This Week in Statehouse Action: Writer’s Block edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Writer’s Block edition

I’m back!

(I went to Portugal, by the by, and I love all of you who voted in last edition’s poll. I did, in fact, drink a LOT of wine, and I also got some quality zzzzzzs.)

… just in time for Virginia elections on Tuesday!

Yes, of course I know state elections are also being held in New Jersey, but Democrats will remain in control of that legislature, which is kind of boring, and I know your time is valuable, so why would I ask you to spend it on something like that?

Virginia Is For Voters: On Tuesday, commonwealth voters will make their annual journey to their polling places (with elections literally every year, this is how we mark the passage of time) and cast ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and all 100 House of Delegates seats.

Full disclosure: Daily Kos has endorsed in some of these races; you can read about why we backed Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, Debra Gardner, Katie Sponsler, Kim Melnyk, and Finale Norton here, and you can send a few bucks their way here, if you’re so inclined.

Campaign Action

Virginia Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the state House this time around, so for the first time in decades, Team Blue is playing defense.

(Dems’ slim 21-19 hold on the Senate won’t be challenged until 2023.)

But incumbency has its advantages, and hopefully Democrats will be able to capitalize on their general fundraising advantage (13 of the top 15 fundraisers in the most recent campaign finance reporting period are Dems) and their cash-on-hand advantage (Dems are at about 150% of Republican totals).

But honestly, there’s no point in trying to keep track of all 100 races—many simply aren’t competitive (though the vast majority are contested).

So here are the races you should keep an eye on next Tuesday.

  • Del. Wendy Gooditis (HD-10, NoVA suburbs/exurbs): Gooditis is a thoughtful, passionate progressive whose values have helped shape the new Democratic majority in the Virginia House. GOP challenger Nick Clemente has raised a fair amount of money, but she’s raised more, which is extra helpful in the extra expensive DC-region media market.
  • Del. Chris Hurst (HD-23, SW VA): Hurst faces a tough reelection in a relatively rural, conservative part of Virginia. Hurst first decided to run for office after seeing his girlfriend shot and killed on live TV, and he’s an essential voice for gun safety policies in the commonwealth. Republican challenger Jason Ballard opposes vaccine mandates, protecting students by requiring masks in school, and commonsense criminal justice and policing reforms.
  • Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (HD-21, Hampton Roads): Convirs-Fowler is a Virginia Beach native who’s spent her two terms fighting for the hometown she now represents. Republican Tanya Gould is essentially running as a paint-by-numbers moderate GOPer.
  • Debra Gardner (HD-27, Richmond suburbs): Gardner is working to oust incumbent Del. Roxann Robinson, who has a history of extreme anti-abortion stances: Her past votes include defunding Planned Parenthood and supporting a so-called “personhood” bill that would ban all abortion. As a social worker, Gardner worked with veterans with PTSD, people recovering from addiction, and children in the foster care system. Gardner is a staunch supporter of reproductive freedom, voting rights, and essential progressive values.
  • Del. Joshua Cole (HD-28, Stafford/Fredericksburg): After a heartbreaking loss in an incredibly close race in 2017, Cole flipped this district two short years ago, and reelection to this seat will empower him to continue fighting for progressive causes, including affordable college, criminal justice reform, a $15 minimum wage, and affordable housing for all. Republican Karen Tara Durant says she was inspired to run when some “protesters” allegedly surrounded her car last summer, which is a pretty strong indicator that she’d oppose all attempts to reform policing in the commonwealth.
  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31, NoVA): Guzman came to the United States from Peru with only $300 in her pocket, and her experience drives her to fight for every Virginian’s success, no matter where they’re from or what their circumstances are. Republican Ben Baldwin is attempting to present himself as a moderate, but he’s clearly adopted the modern GOP’s “election integrity” anti-democratic dogwhistle so we know that’s just not true.
  • Katie Sponsler (HD-66, Richmond suburbs): Sponsler is running to not only flip this open Republican seat, but also to prevent ultra-conservative Del. Mike Cherry from wielding power in the legislature and using it to gut reproductive rights in the commonwealth. Sponsler, on the other hand, has devoted her life to serving her nation in the Air Force and as a park ranger in the National Park Service. She understands the real issues facing Virginians and will work to advance healthcare equity, environmental justice, and workers’ rights.
  • Del. Dawn Adams (HD-68, Richmond & burbs): Adams is a nurse practitioner and the only openly lesbian member of the House of Delegates, and her essential perspective has helped Virginia make great strides in LGBTQ+ rights and protections since Democrats came to power as well as take measures to protect folks from the pandemic. Her opponent is Mark Earley Jr., the son of a former GOP state attorney general and failed candidate for governor.
  • Del. Rodney Willett (HD-73, Richmond suburbs): Willet, a Virginia native, has spent his first term in the state House fighting to improve education opportunities, expand gun safety, and pass Virginia’s Equal Rights Amendment. He’s facing a rematch against Republican Mary Margaret Kastelberg, who seems to be trying to keep her distance from Trump-style politics and practices.
  • Del. Roslyn Tyler (HD-75, Southside): Tyler is a lifelong Virginian and an experienced lawmaker running for reelection in what has become an increasingly challenging district as demographics have shifted over the course of the past decade. Further, she faces a well-funded challenger in Republican Otto Wachsmann.
  • Del. Nancy Guy (HD-83, Hampton Roads): Guy is a proud product of Virginia’s public schools and has spent her first term fighting to improve funding to public education, passing common-sense gun safety laws, defending the environment and battling sea level rise, and working for meaningful criminal justice reform. Republican Tim Anderson is a gun-shop owner who represented the most extreme GOPer in the state Senate in her fight against censure over describing the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as “patriots,” and actively spreads disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and safety practices.
  • Kim Melnyk (HD-84, Virginia Beach): Melnyk is aiming to take down Del. Glenn Davis, yet another virulently anti-choice Republican who’s voted to restrict abortion rights half a dozen times. Melnyk, a former teacher and small business owner, is a huge contrast. As a member of her local school board, she helped increase teacher pay and implement full-day kindergarten. She believes in expanding access to health care and supports paid sick and family leave, and she’s dedicated to fighting climate change.
  • Del. Alex Askew (HD-85, Hampton Roads): Askew already has a solid track record as a lawmaker, helping craft legislation to expand Medicaid, support safe learning environments for Virginia’s students, and provide affordable housing to those who need it. Republican Karen Greenhalgh manages some local “crisis pregnancy centers”—you know, those scammy anti-reproductive rights outfits that scam, pressure, or otherwise push young women to not end unwanted pregnancies.
  • Del. Martha Mugler (HD-91, Hampton Roads): Mugler brought her extensive experience working to improve public schools in her area to benefit students and educators all across the commonwealth. She’s focused on helping Virginia’s small businesses recover from the pandemic, while Republican A.C. Cordoza has tried to run a Republican-lite campaign, generally staying away from the modern GOP’s overt racism, conspiracy-mongering, and anti-democratic rhetoric; however, his true colors leaked a bit last month when he was caught on tape discussing how he’d work to block “any attempt” to fund Planned Parenthood.
  • Finale Norton (HD-100, Eastern Shore+Norfolk): Norton is seeking to unseat deeply entrenched Del. Rob Bloxom—no mean feat considering there’s an actual town in this district that bears his family’s name. But Bloxom is a conservative dinosaur who’s lost touch with Virginia values: He voted against repealing the GOP’s onerous abortion restrictions, providing paid sick leave to essential workers during the pandemic, and reducing the sales tax on menstrual products (the only House member to do so!). Norton, on the other hand, understands that health care—including reproductive health care—is a human right. In this coastal district, she also knows that combating climate change and attendant rising sea levels and flooding is a top priority.

Okay, that’s what you should watch. Here’s why it matters:

Despite the fact that Virginia appears safely blue on paper, progressives cannot afford to overlook these races. While the state has trended in a positive direction in recent years, Republicans are spending heavily to reclaim the power they once held.

But the prospect of GOP victories does more than just threaten to reverse the huge gains Virginia progressives have made on so many fronts—including expanding voting rights, increasing the minimum wage, passing new environmental protections, and safeguarding reproductive rights. Lazy pundit narratives want to turn any Democratic losses into surefire signs that the party is doomed in next year’s midterms.

So yeah, these races are a BFD, and not only to Virginians.

Stay tuned!

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