Jennifer Carroll Foy Passionately Speaks About Need for ERA

Yesterday, I highlighted how Sen. Dick Black claimed Virginia shouldn’t ratify the Equal Rights Amendment because women aren’t strong enough mentally or physically to serve in the military. In stark contrast, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy took to the House floor and spoke about her personal story of graduating from VMI despite males she went to high school with claiming she wouldn’t be able to succeed there.

Del. Carroll Foy had two male high school classmates who went to VMI with her, but she was the only one who actually graduated. In other words, the males couldn’t cut it even though they (and other males) claimed that women wouldn’t be able to be successful in the military world. Now I’m not saying the failed because they were male (VMI’s a VERY demanding school), it’s simply that women like Del. Carroll Foy deserve the same opportunity to take on tough challenges because they might be the ones who actually thrive.

Passing the ERA shows that we believe in equality and that discrimination has no place in the United States. The Virginia Senate (despite a few right wing opponents like Dick Black) showed it believes this to be true and passed the amendment with bipartisan support. The GOP leadership in the House of Delegates should listen to Del. Carroll Foy and their fellow Virginians and allow the measure to come to a vote on the House floor.

For those who are interested, here’s some video of Del. Carroll Foy’s speech.

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ERA Passes Virginia Senate Despite Dick Black’s Absurd Claims

As I pointed out when he announced he’d be retiring at the end of his current term, I ashamed to admit that my state senator is Dick Black. He’s arguably the most conservative member of the senate and has a history of proving he’s a bigot while taking positions on most social issues. His sexist views were on display today as he spoke on the Senate floor before thepassed the Equal Rights Amendment by a 24 to 16 margin.

Not only did he make it clear he didn’t think women are equal to men, but he went on at length in an attempt to explain his beliefs. He doesn’t think women are physically strong enough to serve in the military, for instance, and might cause some distractions for men if they were in combat units. Along this lines, he proceeded to claim there could be lawsuits filed because women can’t be drafted. This made me chuckle since he blatantly ignores that the draft hasn’t been implemented in decades and there are no plans to bring it back, which means nobody would even have an opportunity to say the draft violates their rights.

As if claiming women aren’t fit to serve the country isn’t enough, Black went on to say the ERA would be horrible for religion because the Catholic Church only wants men to be priests. His other arguments included an odd obsession with how there might be more mixed gender prisons and his belief that this could be detrimental for female prisoners.

If you’re interested in seeing an elected official in the 21st century actually trying to justify discriminating against women, here’s video showing most of Sen. Black’s remarks.

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In Depth Breakdown of Jennifer Boysko’s Victory

img_3597With Jennifer Wexton now in the House of Representatives, there was a special election to fill her old seat in the state senate. Most political analysts would say it’s a “safe Democrat” one, but you never know what can happen in a special election since they usually have low voter turnout and don’t receive a lot of media attention. That being said, the Democrats are still celebrating as Jennifer Boysko received 69.47 percent of the vote on her way to defeating former Republican Delegate Joe May.

For some perspective on the race, the last statewide Republican candidate (including those running for POTUS) to win the 33rd was back in 2009 when Bob McDonnell won it with 59% of the vote. Since then, there have been 10 statewide elections (including two presidential campaigns) and no Democratic candidate has received less than 55% of the vote.

Ralph Northam won the district with 66.51% in 2017, Hillary Clinton won with 61.90% in 2016, Jennifer Wexton won her 2015 race for the senate seat with 56.69%, Mark Warner won with 55.20% in 2014, Barack Obama won with 59.07% in 2012, and Mark Herring won his state senate race with 54.07% in 2011. Plus, it’s worth noting there was a special election for the seat 2014 after Mark Herring became Attorney General and Wexton won the seat with 52.72% of the vote.

There are also eight House of Delegates districts that overlap with the 33rd and only one is represented by a Republican (Dave LaRock in the 33rd House District). Several of the House Districts have recently been flipped though as David Reid (D-86), Karrie Delaney (D-67), and Wendy Gooditis (D-10) are all freshmen. Plus, there’s going to be a special election to fill Jennifer Boysko’s old seat (86th District) and John Bell is running for the state senate in the 13th district this year, so his seat in the House will be open (the 87th). That leaves Ken Plum (D-36) and Kathleen Murphy (D-34) as the only Democrats with districts overlapping the 33rd who have served multiple terms and will be seeking reelection this November.

In local government, all three Supervisor districts in Fairfax that overlap with the 33rd are represented by Democrats and the county chair, Sharon Bulova, is also a Democrat. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, however, has a strong GOP majority even though the Chair, Phyllis Randall, is a Democrat. The only other Democrats on the board are Kristen Umstattd in Leesburg and Koran Saines in Sterling.

Geographically, the 33rd District is primarily in Loudoun County with only 26.67 percent of the district’s registered voters living in Fairfax. A lot of people consider the Leesburg area to be the heart of the district — especially since that’s where the district’s last two senators came from. Also, all but seven of the 55 precincts are in 10th Congressional District (the other seven are in the 11th).

In the breakdown below, I separated the Loudoun County precincts into their respective magisterial districts but kept the 10 precincts in Fairfax as one group. For those who are interested, however, it’s worth noting there are two precincts in Hunter Mill, five precincts in Dranesville, and three in Sully.

In all the categories, I provide a little bit of commentary and then show the breakdown of individual precincts for the special election. If you want to see breakdowns of the 2018 Congressional race or the 2017 gubernatorial campaign by precinct, let me know and I can send them to you (the limited space here just made the optics a little funny if you listed out all the results).

You might notice that Boysko out performed both Wexton’s 2018 campaign and Northam’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign in almost every magisterial district. The only exceptions were both Wexton and Northam received a higher percentage in Catoctin and Northam received a higher percentage in Leesburg. In both cases, however, Boysko was still within a point of their totals.

So with all that in mind, here’s how the results breakdown:

Fairfax County (Boysko 76.96%, May 23.04%)

Jennifer Boysko lives in the Herndon area and already represented it in the House of Delegates, so it shouldn’t be surprising that she had a strong showing in the Fairfax portion of the 33rd senate district.

There are three precincts in the 10th Congressional District that are also in both Fairfax County and the 33rd (Brookfield, Franklin, and Carson). Jennifer Wexton won these with 68.07 percent while Jennifer Boysko won them with 78.52 percent, which is more than 10 points higher.

In the precincts that overlap with the 11th Congressional District, Boysko even out performed Gerry Connolly even though he only faced nominal opposition in 2018. Connolly received 76.03 percent in the shared precincts while Boysko received 78.62 percent.

Finally, back in 2017 Northam won these precincts with 73.77 percent of the vote in his race for governor.

  • Frying Pan (Boysko 391, May 96)
  • McNair (Boysko 298, May 38)
  • Herndon #1 (Boysko 615, May 266)
  • Herndon #2 (Boysko 635, May 190)
  • Herndon #3 (Boysko 419, May 139)
  • Hutchinson (Boysko 287, May 42)
  • Coates (Boysko 307, May 32)
  • Brookfield (Boysko 449, May 176)
  • Franklin (Boysko 161, May 84)
  • Carson (Boysko 304, May 120)
  • Absentee (Boysko 239, May 46)

Algonkian (Boysko 66.46%, May 33.44%)

There are 11 precincts in the Algonkian district and about half of them (six) are in the 33rd. Jennifer Wexton won with 62.6 percent of the vote in the 33rd’s Algonkian precincts in 2018 and Northam received 63.67 percent in 2017.

  • River Bend (Boysko 249, May 168)
  • Algonkian (Boysko 261, May 137)
  • Cascades (Boysko 358, May 142)
  • Countryside (Boysko 103, May 44)
  • University Center (Boysko 161, May 50)
  • Galilee Church (Boysko 259, May 159)

Ashburn Magisterial District (Boysko 66.38%), May 33.46%)

The Ashburn magisterial district has 10 precincts and only three of them actually fall into the 33rd senate district. Jennifer Wexton received 60.65 percent of the vote in the 33rd’s Ashburn precincts and Northam received 62.13 percent.

  • Seldens Landing (Boysko 208, May 79)
  • Belmont Ridge (Boysko 438, May 255)
  • Riverside (Boysko 199, May 92)

Blue Ridge Magisterial District (Boysko 80.02%, May 19.97%)

While I live in the 13th Senate District, this is my home magisterial district so I took a personal interest in these precincts. Interestingly, I represented another candidate running in the Democratic primary for the special election at a meeting of the Blue Ridge Democratic Committee and several of the people in attendance didn’t even realize the 33rd had precincts in Blue Ridge. I don’t say this to denigrate those people, but to simply highlight how the state senate isn’t always on everyone’s radar — especially when we’re talking about an upcoming special election.

The Blue Ridge district has seen a fair amount of growth recently and gone from 15 precincts to 19 as many precincts have been split (including the one I live in). Most of the four precincts in the 33rd district from Blue Ridge are in the more eastern portion of the magisterial district.

Jennifer Wexton received 68.68 percent of the vote in these precincts during her 2018 campaign and Ralph Northam won 69.29 percent in the 2017 gubernatorial campaign. Both were over 10 points behind Boysko’s performance.

  • Legacy (Boysko 330, May 125)
  • Creighton Corner (Boysko 289, May 89)
  • Stone Hill (Boysko 348, May 33)
  • Brambleton Middle (Boysko 159, May 34)

Broad Run Magisterial District (Boysko 70.29%, May 29.6%)

Six of Broad Run’s 13 precincts fall within the boundaries of the 33rd senate district. There are several people who might consider running for Supervisor from Broad Run, but as of today (January 10), no Democratic candidate has officially come forward. In a year when a lot of new Democratic candidates are emerging, this is the only magisterial district in Loudoun County that doesn’t already have a candidate for 2019. That being said, Jennifer Wexton received 67.45 percent of the vote in these precincts and Northam received 67.64 percent.

  • Oak Grove (Boysko 107, May 19)
  • Ridgetop (Boysko 98, May 24)
  • Farmwell Station (Boysko 455, May 162)
  • Ashby Ponds (Boysko 373, May 270)
  • Moorefield Station (Boysko 228, May 48)
  • Discovery (Boysko 45, May 27)

Catoctin Magisterial District (Boysko 53.54%, May 46.29%)

With only four precincts in the district, less than a third of Catoctin’s 13 precincts fall within the 33rd. That being said, this was the only magisterial district Jennifer Wexton actually out performed Boysko in. The newly sworn in Congresswoman received 54.13 percent during her 2018 campaign even though Comstock ended up winning one of the precincts (Tuscarora) that Boysko won. As you can see below, however, the Tuscarora precinct has an extremely small number of voters.

Northam essentially ran even with Boysko here as he received 53.70 percent of the vote in these precincts.

It should be noted that Jennifer Boysko only lost two precincts in the entire district and both of them happened to be in Catoctin — Harper Park and River Creek. It’s also worth highlighting that since Wexton and Northam both lost Tuscarora but won Harper Park, River Creek is the only precinct in the entire district that all three Democrats lost.

  • Harper Park (Boysko 155, May 158)
  • Tuscarora (Boysko 16, May 14)
  • Red Rock (Boysko 199, May 88)
  • River Creek (Boysko 272, May 295)

Dulles Magisterial District (Boysko 82.53%, May 14.47%)

Of the 14 precincts in Dulles, only four are inside the 33rd. Jennifer Boysko did extremely well compared to how other recent Democratic candidates have performed in these precincts. Jennifer Wexton, for instance, had a large margin of victory but was still more than 14 points behind Boysko — she received 68.3 percent of the vote. Ralph Northam performed better than Wexton, but was still only at 70.3 percent of the vote.

  • Dulles South (Boysko 0, May 0)
  • Moorefield (Boysko 25, May 2)
  • Carter (Boysko 104, May 28)
  • Rock Ridge (Boysko 249, May 50)

Leesburg Magisterial District (Boysko 61.55%, May 38.4%)

Almost the entire Leesburg district is in the 33rd senate district — only Heritage falls outside its boundaries. With nine precincts in the 33rd, the Leesburg Magisterial District also has the largest number of precincts in the district. Furthermore, it’s been the home to the last two people to hold the seat — Jennifer Wexton and Mark Herring.

Boysko performed right in line with Jennifer Wexton in this district as the Congresswoman received 61.25 percent in 2018. Northam was also right in line with Wexton and Boysko during his 2017 campaign, though he squeaked out a tiny lead with 61.65 percent of the vote.

  • West Leesburg (Boysko 458, May 320)
  • East Leesburg (Boysko 343, May 130)
  • Dry Mill (Boysko 203, May 165)
  • Smarts Mill (Boysko 428, May 313)
  • Cool Spring (Boysko 0, May 0)
  • Brandon Park (Boysko 145, May 71)
  • Greenway (Boysko 204, May 188)
  • Balls Bluff (Boysko 328, May 208)
  • Tolbert (Boysko 331, May 127)

Sterling Magisterial District (Boysko 69.07%, May 30.07%)

During the Democratic primary for the special election, the former chair of the Sterling Democratic Committee was one of the candidates running. She made the argument that someone from this district would be a good person to represent it in the Senate, which makes sense because seven of Sterling’s eight precincts are in the 33rd (only Seneca is outside its boundaries).

Sterling is also one of two magisterial districts in Loudoun with a Democratic county supervisor — Koran Saines. I think it’s safe to say Saines is one of the more progressive elected officials from Northern Virginia, which makes sense because Sterling is a reliably safe Democratic district.

Jennifer Wexton won 68.15 percent of the vote in these precincts and Northam won 68.95. So they weren’t far behind Boysko, but she still received a higher percentage here.

  • Sully (Boysko 261, May 147)
  • Park View (Boysko 227, May 127)
  • Rolling Ridge (Boysko 334, May 65)
  • Forest Grove (Boysko 381, May 219)
  • Claude Moore Park (Boysko 207, May 58)
  • Mirror Ridge (Boysko 269, May 95)
  • Sterling (Boysko 186, May 118)
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Ryan McElveen Launches Campaign For Chair of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

ryan mcelveenAs 2019 has arrived, more and more attention is being devoted to the state and local races we have this year in Virginia. In Fairfax, Sharon Bulova recently announced she won’t be seeking another term as Chair of the Board of Supervisors and candidates have been stepping forward to replace her. Supervisor Jeff McKay announced his candidacy almost immediately after Bulova’s announcement and quickly became the front runner after securing a lot of support from the political establishment in Fairfax. He won’t necessarily have a carefree path to the nomination, however, as Ryan McElveen officially announced his campaign in an online video released earlier today.

McElveen has served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board for the last seven years and often speaks about the importance of education and making sure we support both teachers and students. As the son and husband of teachers, McElveen appears to be committed to promoting good education policy even if he moves over to the Board of Supervisors. In the video he released announcing his campaign, he promised to advocate for universal pre-kindergarten “so that every child in Fairfax County can be prepared to enter the global workforce.”

Of course, his campaign will focus on more than just education. He’s also calling for more “innovative and sustainable infrastructure” that would address transportation issues and help ensure the entire community can take advantage of modern technology and public buildings and parks. Furthermore, he’ll be working to promote an economy that works for everyone — something that’s crucial in a place like Fairfax where more and more people are being priced out of the community.

While McElveen’s announcement has intrigued a lot of people and he definitely cannot be ignored during the Democratic primary, he’s facing a challenge if he wants to win. Jeff McKay has more name recognition (though, sadly, not many people can name their County Supervisor or School Board member) and has received some big endorsements. Sharon Bulova endorsed McKay almost immediately after announcing she wouldn’t seek reelection, for example, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (who served in the role before heading to Congress) has also backed him. These endorsements can help with the initial fundraising efforts while McElveen is simpy trying to get things going.

Looking at the latest campaign finance reports, which were filed at the end of last June, McKay had just under $90,000 cash on hand. While that’s not a staggering amount of money, it’s noticeable that to the fact that Ryan McElveen hasn’t raised any money the last two years and only raised about $15,000 for his last election in 2015. Granted school board races aren’t very expensive and the candidates therefore don’t need to devote as much time and energy to fundraising, but it’s still a hurdle that McElveen will have to overcome.

With all that being said, McElveen has already been on the ballot county-wide while McKay has just been representing the Lee District. This could give him a slight benefit as he’ll be more familiar with parts of the County outside of Lee. His association with the Brookings Institution might also bring him some connections that could prove worthwhile during the campaign, though McElveen’s work there has been primarily foreign policy realm — specifically relating to China.

In the end, having two experienced candidates in the race who both have a history of standing up for progressive causes can only help make the eventual Democratic nominee stronger in the general election. But considering how some folks thought McKay would have an extremely easy path to the nomination, McElveen’s campaign certainly is an interesting development.

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Jennifer Wexton Displays Trans Flag Outside Office

wexton trans flagIf you’ve ever visited one of the House Office Buildings, you’ve probably noticed the flags outside Congressional offices. Most offices include the American flag and the flag of their home states, but some also add flags of something they truly believe in. As I’ve spent a fair amount of time up on Capitol Hill lobbying over the years, for I’ve seen several elected officials display military related flags. For the first time, however, it appears as though we have a Congresswoman proudly displaying the trans flag. And it just so happens to be my Congresswoman — Jennifer Wexton.

Throughout her campaign for Congress, I heard Wexton frequently speak about the need to fight for LGBT equality. She has a lot of connections to the LGBT community as a whole, but especially the trans community. Back when she was in college, for instance, she dated someone whose sibling came out as transgender. And she currently has a niece who’s trans. Combine this with her belief that everyone deserves basic civil rights and you can see why Rep. Wexton’s made the decision to display the flag.

As people were visiting the office’s of newly minted Members of Congress yesterday, Narissa Rahaman tweeted out that Wexton immediately asked her if she saw the flag. “Did you see the flag,” Wexton asked. “I think we’re the only office on the Hill with one.” It should be noted that Narissa works for the Human Rights Campaign as a regional field organizer and was extremely active in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.

As someone who lives in Wexton’s district, I can tell you this display of solidarity might seem small but says a lot to her constituents. Our last Member of Congress was bought and paid for by the NRA, would never hold town halls, and voted with Donald Trump 98 percent of the time — one of the highest percentages, even among Republicans. Now we have a Representative who’s actively showing she’s standing up for all of her constituents — not just those who can write big checks to her campaign.

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Elizabeth Warren Appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show

elizabeth warren on rachel maddowSen. Elizabeth Warren was on the Rachel Maddow show earlier this week and, not too surprisingly, she focused on economic populism while going after big banks and big pharmaceutical companies that have taken advantage of the general public. Even the introduction piece Maddow put together focused on how Warren’s pre-politics career was promoting economic policy that looked out for everyone.

The introduction to the interview focused on Warren’s work relating to bankruptcy law when she was a law professor at Harvard. Even in the ’90’s, there were media reports of her drawing attention to how credit card companies were targeting college students — many of whom were declaring bankruptcy before the age of 25. During the interview, Rachel went on to further highlight how Sen. Warren hasn’t just been focused on economic populism to score political points. It’s been a consistent message of her professional career long before she even entered the political arena.

“You were an academic expert in that phenomenon before you were ever a political figure,” Maddow said. “You were a policy person in Washington on that issue before you were ever a elected official campaigning on this issue. This has been your life’s work — to undue tilt of the system.”

The Senator also highlighted how just using rhetoric that supports progressive economic policy isn’t enough. Candidates need to run a truly grassroots campaign that depends on small dollar donations and volunteers instead of donations from billionaire’s and PACs. This is a move that could limit the power that billionaires and corporations have over politicians, which would allow them to take a further interest in actually promoting economic policies that will support everyone — not just those who can write big campaign checks.

In addition to discussing economic policy, the discussion also covered foreign policy. This was interesting because if there is a legitimate criticism that could be made of Sen. Warren, it’s that she doesn’t have a huge amount of foreign policy experience — though she does serve of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This wasn’t just a quick interview as it lasted about 20 minutes, but I highly recommend taking the time to watch it. You can see the full video here.

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Sen. Dick Black to Retire At End of Term

dick blackIn a tweet sent out yesterday morning, Sen. Dick Black (R-13) confirmed that he will not be seeking reelection this year and will retire at the end of his term. Black is perhaps most well known on the national level for his meetings with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, which led to him defending the controversial leader while trashing US foreign policy. Here is Virginia, he’s known as the most conservative member of the General Assembly who often puts an extreme right wing agenda before the best interests of the general public.

Black emerged on the political scene when he served on the Library Board of Trustees in Loudoun County and worked to have internet filters on library computers that would prevent pornography from being viewed. His odd obsession with sex related issues continued over the years as he once said he could potentially support polygamy because “at least it functions biologically” and is “just more natural” than homosexuality. He also went on to compare homosexuality to incest.

The Senator also stirred up a lot of controversy during his time in the House of Delegates by claiming spousal rape should be legal. “How on earth you could validly get a conviction of a husband-wife rape when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth,” Black declared. “There’s no injury, there’s no separation or anything.”

Despite being represented by someone as extreme as Dick Black, the district has definitely been trending Democratic over the last few elections. Tim Kaine won the district by 19 points last year, Ralph Northam won it by 11 points in 2017, and Hillary Clinton won by six points back in 2016. In 2015, the last time the seat was on the ballot, Black won the seat by less than 5 points at a time when there wasn’t a lot of attention given to the district by statewide organizations.

He was also extremely proud of his efforts to block the expansion of Medicaid. He was successful in these efforts until the Democratic wave in 2017 led to almost 400,000 Virginians gaining access to affordable healthcare. Even during the 2018 session, however, Black was still trying to use the healthcare debate to promote an extremist agenda by introducing an amendment (which eventually failed) that would prevent low income women from seeking all medical options and force them to carry a grossly deformed fetus to term.

I happen to live in the 13th district, so this announcement was especially interesting to me. It’s perhaps the most highly targeted seat currently being occupied by a Republican and several Democrats have stepped forward to run. While I think we’ll have a strong field in the Democratic primary, I’m backing John Bell — who happens to currently represent me in the House of Delegates.

Del. Bell is an Air Force veteran who’s been popular — both with voters and his colleagues. This can be illustrated by his 23 point victory in 2017 after narrowly winning his first election in 2015. Despite a strong field of other Democrats in the field, he’s also received the endorsement of many elected officials from the General Assembly and at the statewide level. Rumor has it he was even directly asked to run for the Senate by Gov. Ralph Northam.

With the Democrats already highly targeting the district, there was a good chance it’d be a Democratic pickup this year. Sen. Black’s retirement will only make those chances increase — especially if Democrats nominate a strong candidate like Del. John Bell.

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2019 Candidates Start Gathering Petition Signatures

Although it really doesn’t mean much to the general public, one of the big things among political activists in Virginia is the process of gathering petition signatures to get a candidate’s name on the ballot. The amount of required signatures varies depending on the office being sought, but a seat in the local government and the House of Delegates calls for candidates to submit 125 signatures from people registered to vote in the district. The state Senate mandates 250 signatures and candidates running for office in 2019 could officially start their efforts today.

There’s always a game to see who can deliver their petitions to the election officials first because the first one there will have their name on the ballot first — a move that some argue could be beneficial in a low turnout election where people aren’t really familiar with the candidates. Plus, campaigns always hope they turn in the most signatures in an attempt to influence the media narrative surrounding the race. And the deadline is so early in the election season that even newspapers as large as the Washington Post will usually cover the process.

Although most of the general public isn’t even aware of the requirement, political insiders and reporters pay attention to it because it is one of the first “tests” a campaign faces. And while it’s very achievable for any legitimate candidate, it really can be a challenge.

When I worked as the Netroots Coordinator for a Lt. Governor candidate back in 2009, I was one of several senior staff members who traveled from our headquarters in Alexandria down to Harrisonburg the day before the deadline because we needed more signatures from that Congressional district. Statewide candidates need 10,000 signatures with at least 400 from every Congressional district in order to get on the ballot. In addition to actually gathering the signatures, tracking, verifying, and making sure such a large number of signatures are notarized is quite ordeal.

It can also be such a challenge that some campaigns actually get into some legal trouble after committing fraud during the process. In Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, for instance, former Rep. Scott Taylor got into trouble as his campaign staffers were involved with submitting forged signatures for a candidate running as an independent (they were hoping to get her on the ballot to dilute the Democratic vote).

This year, candidates are taking to social media to help their signature gathering efforts. Ian Serotkin, who’s running for the Loudoun County School Board, for instance, posted on Facebook that he was “out collecting petition signatures all day today to officially get on the ballot this November for school board!” Kenny Boddhe, who’s running for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, sent out an email saying he’ll be at a Panera Bread in Woodbridge “from 9 AM – 2 PM collecting signatures” tomorrow.

Other candidates like Linda Sperling and James Walkinshaw posted pictures on social media of the first signatures they gathered — usually from family members. Walkinshaw’s post had at least 65 “likes” on Facebook, which isn’t a huge amount but still shows how political insiders can get into petition gathering.

Nobody will be even remotely thinking about the petition signatures in a few months, but it does serve as a reminder that we actually have elections this year in Virginia. Hopefully this process will help make a few members of the general public aware of the state and local elections and the issues being discussed, especially now that we’re only days away from the General Assembly session starting.

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Should “Likability” Be A 2020 Campaign Issue?

IMG_1893Almost immediately after Elizabeth Warren announced she was taking an official step towards running for president in 2020, there were “haters” who starting launching attacks and claiming she’d never be able to win. Whether it’s mainstream media outlets like Politico claiming she’s already been “written off as too unlikable” and comparing her campaign to Hillary’s failed 2016 effort, Republicans calling her “cold” instead of addressing her policy ideas, or political consultants saying their family would consider a male candidate like Joe Biden but not Elizabeth Warren, it seems like the main argument people have against her is — wait for it — she’s a female and just too darn unlikable.

This isn’t something new. While a large number of progressive activists were hoping she’d enter the 2016 race for president, there’s been a lot of other folks who’ve been attacking her personality or other superficial aspects of her record ever since she started receiving national attention. A prime example of this is how Donald Trump has taken to calling her “Pocahantas” instead of actually listening to the policy proposals she’s developed after spending her whole career studying the legal aspects of economics.

Unfortunately, Sen. Warren is just the latest example of women being criticized for extremely frivolous reasons. Women who’ve sought powerful positions in the past have always faced extra scrutiny about things like their clothing style or personality — even when they’re the frontrunner for president. There were multiple stories over the years that called Hillary Clinton’s laugh “shrill,” for example, and reporters like Bob Woodward actually claimed she “shouts” too much.

Now there are some people who almost base their criticism of Warren on policy related issues, but their arguments really come down to disliking her attempts to take on the establishment. Whether it’s going after the big banks, trying to limit the impact big pharma has on the costs of healthcare, or challenging the political elite on both sides of the aisle, there are simply people out there who don’t like how she represents major change.

Of course, when Obama ran on a message of change back in 2008, folks declared it inspiring even if they didn’t agree with all his policy proposals. But these are many of the same people who seem to feel threatened by Sen. Warren. What’s different? Well, perhaps the most obvious thing is she’s a female who isn’t deemed to be “likable enough” (channeling the quote Obama made about Hillary Clinton during a debate back in 2008).

This can’t just be attributed to Republicans or the media either. There are a fair number of Democrats who were quick to bash Sen. Warren. One rather vocal Democrat from Northern Virginia, for instance, took to Facebook shortly after her announcement and declared “Elizabeth Warren is forming an exploratory committee. (Yawn). I’ll vote for just about anyone (except Bernie) before her.” The comment was “liked” by several other prominent Democrats from the area who have a history of speaking out against Sen. Bernie Sanders and other politicians who threaten the political establishment.

The good news is that there’s a lot of push back against the negative way folks are reacting. Several media outlets and folks who are leaning towards supporting other candidates have expressed outrage over Politico’s story and there’s been a lot of online chatter about how we never hear stories about whether or not male politicians are “likable.” Plus, Sen. Warren has already started fundraising off the issue.

The real story will be whether or not she’s able to grow her base of support. An early test of this will be in Iowa as she’s already hired some key staff members in the state and will be making a trip there this weekend. It might be a year before any voting actually takes place, but these moves could prove beneficial in the long run.

Combine these moves with what the data and buzz among grassroots activists are showing and there are some positive things happening for her campaign. Even people who are supporting other candidates have admitted she’s among the top candidates in early polling — something that matches what folks on the ground are saying. A co-worker of mine who’s based in Iowa told me “there’s a lot of excitement” about her campaign there and “even people who aren’t sure about her are gonna go to her events to see what’s up.”

If she wants to win the Democratic nomination and then the White House, she’ll need to use early trips like this to convince folks “who aren’t sure about her” and gain some momentum in the media. While she has time to overcome the negative narrative some people are trying to promote, the earlier she does this the better.

No matter what happens in the presidential campaign, one thing’s clear. The discussion over who holds the most powerful office in the world should include female candidates and shouldn’t focus on if they’re “likable enough.”

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Elizabeth Warren Forms Exploratory Committee for 2020 Presidential Campaign

I’ve made it pretty clear over the last few years that I’m a big supporter of Elizabeth Warren. I think we need a strong progressive who has the experience taking on large corporations (both prior to be elected to the Senate and during her time in office), has an in depth knowledge of economic policy, and a history standing up for liberal values while in elected office. So I was very happy to see she’s formed an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential campaign. Count me in.

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