Virginia has gone increasingly blue at the national level but has been hindered by Republican gerrymanders statewide. With those unfair districts vacated by courts and new ones drawn up, Democrats are well-positioned to finally flip both houses of the legislature. And if they can do that, they can make major progress on teacher pay and education funding, tackling coal companies, creating affordable housing, and making sure the state doesn’t get gerrymandered again in 2021.
Polling on the issues is looking good, but every donation and volunteer hour makes a difference. After all, control of the House of Delegates was determined by a coin flip in 2017.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to and supporting six candidates in Virginia over the last 8 months, and each represents an important element of the new progressive coalition. Barack Obama recently put out his Virginia endorsements, which include three of the candidates below (Cole, Mallard, Hernandez). You can DONATE to them all by clicking here; info on each and links to our stories are below:
Josh Cole is a dynamic young pastor and NAACP chapter president who is running again to represent District 28 House of Delegates after losing his race in 2017 by just 73 votes.
He’s very focused on criminal justice reform and economic inequality, and he works the kind of hours that should clear how dedicated he is to public service.
Fun note: After his religious, apolitical mom insisted he enroll at Liberty University, he worked on the underground College Dems before ultimately quitting the school.
“I thought I was going to Liberty to learn what I should believe,” Cole says, “and I actually ended up learning how to defend what I already believe.”
Karen Mallard, running to represent the 84th district, is a long-time teacher, former union president, and absolutely tailor-made for her district. She is the daughter of a coal miner and spent some of her childhood on picket lines; she later taught her father to read.
Mallard is very focused on public education and providing resources for both educators and students, and is one of several candidates working to turn the Virginia Beach area blue. And she’s not afraid to put herself out there or make an unconventional statement — she made waves and earned right-wing harassment during a 2018 run when she filmed a YouTube video of herself sawing an AR-15 in half to protest gun violence in schools.
“It was nothing compared to what the children in Parkland endured or what their parents endured,” she says. “I destroyed that weapon to show solidarity with Parkland students. They were being bullied by those right-wing trolls after their classmates were shot and killed, and I’m always going to stand up and fight for children.”
Amy Laufer, another teacher and community leader, is running to represent the 17th district in the Virginia State Senate. She’s running against incumbent Bryant Reeves, one of Virginia’s most extreme right-wing troglodytes, an anti-LGBT and anti-abortion reactionary who takes gobs of money from coal companies and corporations.
Laufer is focused on the environment and gun laws — Reeves carries a gun to make some ugly point — and started Virginia’s list, an organization that helps other women run for office.
“I announced that I raised over a hundred thousand dollars in the first quarter and he immediately put together an email about me saying that I will bring infanticide to central Virginia,” Laufer says, hardly hiding her disdain. “Dude, I have three children, two have special needs — don’t go there with me. I can’t wait to have that argument. I’m going to take you out. That’s what’s happening.”
Like Cole, Phil Hernandez is a rising young star in the Democratic Party and progressive movement. His resume is almost annoyingly impressive: He got his start interning at the White House and then worked full-time in the Obama administration on the Domestic Policy Council.
Then, he went to law school and became a civil rights attorney, working on behalf of the homeless. Now, he’s running to represent the 100th district in the House of Delegates. Like Mallard, he’s also working to turn the Virginia Beach area blue.
Elizabeth Alcorn is one of our two candidates doing yeoman’s work in rural districts to lay the foundation for a Democratic revival. A dentist and small business owner, she’s served on the state’s Medicaid boards, trying to provide adequate medical care for Virginians who cannot afford it.
She’s running in the state’s 58th district, bringing together progressives who have long felt isolated and convincing conservatives that Republicans are really just giving them the shaft.
And finally, Beverly Harrison, our other rural candidate, gave us perhaps the most frank and clear-eyed interview we’ve done all year. She’s running in the very rural, very conservative 15th district against the GOP House Majority leader.
It’s an uphill battle, as she details below, and Harrison is really putting it on the line for her beliefs. What started as anger over the blocking of the Equal Rights Amendment has turned into a nascent movement run by a team of one.
“The stakes are high out here. You’re going to lose friends, you’re going to be ostracized,” Harrison tells Progressives Everywhere. “You’re probably gonna get some hate mail and ridiculed if you lose. That probably happens in a lot of places, but in the country, where we all end up at the same Walmart or the Food Lion every day, it’s very personal. I have Republican supporters who will not publicly acknowledge they support me, nor will they put up a sign in their front yard. When you run for office, you’re putting your name out there.”