The upcoming election in Virginia is the biggest election of 2017. Three important statewide seats are open—the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general—as well as a number of significant State House seats that could help to regain Democratic control of the state legislature in the next several years.
PFAW has been deeply invested in this election from the beginning, working hard to elect progressive candidates that will uphold our values in Virginia. We’ve recognized the critical role of the Virginia governor as a firewall against extreme laws passed by the legislature, including bills that would have defunded Planned Parenthood and created a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Our Next Up Victory Fund, a new program supporting young progressive candidates forty and under running for state and local office, launched with an endorsement of young progressive powerhouse Justin Fairfax in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, and we scored a huge win when Fairfax won the primary race. Now we’re giving our all in the general election to make sure he is elected, and we have also endorsed 12 incredible young leaders in state House of Delegates races, as well as a commonwealth’s attorney candidate.
At the Next Up Victory Fund kickoff event for our Virginia slate of young, progressive candidates, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe lauded the Next Up candidates as “new, fresh voices in politics” who “reflect the diversity of our nation.” We see the races in Virginia as critical to our vision of a democracy that represents all Americans. Over the next year, the Virginia legislature may be redrawing districts alleged to be racially gerrymandered, and we need strong voices who will advocate for all Virginians in this process.
In September, PFAW board member and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta joined Next Up candidate Kathy Tran, CASA in Action, and Latino organizers to kick off a day of canvassing in Northern Virginia. Huerta emphasized the importance of the Virginia races, saying “we have a lot of work to do to take our country back from Donald Trump and his allies, and that work starts in Virginia.”
PFAW members have been volunteering for our candidates for the past few weeks, and we’re going to keep the fire lit to make sure our members are involved through Election Day. Last weekend, PFAW staff and members in the area headed to Gainesville, VA to canvass for two competitive races featuring Next Up candidates Danica Roem and Donte Tanner. While all of these races are critical, Roem’s holds historical significance—if she wins against Bob Marshall, her viciously anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice opponent, she would be the very first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature.
The group of canvassers knocked on over 300 doors to help elect these stellar progressive candidates. And that’s not all—PFAW is organizing phonebanks so that members nationwide can get involved with the races in Virginia and support progressive candidates like Justin Fairfax, Ralph Northam, and other Next Up endorsees.
Michael Keegan, president of PFAW, penned an op-ed for The Advocate about Danica Roem’s race and the opportunity to take a historic step forward in LGBTQ political representation:
“Most recently, he [Republican candidate Bob Marshall] has refused to even recognize Danica Roem as a woman.
His degrading denial of her identity — and by extension, the identity of more than a million other transgender Americans — underscores another significant aspect of this race: trans representation. LGBTQ young people, and specifically trans young people, deserve to grow up in a country where they can see other trans people serving in office, leading in their communities, and representing them in government. As the slogan of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media says, ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’”
Roem has been the target of anti-transgender bigotry and hate during her campaign, and sadly her race is not the only one where hate has shown up in Virginia. Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie has followed the Trump playbook to the letter, and he has been running racist ads demonizing Latino and immigrant communities. PFAW’s Latinos Vote program confronted these ads head on and has run Spanish-language ads calling out Gillespie’s hateful fearmongering.
We have gone all-in for this election because we understand the importance of Virginia in the national political landscape. But we’re also all-in because we see that Virginia holds significant opportunities to address important social justice issues like racial gerrymandering, racist pandering in politics, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights—and the candidates that we’ve been working to elect are ones who will protect and expand civil rights across the state.