Virginia holds elections every year. This week, Virginia held primaries throughout the state to sort Democratic and Republican primary challengers for the honor to carry their party’s banner on the November ballot. In Culpeper, Democrat Amy Laufer in the 17th Senate and Democrat Laura Galante in the 18th House of Delegate’s races were successful. Republicans Bryce Reeves in the 17th Senate and Emmett Hanger in the 24th Senate race will represent their party in November.
In school, we were always taught voting was the pinnacle of American representative democracy. Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Nothing could be more emblematic of American citizenship than voting. However, voter suppression is putting our citizenship and democracy in jeopardy. Voter suppression comes in all different forms: subtle and not so subtle. Subtle is what we saw in Virginia with the gerrymandering of the population around the 4th Congressional district to collect African-American voters together. The courts ordered a redrawing of multiple electoral districts.
Then there is North Carolina. A combination of Jim Crow discrimination, economics, and tradition meant that many African-American births were not officially registered. Therefore, the Republican-led North Carolina legislature developed voter identification requirements that required a birth certificate. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down this voter ID requirements and admonished the legislature for creating a block to voting that was “surgically precise.” In Wisconsin, where President Trump won by 22,748 votes, 200,000 people were prevented from voting due to strict voter ID laws.
In the subtle category, along with gerrymandering, state legislatures have the power to increase or decrease the number of polling stations, change the times they are open, and generally make it harder for particular groups to vote. Republican-controlled North Carolina reduced the number of early voting stations in 2016, which the legislature itself stated resulted in an 8.5 percent reduction in early voting by Black voters, leading to a 6 percent drop in their share of the early vote.
Not so subtle are aggressive voter purge practices fostered by Republican led-legislatures, which a non-partisan Brennan Center report portend a considerable threat to all marginalized communities.
In Georgia, where the Secretary of State oversaw the very election in which he was competing, 70% of the 53,000 held-up voter registration applications were from African-Americans. In Texas, the Republican governor threw 95,000 Texans with Hispanic names off the voter rolls. The Secretary of State had to resign when the effort was exposed. In North Dakota, a Republican pushed voter identification law predominantly targeted Native American voters on reservations.
In Ohio, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld a controversial law that purges voters from the registration rolls if they don’t vote in two federal election cycles. There are similar stories of aggressive voter suppression laws in Nevada, Wisconsin, and other states.
Finally, also in the category of not-so-subtle attacks on the American voting system are the Russian efforts catalogued in Volume I of the Mueller Report. It happened; it was serious. The whole Russian effort amounts to voter suppression because we could lose our faith in the sanctity of our elections if nothing is done to thwart Russian activity.
President John Kennedy, in his inaugural address said, “This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” He would have understood that voting was an inseparable part of citizenship. We should all re-commit ourselves to this basic American principle of citizenship that we have inherited from the Founding Fathers.
Editor’s note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
I found the Sun. June 9 article by Jon Russell, “Government regulation and politics can only go so far,” about gun violence, to be troubling. I believe that moderate government regulation is reasonable. I find it valuable to know that my food is safe to eat, the air and water are not toxic, roadways and airways are safe, my money is protected in the bank, and so on. Good government serves and protects the public interest, and if that belief makes me a Democrat, well, count me in.
By some estimates, more than 100 Americans die daily from gun violence. The government must address this crisis. According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, “In 2010, the U.S. homicide rate was 7.0 times higher than other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher.”
Sensible gun safety reform is being enacted at the state level all over the country, thanks to groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The reforms are working, while Second Amendment rights are being protected. Even the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, advocated for limits on gun rights. In District of Columbia vs. Heller, Scalia wrote, “like most rights, the rights secured by the Second Amendment are not unlimited.”
Many Americans (including law enforcement officers) are frustrated with legislators who appear to value NRA donations over people’s lives. Common-sense solutions include closing loopholes on background checks; bans on high-capacity magazines, silencers, and bump stocks; safe-storage laws; red-flag laws; and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
For good measure, legislators in Virginia might also consider requiring licensed home day-care facilities to keep guns locked up while children are being cared for. Delegate Nick Freitas has had an opportunity to vote for this protection but hasn’t found it worthy of his support.
Cindy Taylor Madison
Editor’s note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission. Be sure to check out the Louisa Dems FB page for two complementary pieces to this letter from the Virginia Mercury.
Two of Lowell Arnold’s recent letters in the Central Virginian described how the Republican controlled Senate and the Rump administration have and continue to forsake their sworn duties. In contrast, were several screeds from local ignorami, highlighting some of the vast differences between local Republicans.
Despite those differences, one thing they agree on is; “Whataboutism,” their final word for any argument. A diversionary leap of logic, like Mr. Pulling’s claim that because Louisa has been a conservative county it “deserves … leadership that reflects those values”
Perhaps; but given the Boards recent decisions, particularly with the Industrial Park it’s fair to say that they don’t value “adopting to the changing demands of it’s citizens.” Meanwhile, Louisa’s voters are presumably rationalizing how those actions reflect conservative values.
Nor are local conservatives likely to explain how maintaining this dysfunctional status quo represents any improvement. All you are going to hear is that they are running as ®’s. Even so, one would expect to see some kind of Facebook or webpage for campaign contributions.
So far, only Bernie Hill running unaffiliated in the conservative Jackson District, and Jessie Shupe nominated by the local Republican Committee for the open Louisa District have on-line campaign pages. Mr. Hill’s Facebook page has many specific policy positions, while Mr. Shupe’s is little more than a placeholder.
This is not an oversight, it’s how ®’s campaign; relying on voter ignorance and clan loyalty, and it’s how Duane Adams ran his 2017 campaign, emulating Senator Bryce Reeves, limiting his exposure to gatherings of the chosen. Relying on uncritical stenography from a compliant media, where even the CV’s debate was an exercise in packing the house with the faithful.
Two other Supervisor candidates; Willie Gentry running unopposed in the Cuckoo District, and Eric Purcell (Louisa) are using their personal Facebook pages as campaign pages. While it’s unclear if separating ones digital personage from their political persona is necessary for a successful campaign, it’s discouraging to see so few candidates try.
While there are many explanations for not engaging voters, the most charitable one is that it never occurred to them. Speaking of strange occurrences, who knew Supervisor Gentry participated in the last three Republican candidate selections, and has multiple photos of this year’s mass call on his FB page?
2019 Louisa Republican Committee Mass Call
When it’s more likely he has always been a closet Republican, any claims of “independence” are hard to swallow Since this is how stealth candidates have been winning local elections for almost a decade in other County’s, it’s hardly news. What’s news is that Louisa’s ®’s are not running isolated candidates, they are going all out to seize power.
If they win the Commissioner of Revenue and two Supervisors seats they will control the county’s purse strings. Given the damage, their brand of partisan politics has caused in “conservative” Goochland, Hanover, Orange, Madison, and Fluvanna Counties, are these values the people of Louisa support?
Why is John McGuire spending his mornings waving to commuters on a corner in Henrico County (Gaskins and Three Chopt on May 29th) that is outside our district, and not on normal commuting routes for his constituents?
Will he commit to finishing his term for our district if he is re-elected this November, or is McGuire already campaigning for a congressional race in 2020?
Editor’s post script: Whether McGuire and his Replica’nt “competitors,” Nick Frietas and Bryce Reeves for the 7th CD seat in 2020 are trying to get out of town before voters finally realize how little they have accomplished in the General Assembly is a moot point.
What is relevant is that they’ve always been seeking higher levels of incompetency … I mean office. This letter originally appeared in the May 13th edition of the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
June is Pride month! It is time to celebrate our families, friends and community members who identify as LGBTQ. We do this because they were persecuted and unable to live freely for many years.
Discrimination can still negatively impact our youth, which is one reason why celebrating them is so important. Much of America has made significant progress in understanding that all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and pursue their own happiness.
Unfortunately, our state senator is not someone who has exhibited care and compassion for his constituents. Sen. Bryce Reeves has presented himself as a defender of children when the exact opposite is true.
Conversion therapy is junk science that falsely claims to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Do you believe a straight person can be shamed into being gay? Of course not. The converse is also true. A gay person cannot be shamed or beaten into being straight.
Conversion “therapy” is not therapy at all, but is child abuse when perpetrated on minors. It is fraudulent and in direct violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. This is not an unsubstantiated opinion. This torture has been condemned by more than 15 major medical organizations.
Mr. Reeves has no professional training or experience in the provision of mental health services and has chosen to recklessly disregard professional opinions. Eighteen other states have followed the guidance of experts and banned this torment.
Yet when given the chance to protect the children of Virginia from this abuse, Reeves chose to vote for continuing this horror. He supported pseudoscience and voted to allow the practice to continue to be legal in Virginia. Reeves chose to fail our children.
The only outcome of this abuse, as with many other forms of abuse, that has been found to be consistently true is that youth who are subjected to this suffering are more likely to attempt or complete suicide. Why would he vote against protecting vulnerable children?
It is time for true representation in Richmond. It is past time to value, love, and support all of our children. The general election is in November. If you care about children, please vote for a Democratic candidate who will protect our children from further harm.
Amy Laufer is a strong advocate of the LGBTQ community. It is time that our legislators reflect our values, work to make us proud and vote to keep our children safe.
Aleta Strickland, Ed., NCSP - Licensed School Psychologist, Louisa Psychological Consulting, PC
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the June 13th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
With the primary elections coming up next week, Louisa County voters have two distinct sets of choices. On one side, there’s the 17th Senate Democratic primary between Ben Hixon, and Amy Laufer. And on the Republican side, there’s Rich Breeden running against Bryce Reeves.
The other two state districts representing Louisa County, the 22nd Senate and the 56th House of Delegates aren’t having primaries this year, likewise with all local County elections. While there’s much to recommend about both Democratic candidates running for the 17th Senate District seat, the same can’t be said for either of the Replican’ts.
The two term incumbent; Bryce Reeves history of voting against his constituents interests on just about any issue you care to name is well documented, while his challenger has no history to speak of, and whose FB page and web pages is so generic that it's meaningless.
Blue Virginia recently posted up a poll of Democratic Senate primaries taking place around the state, and as you can see there are several primaries in and around the 7th Congressional District, that should be interest to Louisa’s voters, particularly the 10th, the 11th, the 12th, and the13th Districts.
While the Senate district which concerns most people in Louisa the 17th, is a bit of an uphill battle, given sufficient turnout it could flip Democratic, especially considering that Ed Houck held this seat for 28 years before Reeves last minute RPV sponsored smear campaign in 2011 won it for him.
And it would be nice to see Yasmine Taeb, knock off the infamous DINO “Dominion” Dick Saslaw in the 35th Senate District, given his financial advantages, the odds of that happening are slim.
As you can see from the chart below, many State Senate races should be competitive.
Since Abigail Spanberger’s victory over Dave Brat in the 7th Congressional District was won largely on the strength of heavy Democratic turnout in parts of Richmond, and Henrico and Chesterfield County’s, what happens in the 10th, 11th and the 12th Senate primaries and general elections will determine the Democrats chances of retaking the Senate this fall.
While there is no Democratic primary in the 13th Senate District, the fact that the vile Dick Black has resigned, gives Delegate John Bell (87th) an excellent chance of beating either of the two Republicans running for this open seat.
According to Chaz Nuttycombe’s analysis of the 10th Senate race, this is the most likely of the three Richmond area districts to flip Democratic, and the choices in this race are between Eileen Bedell, who ran against Dave Brat in 2016, Zachary Brown, and Ghazala Hashmi.
Virginia’s 10th Senate district includes parts of the city of Richmond as well as Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties. The district has become increasingly Democratic in in recent years, with both Hashmi and Bedell spending much of their cash on television ad production and airtime.
Bedell’s campaign is using an agency that does both digital and direct mail, listing all expenses as “Consulting Fee” so it’s difficult to determine what’s mail and what’s’ digital spending. And Hashmi’s campaign is running her television spot as an ad on Facebook, while, Zachary Brown is creating his own digital ads.
Another Democratic prospects for picking up a Senate seats is the 11th Senate District, currently held by pistol packing Amanda “Church Lady” Chase, formerly Dave Brat’s 2014 campaign manager before taking office in 2015. With the Democratic choices between; Amanda Pohl, and Wayne Powell, best known for running against Eric Cantor in 2012.
The 12th Senate District seat currently held by Republican Sibbohan Dunavant, should also be another highly competitive race. On the Democratic side of the aisle, there's the primary between Debra Rodman, the current 73rd House of Delegates representative and Veena Lothe and Marques Jones, former chair of the Henrico Democratic Committee.
Virginia’s 12th state Senate district consists of a huge number of voters from Henrico County with a smaller portion living in Hanover County, and is another district, which has gotten bluer over the past few elections. With Debra Rodman putting far more money into digital advertising than most other Democratic campaigns
While Veena Lothe hasn’t spent any money on consultants over the last two months, with her campaign manager creating the campaign’s Facebook ads in-house, a more cost-effective strategy than hiring a digital agency
Reportedly, the DPVA was playing favorites in this race. Starting with Governor Ralph Northam’s PAC asking the DPVA to commission a poll through the 3rd party “The Way Ahead” group for this seat, with the PAC sharing the results of this poll with Rodman, but not the two other Democrats running for this seat.
According to Brandon Jarvis, the editor of Richmond2Day, Northam’s PAC also offered Melissa McKenny a prominent activist in Henrico County $1M in campaign funds if she joined the Democratic primary race. Since all of this took place shortly before the Governor’s “blackface” yearbook photo came out, it may be a moot point, as the Governor’s and Lt. Governors ability to raise funds has greatly diminished since then.
How this loss of “rainmakers” at the top of the ticket affects the DPVA’s ability to channel money into downstream Senate and House races; and particularly House seats which have been vacated by Democrats seeking Senate seats, like the 73th, (Rodman), and the 87th (Bell) is anyone’s guess.
What should be of concern to all Democrats in Virginia is that the State Party seems to be emulating the DCCC’s attitude about pre-selecting “winning” candidates with little regard to the preferences and needs of the local voters.
Only, instead of protecting incumbents, the State Party appears to be going all out to retake the Senate, while doing relatively little to retake the House of Delegates. Seemingly oblivious that it was a Democratic Blue Wave, which enabled them to pick up 17 seats in the House of Delegates.
A wave which reduced the Replican’ts margin in the House of Delegates from a near super-majority to a one-seat majority. And while the most “deplorable” of the Replican’ts were voted out of office in 2017, Democrats now have to defend most of those seats while picking up at least 1, preferably 2 seats to regain control of the House.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.