Four years ago, we had a great chance to win back the Virginia State Senate, with the key district being SD10 (57% Northam; Chesterfield County, Richmond City, Powhatan County). Unfortunately, we lost, in large part due to really bad candidate selection. My preferred candidate that year was a strong progressive and environmentalist named Emily Francis. The “establishment” candidate that year was a conservative Democrat – or maybe not even a Democrat at all, given that he ran in 2007 as an independent and said his political hero was Ronald Reagan (!) – named Dan Gecker. Brilliant, huh? Yeah…no, it wasn’t, with Gecker ending up losing to Republican Glen Sturtevant 50%-47% in this blue-leaning district.
This time around, I’m looking for a Democratic nominee who is a strong progressive, strong environmentalist, and of course a strong candidate to beat Sturtevant in November. Fortunately, I’m happy to report that I’ve found such a candidate, in Ghazala Hashmi. I’ll get into my reasons for endorsing her shortly, but first, let’s do a quick review of why Glen Sturtevant is NOT the “moderate” he falsely pretends to be and why he’s gotta go in November.
- Per Project Vote Smart, Sturtevant got a ZERO rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in 2018, for being horrendous when it comes to womens’ reproductive health and freedom. (and no, pretending to be for ERA ratification doesn’t absolve him of any of this)
- Sturtevant is also terrible when it comes to gun violence prevention, with NRA and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) ratings ranging from 80% to 96% since 2015.
- Sturtevant’s a corporate/anti-labor tool, with a 98% Virginia Chamber of Commerce rating and a pathetic, 21% Virginia AFL-CIO score.
- Sturtevant’s highly rated (88%) by the far-right “Family Foundation of Virginia.”
- Sturtevant voted against raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
- Sturtevant voted against a bill that “would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law.”
- Sturtevant supported crazy extremist/bigot Ken Cuccinelli for the Virginia Supreme Court!
- Sturtevant voted against a “landmark piece of legislation – SB 252 – which proposes to ‘ban the box’ forcing those applying for employment with state agencies to declare whether they have ever been convicted of a felony” AND voted against ” another landmark piece of legislation – SB 105 – which proposes to lift Virginia’s felony grand larceny threshold (currently tied with New Jersey for lowest in the nation) from $200 to $500.” Appalling.
We could go on all day, but in sum, Sturtevant is a standard-issue right wingnut, except that he’s a wily/oily politician who knows he’s in an increasingly blue district, so he pretends to be “moderate” at times, hoping there might be a few Democrats out there who are gullible enough to buy his nonsense. Kinda shows what he thinks of Democratic voters’ intelligence level, I guess.
Now, despite the fact that Sturtevant is a right winger in a blue district, we can’t assume that he’s going to be a pushover, or even that we’re going to beat him. For starters, the guy’s a skillful politician – even if it means being utterly dishonest about who he really is. Second, the guy’s got $216k in the bank, and Republicans are clearly going to try to defend him, so we’re going to need a top-tier candidate in every way, including the ability to raise a lot of money.
Which brings us to Ghazala Hashmi.
As far as money’s concerned, looking at the 1Q19 finance reports, the leading SD10 candidates in terms of fundraising were: 1) Ghazala Hashmi ($57k in receipts); 2) Eileen Bedell ($53k in receipts); 3) Glen Sturtevant ($45k in receipts); and 4) Zachary Brown ($20k in receipts). In terms of “cash on hand,” the ranking is 1) Sturtevant with $216k; 2) Hashmi with $80k; 3) Bedell with $49k; 4) Brown with $16k. So on the money front, the top Democrat to date is Hashmi, by a significant margin when it comes to “cash on hand.” So that’s one factor in her favor.
In addition to fundraising ability, I’d add several other factors in Hashmi’s favor, including:
- Having a PhD (in English from Emory University) doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is very, very smart. But having spoken to Ghazala Hashmi for a couple hours now, I am confident that she is very, very smart, indeed. She also strikes me as just a very good, solid person all around.
- Her bio is super impressive. Among the highlights are her work “as a college professor and administrator…in the Virginia Community College System for over 17 years”; her being named in 2013 as “a member of the statewide Strategic Plan Taskforce and helped to develop Complete 2021, a six-year vision for Virginia’s community colleges”; her participation as “a Board Member of the Richmond Chapter of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities,” whose goals are “building inclusive values and social structures that support all communities, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, ability, and gender identification”; her service as Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, a large organization which she started (and which works to bring people together and get policies enacted), at Reynolds Community College in Richmond; etc.
- Hashmi has picked up some endorsements I really respect, including Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni; 2015 Democratic candidate for SD10, Emily Francis; Bill Leighty, former Chief of Staff to Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; and Del. Sam Rasoul.
- Hashmi has refused contributions from state-regulated public utility companies (e.g., Dominion Energy), their PACs, lobbyists and executives.
- She’s a strong environmentalist who has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge; told me that she supports the “Green New Deal Virginia” and that she believes firmly in environmental justice. She also related to me how she attended the amazing environmental justice event a few months ago in Union Hill with former VP Al Gore and Rev. Dr. William Barber — quite possibly making her the only State Senate candidate in attendance — and was VERY moved by it, finding it “inspiring and powerful.”
- She is a champion for public education, including early childhood education, K-12 and “accessible and affordable higher education.
- In addition to doing a good job in terms of raising money, my understanding is that Hashmi is running a strong, aggressive campaign in general. It helps that she’s strongly rooted in the community, having lived in Chesterfield County for nearly 30 years, plus of course the large number of students and families in the Richmond area whose lives she’s positively impacted over the years.
- If elected, Hashmi would add diversity to the State Senate, becoming the first Muslim woman to serve there. Hashmi is also an immigrant, so she understands that experience as well. All very good stuff.
- Finally, while Hashmi’s main Democratic opponent, Eileen Bedell, is a good progressive, her run in 2016 against Dave Brat resulted in a 15-point loss. In contrast, Abigail Spanberger defeated Brat two years later, 50%-48%.
In sum, I believe that Ghazala Hashmi is a highly impressive person, strong progressive and passionate environmentalist. I also believe that she would make both the best Democratic candidate against Glen Sturtevant this fall, as well as a superb State Senator starting in January 2020. For all the reasons listed above, I enthusiastically endorse her and encourage everyone to help her win on June 11 and on November 5!