by Hannah Risheq for Delegate
My campaign had its official launch party this weekend and all I can say is: “I’m fired up and ready to go!” (Thanks, Obama). We had dozens of people attend the launch and it was just what I needed to further energize me after one month on the campaign trail. Joining the race for the 67th District House of Delegates seat has been exhausting and there is nothing like a kick-off party full of loving friends, family, and volunteers to motivate me to keep moving forward.
Check out the some of our guests in this amazing video made by Campaign Boldly.
Overall, the launch was wonderful and I decided to write this to tell you about the phenomenal people who took the time to speak about why they came out in support. We heard about real issues in Virginia, starting with the story of Kat, a feminist and advocate from Fairfax. She is a local band teacher and told our guests about a young girl in her color guard who has not had her gender identity recognized by all school administrators.
Unfortunately, this is a difficulty that many youth face in our district and throughout the country, which contributes to a suicide rate that is 40 times higher for gender non-conforming and transgender youth. Virginia continues to perpetuate stigmas and discrimination that isolate non-traditional youth by allowing leaders to promote hate policy and hate speech, such as:
- The “Physical Privacy Act,” a bill that would have regulated the bathrooms and locker rooms children can use in school, Virginia’s very own bathroom bill; or
- Proposals from GOP gubernatorial candidates that vow to sign VA’s equivalent HB2 into policy and preach that they will “prohibit transgenderism in any way, shape, or form.”
Kat’s story and passion align with the advocacy and community outreach I have done in my role as a social worker. I have personally witnessed the heightened risks associated with this marginalized group. Therefore, I have advocated for LGBTQIA specific behavioral, physical, and social health programming and interventions. As a delegate, I am going to continue this by fighting against hate and standing for equality across the commonwealth.
We also heard from Doc, one of our first volunteers, about the importance of our movement to bring young, diverse, candidates into the arena. In our legislature, only 17% of representatives identify as a minority.
True representation in Richmond is crucial to protect Virginian values of diversity an inclusion. Our latest census data shows us that Virginia is one of the most rapidly diversifying states in the country with 10% of our population self-identifying as foreign born and 75% of the commonwealth’s newest residents identifying as people of color. If our diversity is not accurately represented in the capitol, how do we make sure the unique needs of each different population are met? We must be seen and heard in Richmond to overcome bigotry from Virginian GOP leaders. We can’t let racists, sexist, and homophobic politicians like Corey Stewart (also mentioned above) change the beautiful dynamics of our state. Corey recently tweeted “Nothing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don’t matter.” in response to an announcement that in New Orleans a few Confederate monuments will be removed. We have to #resist and #fightback.
In my last blog post, I highlighted my background and my decision to protect Virginia’s respect for different cultures and backgrounds so I won’t rehash them here. Sufficed to say I will fight harder than anyone to preserve and promote the diversity of Virginia because of my lived experiences with discrimination.
Sarah, a Run for Something staff member also emphasized the critical need to harness fresh post-election millennial engagement and opportunities to invest in the future of the Democratic party.
Millennials are the largest living, working, and most diverse generation, yet we are the most underrepresented in the legislature. In Virginia specifically, 31% of the adult population are millennials. Meanwhile, the average age of a Virginia state legislator is 56 years old and over 53% of our state representatives are in the Baby Boomer age group. In the 2016 election, only half of eligible young people cast a vote yet we face unique problems and we can’t expect older generations to simply understand our issues. For example, our generation is more likely to be single, have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than previous generations were at the same age. Those of us who have started or are thinking of a family, myself included, are more interested in funding public education than older people whose children are grown, and who may be reluctant to pay higher taxes to support schools.
Without a seat at the table, we lose our opportunity to advocate for the future, while policies and political actions that are happening right now will impact the rest of our lives. Consider that only 50% of us showed up at the polls and now we must live with the consequences of Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court for another 40 years. As a member of the largest living age group, I want to fight back and represent our generation at the state level to make sure that millennials are given the opportunity to shape the future of Virginia.
Finally, we heard from my biggest supporter, Alex, my fiancé. He summed everything up and highlighted what my campaign is all about: tenacity, collaboration, and compassion. I’m excited to bring these qualities to Richmond to support a strong and welcoming Virginia. I hope you can support and join me on this journey.