by Kellen Squire
There wasn’t much I could take even a little bit of solace in, in the wake of what happened here in Charlottesville- between the life lost, the people who were hurt (some of whom will carry their injuries around for life), and the emotional trauma our community is still going through… it’s been tough.
One of the few small things I took away positive was actually from my opponent, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville). In the run-up to the Nazis invading Charlottesville, I reached out to him and asked him pointedly about making a joint statement against them. I thought it was unlikely he’d respond, but I felt obligated to try, as this was an issue that should easily cross party lines.
Surprisingly, he did respond, and shared his pre-rally statement with me. And to his credit, while it was still relatively milquetoast, it was surprisingly on-point compared to some of his colleagues in the Republican party. I felt good enough about it to even make sure I thanked him for that before I collapsed in exhaustion after getting home from the ER on the 12th of August.
Since then, however… he’s been silent. When Trump got on the air, equivocated on white supremacy, and then bragged about his winery- which is in the district I’m running in- my opponent said nothing. I wasn’t really surprised; he was listed atop the Trump Campaign’s Virginia leadership team, and the rumors locally abound that he’s aiming hard for the open US Attorney spot in Charlottesville, Virginia. Either way, Mr. Trump’s favor is notoriously fickle, but the fastest way to have him stab you in the back is to do anything whatsoever that calls your fealty to him into question.
Which was galling, if unsurprising. But that all changed last Friday.
Many of us had noticed, in the wake of Jason Kessler’s tweet about Heather Heyer, the Greene County Republican Party hurriedly put out a statement disavowing Mr. Kessler.
It was stunning news he was a member of the Greene County Republican Party- Kessler lives in the City of Charlottesville, after all- and when I found that out, it made sense that they’d disavow him hard. Heather’s family is from Greene County; she graduated from William Monroe High School in Ruckersville, Virginia. Considering the responsibility Mr. Kessler bore for the situation that led to her death, and how unapologetic- and even apparently gleeful!, judging from this text- he was about it, that’s a toxicity that’s impossible to ignore.
Apparently, that wasn’t the whole story, though. Because last Friday, an anonymous source sent to us, as well as a few of the local news organizations, copies of the minutes from the March 2017 Greene County Republican Party meeting. This source implied that they were present for the meeting, and noted they were furious that it took that tweet to get anyone to disavow Mr. Kessler. They also indicated that he’d expressed an interest in working for a local Republican Delegate campaign- of which there is precisely one in Greene County, meaning my opponent- but that’s not specifically recorded in the minutes.
What IS specifically recorded in the minutes, however, is a voice vote, by unanimous consent, to make Jason Kessler an associate member of the Greene County Republican Party.
And who was in attendance that day to help gin up support for a Town Hall for our Republican congressman, Tom Garrett, a town hall that Mr. Kessler had boasted he would attend? No other than Greene County’s only member of the House of Delegates- my opponent, Rob Bell.
I could spend an hour here enumerating all the reasons that was a bad idea. I could go into Mr. Kessler’s track record, statements, and his posts from white supremacist sites, all of which were easy to discover with even a casual use of Google in March of 2017. There’s no need, though, because I have just one flippin’ question for Mr. Bell:
Why in the name of God would you allow that nonsense to come to Greene County, Virginia?
Really. That’s my only question. Why? WHY? What possible good could anyone have derived from it? Is the Republican party so bereft of leadership, vision, and members in the age of Donald Trump that adding an outside provocateur to our community was seen as a good idea? Or, at best for Mr. Bell, why he would sit silently and nod while the Greene County Republican Party interrogated Mr. Kessler specifically about being a white supremacist?
I can already answer that in part- it’s because Mr. Bell figured he’d never be held accountable for it. Much like his mentor, former Congressman Eric Cantor, he sees himself as untouchable. He can chair the Trump campaign leadership team, he can be close enough to the Trumps to be invited to spend election eve with Ivanka, he can sit idly by and watch Jason Kessler be invited to join the local Republican party… but, at the end of the day, he thinks he doesn’t have to be accountable to anyone. For anything.
It’s why he helped Ed Gillespie with Operation Red Map, so he could personally draw the lines for our district, and ensure that he would never be held accountable for anything. It’s why, for almost two decades, he’s refused to end the General Assembly’s “unrecorded voice vote” process, letting legislators weigh in anonymously on any issue they don’t want to have to explain to their constituents. It’s why he’s had no problem with his name being associated with the phrase “Trump Values are Virginia Values”. It’s why he can sit silently while Mr. Trump strolls into the lobby of Trump Tower to malign our community and brag about his winery.
I’ve been warned about making this information public; told that it will simply make my family and I huge targets. I’ve known that was possible, ever since I got an anonymous call from someone who told me how unhappy they were with how I spoke of the alt-right… and then proceeded to recite loud my daughter’s name, age, grade, and school. And if that intensifies, I guess we’ll know it’s proof positive whose team they’re on in this fight.
So I have bad news for Mr. Bell. The time of you not being held accountable?
And this fall, the voters in our district are going to have a distinct choice. They can choose Mr. Bell… or they can choose someone who knows, as Dr. King did, that our lives begin to end the day we sit silently about thing that matter.
The choice is clear. And I need your help today to help us get the word out about our people-powered campaign. Because our race is absolutely winnable; the more we can interact with folks, the more pavement we can walk, the more mailers we can send, we will get the word out about exactly what Mr. Bell stands for, and we’ll flip the Trump Winery district blue.
Join us. Donate; every dollar counts, as we’ve built our campaign $5, $10, and $27 dollars at a time. Volunteer; even if you live across the country, phone banks and postcards can be done anywhere.
Let’s bring progress together!
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District this fall.