With elections every single year, Virginians are notorious for sitting out non-presidential years. We must get out the vote this year because local and state elections are where decisions are made that affect your own daily lives and those of your families, friends and neighbors, on a personal level – where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Your delegates to the General Assembly, your county supervisors and town council members, your school board members, all determine what happens to you, personally. One could argue that our Congressmen and Senators in Washington, DC have much less an effect on us because, as we have all seen lately, nothing has been getting done for years now. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill is famously quoted as saying “all politics is local.”
One of the great disincentives to voting is the discouragement caused by gerrymandering, where incumbents are rarely challenged, and where the politicians choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their representatives. Most Americans believe in fair play, but gerrymandering is cheating. Virginia is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the nation. The delegates we select this very year, and the choices we make for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, will determine whether Virginia can throw off the yoke of gerrymandering after the 2020 census. If we make the wrong choices this year, then we can expect 10 more years of gerrymandered strangulation of our Commonwealth, and our hopes for better schools, roads, healthcare and jobs will be dashed.
For those who may not know, the nationwide gerrymandering that occurred after the 2010 census was engineered by none other than Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, Virginia senator and governor wannabe, and long-time and very skilled K Street lobbyist and Republican establishment insider. The program, called REDMAP, established voting districts that were drawn surgically and precisely with sophisticated GIS mapping software; informed by a cloud’s worth of data from the census, voting records, consumer preferences and even social media “likes;” and they’re built to endure for a decade, if not longer.
Gillespie’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam has stated, unequivocally, that "I will stop gerrymandering, and I will not sign a map unless it is signed by a nonpartisan redistricting committee." That is why he deserves your vote.
This brings us to our choices for delegates to the General Assembly. Ben Hixon, running in the 30th District (Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties), and Tristan Shields, running in the 18th District (Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and Warren counties), are representative of today’s younger, forward looking progressive activists who want to rebuild the party as an integrated grassroots political network to take on the far-right ideology that now shamefully dominates American politics. If the Democrats who voted in last year’s election turn out this year, we could flip the House of Delegates and turn the Commonwealth around.
Ben Hixon (30th) believes that the Party of Freedom is, in fact, the Democratic Party – he’s a progressive libertarian who believes in freedom of speech, press, religion, and self-defense. Hixon has knocked on literally thousands of doors since his campaign began in order to meet his constituents face-to-face, unlike Nick Freitas, who spends most of his time in other districts disingenuously vying for some higher office. He believes that “If you don’t have the education to get a good job, you are not free. If you don’t have adequate health care, you are not free. You are one sickness away from bankruptcy. How can we be free to live our lives if we're not safe from disease and terror? Healthcare is a human right. Food, water, housing and education are human rights.” You can examine his stand on the issues right here: http://www.benhixon.com/
Tristan Shields (18th) believes that “Trump and Virginia Republicans, especially our own Delegate Webert, are keeping us in the fog about healthcare, education, and the economy. They are leading us nowhere and not getting anything done. I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur in this area. Young people leave and rarely come back. We need to keep our talent here by expanding opportunity. I am one of the few younger people in this region who came back to run a business. It’s a primary reason why I decided to run for political office. Today’s disruptive economy and uncertainties demands leaders who see opportunities among the fog and have the courage to act… keeping the people of the Piedmont first is what makes me the best option for Delegate." Learn where Tristan Shields stands right here: http://tristanshields.com/issues/.
Ben Hixon and Tristan Shields believe in making sure we have access to the tools we ordinary people need to improve our lives, and to keep government from getting in our way once we do, and they will work for everyone in Culpeper and the surrounding counties. These are the candidates that deserve your vote. If we vote, we win.
Editor's Note: this article has been posted with the author’s permission, and is only available here. It was submitted to the Culpeper Star Exponent as part of their featured writers program, where letters from each side of the political aisle appear on alternating weekends. And for some reason, their new editor has decided to not to honor this long standing tradition this week.