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Waking Up: How I Came to the Decision to Run for Delegate (Part 1)

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by Kelly Fowler

Deciding to run for Delegate was a bit of a process.  Until recently, I had never thought about running for any office. But I didn’t just wake up one day and think it would be a fun thing to do.  I am sacrificing to serve my community.  After deep thought and consultation with family, I came to believe I had a responsibility to run, but it was not a decision that came easily.

Taking the time to campaign requires me to step away from work, which I am lucky to have that option. But the biggest sacrifice I am making is one I struggle with daily – my time with my children. To represent the people of Virginia in the House of Delegates, I will be spending a lot of time at the Capitol in Richmond, especially during session, which takes place in January and February every year.  My district in Virginia Beach/Chesapeake is roughly two hours from the Capitol, and commuting four hours every day is not going to be possible.

That said, I’m running for Delegate because I have two daughters, and I am accountable for the world they live in. I was raised to believe that I have a responsibility to serve my family and my community.  The 21st District contains 80,000 people, including my two daughters, who are not being represented well by Ron Villanueva. He does not vote for what the people want – he doesn’t represent the people; he represents his interests and his party. Villanueva gives lip service to representing us, but he does not seek out our opinions. He doesn’t ask his constituents about any issues.  He doesn’t answer when we email a question. He simply does not represent the interests of our community.

My children are what first hindered me from running and also what ultimately convinced me that I have a responsibility, as their mother, to stand up and run for Delegate.

Children often have a very simple way of looking at things. “Fair is fair” seems to be the law of the land in our house, so “love is love” and “everyone is welcome” are concepts that are easy for my children to understand. My 4 year old often declares, “I’m the boss of my body” when she she doesn’t want to give a hug to someone. I was excited about the world my little feminists were growing up in and felt optimistic about the possiblities of what their understandings of themselves would allow them to become as adults. And then things changed.

My 8 year old, Tessa Anne, was extremely excited about the 2016 election. The idea of a female president made her feel like she could do anything. She often wore a t-shirt that said, “Run Like a Girl,” with a picture of the White House. She had a Rainbow pin that said, “Vote for Hillary.”

Tessa Anne was born on January 20th, 2009- the day President Obama was inaugurated- so she always felt a connection to the office of President. Given all this, she was a HUGE Hillary supporter and proud of that fact.

The week before the election, Tessa Anne came home and told me about a mock election they had in class and how most of the boys voted for Trump. Tessa had a theory that the boys voted for a boy because they didn’t like girls being in charge. She said she told them that she voted for the best person and explained to them how Trump was not the best choice because he didn’t care about ALL people, that he was mean to people with disabilities and acted like he could do whatever he wanted to women because he was rich.

On November 9th, 2016, as she went out the door to school, I mentioned that Hillary did not win. I feel awful that I told her so quickly and did not let her take a minute to absorb the information, especially because I was really upset and ended up spending most of that day in bed, not wanting to face the world. Something happened that day. Tessa Anne came home looking defeated. I have not seen her rainbow button since then. I often wonder if she took it off or if someone else did. Either way, the moment that button was removed is probably ingrained in her memory, one of those moments you remember forever and that shapes your character and view of the world. I wish I could have been there.

Later that day, Tessa Anne announced, “I’m going back to being a girly-girl. I’m wearing dresses and playing with dolls again.” I did not want to make a big deal of what she was saying and risk making things worse, so I let her comments go. But it really bothered me that she had had such a life-changing negative experience. The message she got was that the other side won, they were right, and that being different is not okay. Her simple, innocent views and passion for standing up for what was simply “fair” had crumbled.  She now looked at things in a much more complicated way that factored in the reality of intolerance and that bullying sometimes wins.

To be continued. . .

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