The thing that first drew me to Sheila Bynum-Coleman as a candidate was what I noticed from following her Facebook page for a while: Sheila could not keep her hands out of problems. If there was a problem somewhere—kids needing shoes, people released from prison needing temporary housing, people needing help dealing with a slumlord, Sheila was all over it. In fact, I wondered how she could find time to run for the House of Delegates while fixing every other problem in her community.
But when I went canvassing with her this weekend in Chesterfield County, I saw her in action, and wow, this woman is a FIXER! One door we knocked was opened by an elderly woman (and her elderly sister). Sheila introduced herself and asked if the woman was planning on voting in November. The woman hesitated a bit, before telling us about her husband, who recently had his leg amputated, and was in a rehabilitation center. Sheila practically vibrated with interest, and wanted to know more. She asked the woman whether she wouldn’t prefer to have her husband at home? Naturally, the woman DID want her husband at home, but thought that her insurance (Medicare) wouldn’t pay for in-home care. And this is where Sheila was at her best. She almost literally rolled up her sleeves to see whether she couldn’t find a way to help. Because she knew a local woman who owned a company that provided in-home care, and that had worked with Medicare to get it covered. By the time we left that door, the woman had Sheila’s personal phone number, and Sheila had promised to make the calls for her to find out if she could get in-home care covered, and the woman was going to call Sheila in a couple days to find out.
You know what? Not one door we knocked even knew the name of their incumbent Republican delegate, who’s been holding that seat for a quarter of a century. And he certainly hasn’t rolled up his sleeves and helped them with their problems. In fact, the reason Sheila first ran for his seat two years ago was precisely because that incumbent wouldn’t take 15 minutes to talk to her about an issue she was trying to get resolved through the school system.
He refused to take 15 minutes to talk to his constituent!
I myself live in a comfy blue district, and my delegate is a Democrat, and I’ve asked for his help countless times, as have many other people I’ve met in my community. He doesn’t refuse to talk to us! He tries to help us with our issues!
And I don’t just mean during the few days of the year that the General Assembly is in session–I mean all year round, nights and weekends too!
This is a common trait that I’ve seen over and over as I’ve spent time with both our candidates and our incumbents. This is a party of people who want to listen, who deeply care about their constituents, who want to find out what problems people are having, and who literally ACHE to fix them! This is a party of public servants, not politicians.