by Kellen Squire
While I’m out on the campaign trail, I frequently remind voters that while my opponent, Delegate Rob Bell, and I have differing views on a number of issues, he’s not evil. Not hardly. No, the problem he has is that he’s completely out of touch. That’s sad, disappointing, and unacceptable no matter how you cut it, sure… but not evil.
Mr. Bell is a lawyer, and a graduate of the University of Virginia. He’s certainly not stupid or ignorant. And while some would argue that means his actions will occasionally reflect malice, I just can’t agree with that.
I know Rob. His kids and mine did/will/are going to the same elementary school, the one I was the school nurse at for several years. It’s hard to see someone’s kids in your office for a horrific, sob-inducing injury (albeit one that’s invisible, but then is miraculously and instantaneously healed by a Bubble Guppy band-aid and Dum-Dum sucker) and then think they’re evil.
But Rob is a prime example of what happens when you have no problems with echo chambers and sycophants; it’s what happens when you buy into your own hype; it’s what happens when you ensure you never have to run opposed. You’re never held accountable for the things you do, and so inevitably- regardless of the party you belong to- anything you do becomes okay. And as for listening to your constituents? Hah! This is something I recently chatted about in-depth with Chris Jansing of MSNBC about our race.
The biggest example of this absence of leadership, I think, is in gerrymandering. Rob Bell wasn’t just a willing participant in creating the slew of maps that, in 2015, ensured every single incumbent in the Commonwealth of Virginia was able to keep their seat. And he wasn’t just a willing participant in voting for those maps… he played an active part in drawing those districts, particularly right here at home.
Now, it’s important to note here: the data used to draw the maps for the current districts was created by Ed Gillespie’s Red Map program, where Ed Gillespie bought the internet browsing history of every single Virginian.
Yes. That’s exactly right- that’s not an exaggeration, Virginians. Ed Gillespie and Rob Bell had access to every single thing you did on the internet.
How can they do that, you might wonder. Well, turns out companies like Comcast aren’t quite stupid enough to sell your browsing history wholesale- they take your name off of it when they sell it. But they leave your IP address, which has such a good geolocation you can often derive the exact longitude and latitude of someone from it.
So what they do is look at where you live, find your name in their voter database, and then they look at what you do on the internet. And with that information, they determine your worth to them as a voter.
What did the psychological profile they built based on your internet browsing history tell them about how you’d probably vote? Can you be trusted to vote the way they want you to? Or do you need to be packed into a different district- or, at least, have your voice diluted so much that you’ll never cause them any grief?
This is one reason the 58th District runs from the James River in Fluvanna County, to just a mile or two from the JMU Campus in Harrisonburg- meticulously avoiding the cities of Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. In fact, the only place our district deviates from this path is where it juts around a single road in the Key West subdivision east of Charlottesville, and immediately turns back out again. This is perplexing, until you find out that Rob Bell did this personally to try to draw his friend, Ken Boyd- former Albemarle County Board of Supervisors member and one-time 5th Congressional District candidate- into the 58th District so that if Rob became Attorney General, he could “give” his seat to his buddy Ken (sadly, Virginia incumbents are largely able to do whatever they want in this regard).
There’s no world in which that sort-of behavior is acceptable. Yet when questioned about all of the above by our local newspaper, Mr. Bell literally said… well, let me just drop the clip in here, since it’s not on the Internet yet:
Think about that. The Delegate who is currently holding the seat once occupied by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself thinks that “B-b-b-but everyone ELSE is doing it!” is a cogent and appropriate defense of a practice that LITERALLY 87% OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION IS AGAINST.
Sorry, y’all, I’m going to be a bit brusque here- for anyone reading this who enjoys fauxtrage or having the vapors, get ready- but that is some serious bullshit. I wouldn’t let my FOUR YEAR OLD get away with that excuse; I sure as hell expect better of my representative in Richmond- particularly in our district, where apparently the discourse for the person holding that seat has devolved from “We hold these truths to be self-evident” to “I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?!?”
This is what happens when you become a career politician. When the millions you’ve taken from special interest groups and national political groups becomes your guiding light, and NOT the people of your district. And when you create a district whose borders are so byzantine, you can make sure you never have to be held accountable for the things you do. Not about gerrymandering, which you think is okay to excuse by saying “Meh.” Not about healthcare, where you can watch thousands of your own constituents go without care just to stick it to Obama and know you’ll suffer no consequences. And not about sitting silently while Jason Kessler discusses his white supremacy in your presence.
We need someone representing us in Richmond who will be responsive and accountable to the people of this district- regardless of our political party, regardless of our views, or regardless of how much money we’ve donated to them. Who will stand up for us, first and foremost, and put people over party.
And this is exactly why Rob Bell needs to go on November 7th. He’s wrong on criminal justice issues, where he never met a private prison or reflexively “tough on crime” bill he didn’t like, and even Ken Cuccinelli and Ed Gillespie call his position “devastating” and ”dumb”. He’s wrong on healthcare, playing partisan politics to keep 400,000 working Virginians from having access to health insurance. And he’s absolutely, 100% without a doubt- which he even admits– is wrong on gerrymandering. As long as he’s in Richmond, expect it never to get any better.
But you can help make sure he doesn’t stay in Richmond any longer. Chip in today- join our over 2,000 unique donors in building a people-powered movement unlike any other that’s been seen in central Virginia– and coming up on more individual small donors in a few months than my opponent’s had in almost two decades as a career politician. Join our incredible group of volunteers, who have worked their butts off and knocked so many doors, called so many people, and written so many post cards they’ve organized our district better so far than any candidate in history.
Join us. With your help, we can absolutely do this. Let’s bring progress to central Virginia together!
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates this fall in the Trump Winery District. Donate to, volunteer for, or get the word out about our people-powered campaign, today!