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Tom Perriello: Why Virginia Activists Should Be Fired Up About the House of Delegates Races this Fall

Flipping the Virginia House of Delegates will send a message to Trump and Republicans everywhere

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by Tom Perriello, cross posted from Medium

The recent–and now repeated–defeat of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have been an epic victory for the progressive forces resisting Donald Trump, both here in Virginia and across the country. Like many, I believe 33 million Americans have secure healthcare today because so many people of conscience rose up, marched, protested, made phone calls, and refused to tire of the fight. The message was clear: the Resistance can stop the Trump agenda.

The next question is this: will resistance energy translate into electoral victories up and down the ballot? Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until the 2018 midterms to find out. We have a chance this November 7th to flip control of the Virginia House of Delegates. Along with three crucial statewide races (Governor, Lt Gov, and AG), these delegate contests offer a dress rehearsal for 2018 with real consequences. It is a chance to show that activist opposition to Donald Trump can be channeled into victories at the polls.

The Resistance has already made a major impact on these races. With Republicans controlling the chamber 66–34, we need another 17 seats to take the majority. Four years ago, more than half of Republican incumbents had no Democratic challenger. This year, we’re fielding candidates in 88 of the 100 seats, including all 51 won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Over half of the new challengers are women, over 25 percent candidates of color, five from the LGBTQ community, and nearly a dozen millennials.

We are also seeing a preview of how divided the Republican Party has become. In their Virginia gubernatorial primary, Ed Gillespie, one of DC’s most successful corporate lobbyists, barely eked out the nomination over neo-Confederate Trump clone Corey Stewart. The primary also showed Democrats have an enthusiasm advantage, as nearly 50 percent more votes were cast for our party in the gubernatorial race, including more for the Democrats’ runner-up than the Republican victor.

But these Republican delegates are not just at risk because of Trump. They are at risk because every single one of them voted repeatedly to block Medicaid expansion that would provide coverage to 400,000 struggling Virginians (and reduce premiums on the middle class). Year after year, they have passed dozens of attacks on equality, women’s rights and the environment. And cycle after cycle, they have faced little challenge, hiding behind radically gerrymandered district maps.

But this year is different. Not only do we have great candidates, but we have new technologies and tactics, including strong Virginia advocacy groups (New Virginia MajorityProgress VA) combined with new activist chapters (FlippableSister DistrictIndivisible). That energy is why I recently joined Win Virginia (WinVA), a Political Action Committee dedicated to taking back the Virginia legislature. Our goal at WinVA is to expand the map and support candidates across the Commonwealth, from the must-wins to the long shots. This fall we will provide direct support to candidates, contribute to the House Democratic Caucus, and build and curate innovative technology to help candidates run effective campaigns so our next governor, Ralph Northam, has a Democratic House majority to support his progressive agenda.

Winning in Virginia has huge implications for those living on this side of the Potomac, but the results will also be felt across the river at the Capitol. Republicans in Congress right now are asking which political future is scarier–one where they upset their radicalized base or one where they upset the growing coalition of those determined to stop the Trump agenda. They are asking whether all of this resistance is going to translate into a different political reality next year. If we can change the map in Virginia this year, we will have created a path to victory for 2018.

I hope you’ll join me by donating to WinVA to support the activists, organizers and candidates working to flip the House of Delegates into Democratic hands.