by Del. Debra Rodman
I decided to run for office in early 2017, because my Republican Delegate was a doctor who opposed Medicaid expansion. He claimed to be working to help people, and yet he opposed so many opportunities to do so. He had not had an opponent in years, and I believed someone needed to hold him accountable.
The campaign was an uphill battle. Insiders criticized my weight, as if I were unaware that I occupy more space than society deems appropriate for women. As if I was going to put on hold fighting for what I believe in until I was a size 6. They nitpicked my clothes, oblivious to the reality that supporting a family on an academic’s salary meant living paycheck to paycheck and paying off medical debt – not new dresses. I was told over and over that I shouldn’t wear my pink glasses because I “wouldn’t look like a politician” and that I needed something “more traditional.”
But more than anything, I was told the race was unwinnable, even with grassroots support and hard work, because we were up against a popular incumbent in his own gerrymandered district.
Our grassroots team kept at it – volunteers knocked tens of thousands of doors. I worked hundred-hour weeks canvassing, talking to neighbors at meet and greets, and raising money from small donors. I even called an old high school boyfriend (he gave me $50).
After all the hard work, something amazing happened: We won.
We won because voters were ready for a new approach. They wanted a Delegate who would listen to them – not to Dominion. They wanted someone who would fight for Medicaid expansion – not for big insurance companies. They wanted someone who would stand up for Henrico County schools – not make our students fight for crumbs, while special interests get whatever they want. And they wanted someone who understands the daily fear of sending your child to school, while gun violence remains unaddressed.
This past two years in the General Assembly, we started delivering on the promise of change. We expanded Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians. We gave teachers desperately needed pay raises. I led the fight to stop insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. We worked once again to stop Republicans from de-funding access to long-term reversible contraceptives.
But there is still so much more work to do. Too many Virginians are still one hospital surprise bill from financial ruin. Teachers still make $9,000 less than the national average. Republicans are still trying to interfere with women and their doctors. There are still common-sense measures we can pass to reduce gun violence.
Moreover, I am tired of having to beg Republicans not to crush working families. I am tired of having to beg for laws that actually facilitate equality of opportunity and the American Dream. I want to walk into the State Senate next year as part of a new, vibrant Democratic majority and fully fund our schools. I want to end the discrimination of LGBT individuals in housing and employment. I want to put women in the constitution!
Republicans have targeted me – but I have never wavered on the principles for which I was elected. I am proud to have been a champion of women’s reproductive health care. I am proud to have fought insurance companies that discriminate against trans individuals. I am proud to have fought tooth and nail to try and stop Dominion from over-charging my constituents.
I am exactly who I say I am – on the campaign trail and in the General Assembly. I wear pink glasses, and I fight relentlessly for my constituents. I’m asking you to help me to do more good for more people in the State Senate. I ask for your vote on June 11th.