 minute phone conversations, everything mattered Every question deserves a well thought out response, every roadblock mandates a thoroughly strategized plan to go around it. George’s main lesson, looking back on it, was to pay attention and not to let any opportunity, no matter how small, be wasted.

    George hosted the debate among the seven Democratic candidates for the 8th Congressional District nomination in 2014. On the race, he gave political advice to all of them.

    George spent 16 years as head of Communications at the International Association of Fire Fighters, a job he loved and talked about all the time. Even after he left the IAFF, at every big political dinner, no matter what other hat he was wearing, he always sat at the Fire Fighters table. He served with the Fire Fighters through September 11.

    In Fairfax County, the Fire Fighters called George a mastermind. After years of failing to get a federal grant for the Safety for an Adequate Fire Emergency Response, George and Gerry Connolly stepped in. They now have a grant for millions of dollars that gives the County 49 additional staff on ladder trucks.

    George took care of any issue, knew how the legislatures work and could always find a way to fix any problem. John Niemiec, said as a friend, George even helped people get recommendations.

    Dan Duncan was Communications Director for the Seafarers Union, while George was president of the International Labor Communications Association. George worked hard to get labor press respected both within the union movement and among the general media. They were all propagandists of one kind or another because, if they didn’t promote their members, they certainly could not expect any one else to do so. George understood that and worked hard to transition labor media from membership newspapers and magazines to the emerging world of what would become social media.

    Dan Duncan knew George when he was on the 11th District Democratic Committee,

    [Page: E1720]
    which George chaired. When Dan presided at the NoVA Labor Federation, George knew the numbers and he knew the people. He worked hard for consensus, but allowed those with opposing views about candidates and/or issues to get their points across without folks becoming alarmed or challenged.
    Long discussions with Cathy Hoffman, a boss at Liberty Mountain Resort in near Gettysburg, of the triumphs and challenges of their teenage kids. Many stories of George, the very patient instructor of the most timid skiers. Many ski instructors are prima donnas, but not George. George’s name is still on the instructor schedule at Liberty for this winter They can’t seem to take it off.

    Kelly Kurtyka also instructed at Liberty. She tried her son, Spenser, at skiing at the age of three. His response of It’s really cold, Mommy devastated her. The next year, Cathy put Spencer with George Burke. Mr. George worked on his own time and waved his magic wands, and Spencer joined his family as a great skier. George brought him stuff from skiing in Switzerland, and Spencer drew pictures of him in school.

    After George travelled across the U.S., he met Sharon the Nurse, who, took him into the woods. Great couple for hiking, kayaking, camping in New England. Not many spouses are blessed with a partner who loves the outdoors so. That worked really well for Sharon and George for 45 years.

    With different knee and ankle strengths, Sharon lost her downhill ability, but cross country skied a lot. George was better at downhill and loved it, and taught it. Still, he often cross country skied with Sharon.

    None of us can quite remember what George was like before he had two cell phones, on in any environment. With the blue tooth in his ear in New England, a little kid walking down the beach noticed that his arm was raised: George’s hand with the phone in it, way up to get better reception. An hour later the kid came back and noticed that George’s arm was still in the air.

    George and Sharon were a team, and you could see that whenever and wherever they were together, more often at Labor events than political ones.

    While folks in local politics never knew where he got the time, George was a five star dad. He changed the diapers. Mom nursed on the weekends and dad was full time. Skiing of course, but also an indulgence in swimming, crew, marching band at Jeb Stuart. The Burke kids loved the outdoors with their parents.

    None of George’s kids got the political infection. But they did get his love of music: the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, B.B. King. They still mostly do the music. The youngest however follows more rap and ski boarding.

    Family holidays were always a very big event with them. Sharon will especially miss the big holiday related events.

    In the spring, Sharon will take Georges’ ashes on a two hour hike to his favorite ravine in New England.

    When you get the vocation for public service, it can be joyful and rewarding. But you will miss a lot, mostly your wife and kids; and they’ll miss you. This is a great country for public service: on the Hill, for the union, and in state and local politics. For almost 250 years, this nation has followed the path to ever more democracy. Rarely as good as spending all your time with your family, and certainly better than leaving your family a fortune, you can leave them a better country to live in. George Burke very much did that.

    After he last got out of the hospital, George wanted a party, sort of an early Irish Wake. Some said he wanted his kids to know what he did; some that he wanted to critique whatever we all said. His editing eyes are very much on my shoulder. We will still have George’s party, maybe in January. Lots more of the best we know of him and very little of grief. Do you know many people who had such a good run?

    Whenever I needed advice or had a question for 30+ years, every voice mail or e-mail got an immediate answer. Nobody else ever does that.

    In writing this, I spoke to more than 30 people. Not all were included specifically here; but they brought a flood of great adjectives. Everyone said true friend.

    The list of candidates and campaigners who got great advice from George would take many pages. If you are reading this, you are probably one of them.

    Whatever you think about after death, the memory of George is softly etched in all of our hearts. He will continue to live in each of us as we remember him almost every day.

    Susie Warner with photo of smiling, skiing George on mountain in the west: I love to remember George like this.


  • In Memoriam: George Burke

    george burke

    Our Chairman, George Burke passed away on October 30, 2015. He was an inspiration to many within the Party and will be missed. The 11th CD Democrats passed this resolution commemorating his life. It has also been ratified by the Democratic Committees of Fairfax County, Fairfax City, Prince William County, and the 8th Congressional District. On December 5, 2015 it was adopted by the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

    Memorial Resolution Commemorating the Life of George Burke

    WHEREAS George Burke’s inspiring and passionate leadership of the 11th Congressional Democratic Committee of Virginia, and his energetic mentoring of many Democrats and Democratic candidates ended October 30, 2015 with his death; and

    WHEREAS George ably served as the Communications Director for United States Representative Gerry Connolly, as well as friend and political advisor, for more than three Congressional terms; and

    WHEREAS, George Burke was born in the Bronx, New York in 1951 and attended the University of New Hampshire, where he met his wife, Sharon, whom he married in 1973;

    WHEREAS, George began his journalism career doing freelance work as both a writer and photographer for the Associated Press, Newsweek, Discover and Yankee Magazine; in 1974 he was hired by Foster’s Daily Democrat, where he worked for more than five years, becoming State Editor and Exeter Bureau Chief. During this time, he won numerous awards including “Best News and Story of 1978” from the New England Press Association; and

    WHEREAS, in 1979 George relocated to Northern Virginia to accept a position with Congressman Norman D’Amours (D-NH) as his Communications Director, and later at the same post for Congressman James H. Scheuer (D-NY) from 1985-1987. During this time he served three terms as President of the Association of House Democratic Press Secretaries, and was a Press Officer for the Democratic Conventions in 1980 and 1988;

    WHEREAS, George Burke left Capitol Hill to become the Director for the Department of Public Relations and Communication for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a union representing more than 300,000 professional firefighters and, in 2000, he was promoted to assistant to the general president for communications and media under then President Alfred K. Whitehead, and held this position until his retirement from the IAFF in 2004; and

    WHEREAS, in the days and weeks following the September 11 terrorist attacks, George Burke worked with national media on the IAFF’s response to the 9/11 disaster and continued to be a tireless advocate for our first responders throughout his life; and

    WHEREAS, George Burke was elected Chair of the 11th District Democratic Committee in 2005, and also served as an advisor to numerous campaigns throughout Northern Virginia; and

    WHEREAS, George Burke ceaselessly sought to broaden the Democratic Party by encouraging fair representation of diverse interests in the Democratic Party of Virginia;

    WHEREAS George Burke hosted a local political TV program, “Inside Scoop,” interviewing local politicians exploring the issues, which aired on Fairfax Public Access

    WHEREAS, George was a gifted man of many talents, who spent 31 years as a professional ski instructor at Liberty Mountain; he was a spellbinding storyteller and an incisive wit, and he lived his life with gusto; and

    WHEREAS George Burke was a man of honor who served his Party, his principles and his country to the utmost of his considerable ability; now

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Democratic Party of Virginia honors George Burke for his contributions to the Democratic Party and offers its condolences to his family; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution be presented to the beloved center of George Burke’s life: his wife Sharon, and children Ian, Caitlin and Sean.

    Submitted by Janet Carver on behalf of the 11th District Democratic Committee. co-sponsored by the 8th District Democratic Committee, and the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.


    You can read other tributes to George from The Hill and Federal News Radio.

    We will post memorial information when plans are finalized.

  • 3rd Annual Halfway to St Patrick’s Day Happy Hour Fundraiser!

     Virginia’s 11th District Democrats invite you to our third annual

    Halfway to St Patrick’s Day Happy Hour Fundraiser

    with special guest

    Congressman Gerry Connolly

    Come have a bite and a drink with your fellow Democrats, mingle with elected officials, and help support our work to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.

    Sunday, September 13, 2015, 3:00 – 6:00pm
    The Auld Shebeen Irish Pub & Restaurant – Cellar Venue
    3971 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030

    Cost: $45 per person in advance; $55 at the door
    Other sponsorship levels available

    Reservations: Pay online at 11thdistrictdemocrats.org/halfway2stpats15 -OR- download registration form -OR- contact treasurer@11thdistrictdemocrats.org

    Join our Facebook Event and invite your friends!

    2015 Halfway to St Pats Graphic

    Congressman Connolly is appearing as a special guest and will not be accepting contributions at this event.

  • 2nd Annual Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day / Happy Hour Fundraiser

    Half Way to St. PatsThe 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee invites you to our 2nd Annual Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day / Happy Hour Fundraiser. Funds raised will be used to assist with the re-election of our Congressman, as well as help our entire Democratic ticket.

    • DATE: Sunday, September 14, 2014
    • TIME: 4-7 pm
    • LOCATION: The Auld Shebeen Irish Pub & Restaurant – Cellar Venue at 3971 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax, VA 22030; map, http://goo.gl/maps/fTTxa
    • COST: $25/person — tickets, click here
    • SHARE FACEBOOKclick here
  • 11th CD 2014 Annual Awards Brunch

    The Virginia 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee invites you to our Annual Awards Brunch honoring some good Democrats … Special Guests Congressman Gerry Connolly & Other Elected Leaders

    Sunday, June 8, 2014
    11:00 am – 1:00 pm

    $45/person ($50 at the door; other contribution levels appreciated)
    Tickets online, click here
    Share on Facebook 

    Cooking and Company Restaurant (10579 Fairfax Blvd, Fairfax, VA 22030; map, click here). Additional parking is available in the business lot next door on the left side (east) of the restaurant (used to be Vespucci’s).

    John Sturdivant Award, honoring a member of the labor community for his/her commitment to Democratic ideals and values – announced at the brunch.

    11th CD Community Service Awards, honoring three Democrats from the respective jurisdictions of the 11th Congressional District (Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Prince William County) for community service:

    • The Joseph V. Gartlan Award, Fairfax County – Peg Kugler,
    • The Deloris Hampton Award, Prince William County – David Brickley, and
    • The Frederick W. Silverthorne Award, Fairfax City – Curt Chandler.

    Questions, more Info contact George Burke, Chair (chair@11thDistrictDemocrats.org).

    Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect the name, address, occupation & name of the employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year. Contributions to the 11th CDDC are not deductible for federal or state income tax purposes. Individual and federal PAC contributions will be used in connection with federal congressional elections and are subject to the limitations and prohibitions of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Contributions from other donors & nonfederal PACs will be used for state and local elections.

    Paid for and Authorized by the 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee, George Burke, Chair