Home 2018 Elections No More White Guys? Vangie Williams Seems to Question Edwin Santana’s Ethnicity...

No More White Guys? Vangie Williams Seems to Question Edwin Santana’s Ethnicity (Also, Response by Vangie Williams’ Campaign)

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The following post is by Ayodele Okeowo, campaign manager for VA-01 Democratic candidate Edwin Santana. Also see below Okeowo’s post for the Vangie Williams campaign’s response. – Lowell

At a candidate forum in Lancaster County this past weekend, I heard something that troubled me. The following is a direct quote from Vangie Williams and I’d like to talk about why this has no place in our party or in our country:

Now Edwin’s going to tell you he’s the first Latino, but guess what? I’m going to tell you what I’ve heard in the district, “we don’t want any more white guys, we don’t want any more old guys”.

As a Black, female, candidate, Vangie Williams understands the challenges of being judged or written off based on factors that she has no control of. Every day, I’m sure, she has to fend off stereotypes, misconceptions and archaic tropes. Which is why I’m extremely troubled to then see her use her platform to push race-based, ageist, and divisive rhetoric.

We often accuse the other side of these tactics, rightfully so. But here we are, guilty of the same things. This is not the Democratic Party I want to see. Just as troubling was Williams’ “he’s going to tell you he’s the first Latino?” statement. I’d like to hear some clarification from her campaign on that statement. Is she questioning Edwin Santana’s ethnic background — – his Puerto Rican father and his Latino descent??

I met Edwin and Vangie at the same time, at an environmental town hall in Fredericksburg on May 8, 2017. I was excited to see multiple Democratic candidates vying for the nomination in Virginia first Congressional District, something I’d never seen before, and wanted to get involved as quickly as possible. I went to Fredericksburg to watch this event live and figure out which candidate I would support. I liked Edwin’s platform and his stance on environmental protections, but was even more impressed by his ability to communicate with a diverse crowd, and to admit when he wasn’t 100% on a specific topic or question. This genuineness, as well as his experiences, I figured, would bode well in the district.

After the event I got a chance to speak with both Vangie and Edwin. Edwin and I discussed his passion for single-payer healthcare and we decided to co-write a paper establishing the campaign’s official stance on the issue. I have been working as a volunteer for his campaign ever since, and now serve as his campaign manager.

As a Black person in America, I am steadfast in my belief that Black people are underrepresented in government and that there should be more elected officials who are Black. But what I will never do is support or vote for a person solely because of their race. On that night in Fredericksburg, I made the decision to support Edwin because of his political acumen and his ability to communicate with voters. I can assure you that at no time, did his age or race (or Vangie’s) factor into my decision to get involved. Vangie does people of color a disservice when she tries to reduce this amazing democratic process to a competition on age or race.

Democrats and progressives have to condemn speech like this whenever, and wherever it occurs. I struggled internally about whether to write this, but I decided that I would be letting myself and 1st district voters down if I didn’t voice my concerns. This is such an important time in American history. As Democrats, we have a big job to do and we need to continually work on ourselves to ensure that our discourse is thoughtful, inclusive, and progressive.

Vangie Williams Campaign Response to Santana Team Statement on CD 1 Candidate Forum 

There are people associated with the Santana campaign who are trying to make political hay out of a comment I made in Kilmarnock, Virginia.

This is what I said in my closing statement:

I’m a black woman running in a red district. This takes massive courage. 

And I’m gonna tell you how we win. We win by going into neighborhoods where people don’t go. 

We run by talking to our neighbors regardless of what party they are. Red, green, whatever other colors they want to pick now.

Because we are the red, white and blue. We are Americans.

I have the most education. I have the most experience. I’m the most qualified. I’m the most innovative.

And let me tell you something ladies and gentlemen, I know I have a great chance of winning this race.

Right now we’re sitting amongst history. I am the first African-American woman to run for Congress in the 1st District. When I win, I’ll be the first African-American woman to represent [Virginia in] Congress on Capitol Hill.

Now Edwin’s gonna tell you he’s the first Latino…(pause) but guess what? I’m going to tell you what I’ve heard in the district.

We don’t want any more white guys. We don’t want any more old guys.

(Applause. Audience erupts in laughter.)

Sorry. But, you know what I mean.

The good ol’ boy system has to end. And right now, I have been working in the good ol’ boy system and I have been breaking down barriers for years.

And it’s time our daughters, our nieces, our aunts, and even our young men who are coming out have a chance to grow in this district.

Yes, I said what I said. But the reasons being attributed to what I said are way off base and a sloppy attempt at trying to score cheap political points. Because if Mr. Okeowo were truly concerned, and subsequently upset about racism and sexism in this race, he would have spoken up months ago.

What I said was in reaction to what the moderator said about women of color, specifically African-American women, making a difference in Alabama with the election of Doug Jones to the United States Senate. Everybody in that room knew what I was talking about and John Suddarth, the other candidate in the race, even joked about what I said.

I think there’s a much bigger question that needs to be asked here:

Where was Mr. Okeowo’s outrage when I was introduced as “the prettiest candidate” or described as “being so well-spoken”?  Did sexism and racism not matter then?  Where was his outrage when, in front of his own candidate, a woman asked me if all six of my daughters were fathered by the same man?  Neither of them spoke up.  Where was the outrage when I was publicly asked if I was the “secretary” at all the places listed on my resume?  He was in the room.

I didn’t hear his voice then. There was just silence.

But when I say something that he thinks he can distort to score some political points, he speaks up?

I have spent most of my life in the area. Mr. Okeowo cannot presume to understand my experience as a woman of color in this area. We’re told to keep our mouths shut and our opinions to ourselves. We have been told directly and indirectly that we’re second-class citizens. All my life I have refused to accept that label and have fought my way to the top – fighting many of the very sentiments being expressed, unfortunately, by Mr. Okeowo.

I’m glad Mr. Okeowo has found a candidate he likes and can support. I, too, like Edwin. He’s a nice guy. But Edwin and I have very different life experiences.  As a self-described “farm boy from Maine,” I would imagine that Edwin can’t relate to feeling the faint shadows of 400 years of racism that rural blacks still feel in the 1st District. To this day I feel the darkness of those lingering shadows. Many, many people in the 1st District still feel those same shadows cast across their lives every day. We’re still told not to show up on election day or “else.” Recently I was even told, “Little girl, you have no right to run for office.”

But run I will. In the face of racism, I will run. In the face of sexism, I will run.

And I will win for everyone who has ever felt marginalized.

So, if Mr. Okeowo wants to become the judge and jury of all that is racist and sexist, I suggest he do it ALL the time, not just when it’s politically advantageous for his own candidate.

  • old_redneck

    In case you missed it, Ms. Williams referred to “. . . what the moderator said about women of color, specifically
    African-American women, making a difference in Alabama with the election
    of Doug Jones to the United States Senate.”

    I was at the forum. The moderator was encouraging everyone to get active — register people to vote, get out the vote, work for a candidate. The moderator pointed out that he graduated from college in Alabama in the 1960’s and his wife is “an Alabama girl.” The moderator then visibly choked up . . . he regained his composure and described how he and his wife were “jumping up and down in our living room” when they learned of Doug Jones’ victory. The moderator then said: “Doug Jones won because African-American women in Alabama voted in historic numbers.” He then pointed out this did not happen by accident . .. . it happened because of “pick and shovel work” to register voters and get them to the polls.

    • Deborah

      II listened to what Vangie Williams said and it was clearly not out of line. She was correct in saying that our local and nation’s government is full of old white men. This is a fact and not “fake news”. Have you seen a recent picture of the White House staff. I don’t think she used her race in her closing comments as a way of scoring points. I think what she said was correct and the way it is but look at her qualifications. It speaks for itself.

    • Anthony Shifflett

      I personally don’t think she was out of line. Good to have a healthy debate.

  • I’m hoping to not see a back and forth here, because if it does, then the citizens of the 1st Congressional District loses, due to the incumbent wins.

  • Roger Miller

    As an old white guy who doesn’t live in VA-01, let me confess that, indeed, I am the problem. From Vietnam to Iraq to Trump, my generation has failed my country and my children. I wholeheartedly endorse EVERY effort to elect anyone who doesn’t look like me to public office. Good ol’ boys need a Time Out, perhaps for a generation.

    • LaureenMT

      But Vangie Williams and Edwin Santana are both departures from the Old White Guy candidate, aren’t they? It is sad to see either of them attack each other due to identity politics. Let their policy positions and their electability (whatever that means) lead the way.

  • LAmeetsDC

    So Okeowo attacks what is at its worst a mediocre segue and is completely blind to the racism and sexism faced by Williams throughout her campaign? Convienent.

  • Kim Wyman

    I want the candidate who can beat Whitman and this mudslinging should be beneath us.

    • Anthony Shifflett

      I don’t know. Sometimes a bloodletting can be a good thing…

      We’ll see.

  • Sue Richman

    I am neither a CD1 constituent nor a campaign affiliated person but honestly this article just reads like a hit piece. It takes a single comment out of context and uses it to cast both doubt and aspersions on a rival candidate. I think that Edwin Santana is better than that & I hope that he had nothing to do with this salacious and misleading piece.
    That said, I understand that there are historic implications if the Latino or Black woman candidate gets elected. As a voter I that’s cool but completely irrelevant to my thought process when I choose my candidate. I want the person most qualified to represent my values and district while being cognizant of the fact that it also needs to be the candidate most likely to beat the Republican.
    Let’s get out of the weeds, stop flinging poo and get serious. Rob Wittman sure as hell is and he will use any of this divisiveness he can against us in the general election.

  • accompanyc

    The First Congressional District is fortunate to have three candidates who have dedicated themselves to this race. I’ve made my choice (Edwin Santana) on the basis of his character, his stand on the issues, his vision of Virginia’s future and the energy he brings – and his ability to defeat Congressman Wittman, not on the basis of age, race, ethnicity *or* gender.

  • VirginiaReps

    Oh of

  • Katie Jonesy

    It is discouraging to see this site use something so out of context as this.

    • The full context is provided – video of the debate, statement from Vangie Williams, original post by Edwin Santana’s CM, etc. Not sure what else would be necessary to provide “context.”

      • Katie Jonesy

        The clickbait and misleading article title and what was actually said.

  • Cyndi

    You took her entire comment out of context. Your hypocrisy is
    unbelievable.

  • George

    It’s sad how unethical and dishonest the Santana campaign is. They are selfishly desperate to win just to obtain power. I don’t want that in a congressional leader.

  • Kenneth Ferland

    Sounds like she could have phrased it a bit better, throw a rhetorical bone to Santana ethnic background making it clear she wasn’t questioning it but still assert that Black women have a longer history of fighting injustice, etc. The age comment clearly is direct at the Republicans, though we should be clear that it is their ideology which we oppose not their identity.

    I always prefer that our democratic candidates put their ideology (which is centered around equality both social and economic) forefront. We should always point out that Republicans use identity to false portray themselves to be serving/protecting the majority identity groups and that voters must break out of the naive belief that shared identity with a politician automatically means they are on your side.

  • Kim Wyman

    Can’t wait to see them tonight in the SICAN forum. https://www.facebook.com/events/581211035585467/

  • ProudAmerican

    So Santana’s team is trying to use mansplaining (& I’m a man) out of context? Great! Sounds like you’re learning from Trump.

    Ok OKEOWO, TAKE something out of context, pretend you can understand what it’s like to be a powerful, independent, highly-educated Black woman, and take one line out of a discussion and mansplain your views to us? I laughed because I thought this was an Onion article. Maybe you need a career change.

    Is this how you gain more votes Santana? We know you’re struggling to get votes but is mansplaining & misogyny going to help? You have GREATLY misunderstood our community if that’s how you roll.