by Kellen Squire
It was just over a year go that I walked into a library basement in Charlottesville, Virginia, baby on one hip and diaper bag on the other, to tell the almost hundred-fifty folks present that I intended to join them on taking the first steps in the fight back against Trumpism- by running for the Virginia House of Delegates, against the guy who “proudly” represented the Trump Winery’s district.
It was nerve-wracking; unless these folks had met me while I was working in the ER, none of them knew who I was. Because I’d thought for a long time that my work as a nurse was more than enough to be considered “doing my part” for my community. Sure, I’d worked for OFA in 2008; I’d donated to Obama each Presidential cycle, and to both Clinton and Sanders in ’16. But as far as I was concerned, that was more than enough to be considered “doing my part”. I had a busy life, kids to raise. Politics was just something you complained about, not took part in.
That all changed for me- well, not just me. For a lot of folks in our country, on that cold night in November 2016. We woke up. I realized there was so much more I could do to help take a stand for the folks I saw every day who were suffering. To stand up for working Virginia families. To fight against the vitriol and discord infecting our Commonwealth and our Country.
But not everyone needed that wake-up call. Like my good friend, Jennifer Lewis. She didn’t need to watch hatred and corruption find their home in the White House for her to roll up her sleeves and get to work in the Shenandoah Valley. Jennifer’s known how much work there was to be done for almost a decade now- and she hasn’t been shy about getting it done.
That’s why, last week, on the blustery steps of the Augusta County courthouse in Staunton, Virginia, Jennifer announced her run for the United States Congress in the Sixth District of Virginia.
Jennifer is well known for her work standing up against the two major pipelines that are threatening to criss-cross Virginia, helping to organize against their unprecedented attack on private property rights, the environment, and working Virginia families. But where I know Jennifer from the best is her work on the frontlines of the mental health crisis here in Virginia. As an emergency department nurse, I see every single day how broken and frayed our social safety net is for people struggling with mental health issues. Jennifer is one of the few people that devote their heart and soul to taking the pressure off of those of us in the ER.
Jennifer works with folks to make sure they have the support and resources they need to succeed once they’re discharged from a mental health hospital. I’ve seen her go from Western State in Staunton, to Virginia’s Maximum Security facility in Petersburg, to work personally with hospital treatment teams. I’ve seen panic-inducing situations where she wouldn’t bat an eye or raise an eyebrow at. She’s been the first on the scene of crisis situations. She’s even spontaneously broken into song just to make her patients more at east, to diffuse a tense situation. Her ability to care and do whatever it takes to help her patients is unparalleled.
And she does it all- from her hero’s work in mental health care, to fighting for the families, farms, and forests of the Shenandoah Valley- day in and day out, simply because it’s the right thing to do. That’s why she’s standing up now for Virginians from Front Royal to Roanoke; from Luray to Warm Springs, Elkton to Lexington, and Lynchburg to Waynesboro. Because in the only district in Virginia with no incumbent, we need someone like Jennifer to stand up. As bad as the departing Bob Goodlatte was (no town halls since 2013, and he and his staff were the authors behind last year’s Muslim ban), the candidate the Republicans have anointed makes Sarah Palin look like Rachel Maddow. And no, that’s not an exaggeration in the slightest.
Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the National RNC who the Virginia GOP literally flew in from Texas to run in the Virginia 6th District, has made national news for calling President Obama a terrorist and insisting he would literally work “hand-in-hand” with groups like ISIS to launch an attack on America. If that weren’t enough, she got herself elected to the state school board in Texas, even though she said that public schools are “breeding grounds for tyranny”, and tried to eliminate all mentions of evolution and climate change in favor of explicit references to intelligent design and Christianity. And she even went to Alabama last year specifically to help campaign for Roy Moore in person. If you can stomach it, read a passage from her magnum opus, shown here on the left- but be prepared for your blood to curdle and your stomach to turn.
Even in the age of Trump, this represents a new and horrible low for the Republican party. We simply can’t afford people like Cynthia Dunbar to be in Washington, DC. Which just makes Jennifer’s election all the more important, with even the Washington Post saying recently that there’s an absolute chance for a serious candidate to take the 6th this year.
That serious candidate is Jennifer. She has proven that she’s ready to get her hands dirty in the fights that matter to you and me. She knows that we all do better when the least of us succeeds; not when the 1% gets its way, when hate haunts our streets, or when millionaires get to pick their own politicians and politicians get to pick their own voters.
She’s ready to fight- that part hasn’t changed- but now she’s ready to take that fight to Washington. And we’re ready to send her there to get it done. Because Virginia is worth fighting for- it always has been. It always will be.
But she needs your help to get that done– today. Jennifer is running a grassroots campaign, and has already signed the Activate Virginia pledge to not take any money from the state energy monopoly- or any corporation whatsoever, because Jennifer knows that Lewis all the volunteering and activism in the world don’t get results when leadership beholden to corporate money remains in place.
Jennifer needs you. She needs you on her team, to build a grassroots organization that will out-organize anything ever seen in the Shenandoah Valley. She needs you on her team, to help her stand up against the pipelines they’re taking family farms with eminent domain to build. To stand up for Medicare For All and debt-free college. To stand up AGAINST the NRA, and FOR a woman’s right to choose. For renewable energy and a “Second New Deal” for our aging infrastructure.
Donate. Volunteer. And help get the word-out today. Every single dollar, phone call, post card, and door knocked counts.
Join us today, and together, we will defeat hatred and send a progressive champion to Washington, DC.