It has been rumored for a long time now that Virginia Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw – known for his close/”legally corrupt” ties to Dominion Energy, his lack of concern about ethics, his chumminess over the years with predatory lending companies, his enthusiasm for capital punishment, etc. (see here for more on why Saslaw is well past his “sell-by date”) – would likely face a progressive primary challenge in 2019. From what I’ve heard, Saslaw has been very quite concerned about this prospect, and has (wisely) responded by trying to nail down his current supporters while attempting to reach out to progressive activists.
Now, Saslaw’s concerns have come to pass, with the announcement by activist, attorney and DNC member Yasmine Taeb that she’s running for this seat. See below for Yasmine’s intro video, which tells her “deeply personal story” of how she became a progressive Democrat. Here’s an excerpt:
I escaped war-torn Iran when I was six years old. We packed our bags, fled the country and eventually made our way to the Mexican border. The night my mother three siblings and I crossed the southern border, I remember in the dark of night climbing through a hole in a wire fence and being told by my mom to run. So I did. The next thing I remember was seeing my sister in a white van, caught by US authorities, tears streaming down her face…
During a time when candidate Donald Trump was calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims to the US, I heard my mother’s words in my head louder than ever. Run. So I did. I became the first Muslim woman ever elected to the Democratic National Committee, where I’ve been fighting for progressive reforms to make our party more open and inclusive…
I am a progressive Democrat precisely because there’s another little girl in Virginia today who needs someone to fight for her…
Unfortunately right now in Virginia on all across the country some elected officials are more interested in siding with powerful corporations than the people they represent the old Virginia way of pay-to-play politics is failing countless working families…
…I am announcing my candidacy to represent Virginia’s 35th Senate District. You deserve a state senator who will not only represent your values, but will fight for them…This is our country, this is our community, let’s fight for it together. Join me at yasmineforvirginia.com“
Well said – inspiring too!
For more background on this announcement, check out the HuffPo story by Daniel Marans. As Marans reports, “If successful, Taeb’s challenge would shift Democratic governance in Virginia in a more populist direction.” Marans adds an important point: “Taeb is part of a new wave of progressive activists challenging the Democratic establishment in influential but oft-ignored state legislatures,” and “as last week’s New York primaries attest, the activist left has had far more success making inroads in state legislatures than statewide posts or congressional seats.” Great point; now we’ll see if this trend continues in Virginia in 2019. I, for one, hope it does, at least in this case!
I’ll conclude by noting that the primary in 2019, while it certainly will talk about the issues, could ultimately come down to a much broader question about who voters in the highly diverse, “majority-minority” 35th Senate district (Falls Church, Alexandria, Fairfax County) want to be represented by: a relatively conservative/”old school” Democrat, a white male who’s been there for decades on the one hand; or a strongly progressive Democrat, a woman, Muslim, immigrant (from Iran) and person of color on the other? Stay tuned to see how this battle for the soul of the Democratic Party plays out. I certainly know which side I’m going to be on!
UPDATE: See Yasmine’s statement, from her Facebook page, below.
Today, I’m excited to announce my candidacy as a Democrat to represent Virginia’s 35th Senate District.
I’m running because–as a former refugee and current human rights attorney–I know we have to fight harder than ever to defend our diversity and to defend the working people of Northern Virginia. With Donald Trump as President and a Republican General Assembly in Richmond, our communities are actively under attack. We desperately need someone who shows up, stands with our neighbors, and actively win battles on their behalf.
To be clear, the most important thing right now is to ensure Senator Tim Kaine, Jennifer Wexton, Abigail Spanberger, and the rest of our Virginia delegation get elected to Congress. And I will be out there knocking doors and rallying support to make this blue wave in 2018 a reality.
But in 2019, we have a choice to make here in Northern Virginia: in a district that is so overwhelmingly diverse, we deserve someone who will–consistently and without reservation–fight for our shared values.
I know I have the experience to win. I made history by becoming the first Muslim woman ever elected to the Democratic National Committee. I have served on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. But most importantly, I have fought on the front lines every day against efforts from the White House and Congress to impose cruel, unnecessary rules against refugees and asylum seekers, including President Trump’s infamous “Muslim Ban” and his family separation policies at the border.
I can’t wait to get to work on your behalf. Join me at yasmineforvirginia.com