If it’s Friday, it’s got to be “Flip-A-District Friday,” courtesy of Del. Rip Sullivan’s Project Blue Dominion. This week, the featured candidates are Del. Kathy Tran (D-HD42), Del. Dawn Adams (D-HD68), Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-HD72), and Del. Vivian Watts (D-HD39).
Flip-A-District Friday: Volume XIV
Welcome to Volume XIII of our “Defend-a-District” series.
Time flies when you’re constantly campaigning, and it may be hard to believe but voting is already underway. Absentee in-person voting began on Friday, September 20th and will continue until Saturday, November 2nd. The eligibility requirements for voting absentee in-person are listed here.
If you prefer to cast an absentee mail-in ballot, click here to apply. The deadline to request an absentee mail-in ballot is October 29, and the time by which registrars must receive mail-in ballots is 5 pm on Election Day. Please respond to this email if you have any questions about absentee voting in person or by mail.
With voters casting ballots every day now, it’s more important than ever to help Democratic campaigns get out the vote.
The clock is ticking…
House District 42
Meet the candidate: Kathy Tran
Delegate Kathy Tran and her parents fled Vietnam as boat refugees when she was just seven months old. She grew so sick on the voyage that she almost died at sea. Although many other countries offered them asylum, they waited 13 months for the United States to accept their application. Kathy’s family risked everything to come to America because this country has always represented hope, opportunity and freedom. Now she’s fighting in the Virginia House of Delegates for the American values that brought her family here.
Kathy has devoted her career to ensuring that all working families have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. During her 12 years of service at the U.S. Department of Labor, she served in numerous leadership positions, including as the Acting Administrator for the Office of Workforce Investment and the Director of the Division of Policy, Legislation, and Regulation. In these roles, she provided strategic national leadership and technical assistance to the public workforce system, implemented the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and helped veterans acquire the job training and employment services they needed to transition into the civilian workforce.
Kathy went on to work at the National Immigration Forum, one of the nation’s leading immigration advocacy organizations. She advocated for policies that prepare immigrants in the workforce to reach their full career potential.
Kathy graduated from Duke University and earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan. The past President of her local PTA, she and her husband Matt live in West Springfield with their four children, Daven (9), Charlotte (7), Quinn (6), and baby Elise (2). They are avid Washington Nationals fans.
House District 42:
The 42nd District has trended more blue in recent years, with former Governor McAuliffe taking 51 percent of the vote in 2013 compared with Governor Northam’s 60 percent in 2017. There is significant voter drop-off in “off-off” years, however, so Kathy’s campaign will need our support to ensure we hold the seat. Only 17,082 voters came out in 2015 (the last “off-off” year) versus 30,728 voters in 2017.
Kathy is running a great campaign against Republican Steve Adragna. As of the last reporting period, she has raised over seven times as much in contributions overall, and has eight times the number of small dollar donors as Adragna. Kathy’s campaign has momentum, and she’s working hard to get out the vote in the 42nd District.
South of Alexandria City and east of Clifton, the 42nd is entirely located within Fairfax County. Click here for more district details.
Just one example of why we cannot let Steve Adragna win:
Adragna has it completely wrong on health care issues. While calling Kathy “extreme” and insisting that Democrats are “out of touch” with what voters want, he espouses a number of positions on health care that would threaten Virginians’ access to quality, affordable health care.
– Adragna is vehemently anti-choice. He strongly opposes abortion later in pregnancy even when the mother’s life is at risk. It is a difficult and painful decision for a woman to terminate a pregnancy at that point — just read some of these heartbreaking stories of women who have had to make such a choice. Choice is a health care issue. A woman’s life being at risk if she continues her pregnancy is a health care issue, and for Adragna to get between a woman and her doctor is the truly extreme position.
– Adragna wants to allow insurers to sell policies across state lines. This idea is a fairly standard Republican talking point that would ultimately weaken Virginians’ ability to choose what they want in their health care coverage. Selling across state lines means a race to the bottom to whichever state has the most bare-bones requirements.
– Adragna wants to allow “groups of individuals to band together to form larger risk pools of their own.” This position misses the entire role of risk in insurance policy. Insurance only remains affordable for everyone if pools cover a mix of those with high and low health care costs. For example, imagine a risk pool made up entirely of relatively healthy 28 year old men. That would make the policies for sicker and older individuals in other pools extremely expensive by removing the people paying into the system that help to balance the incoming revenues of health insurance companies with how much they pay out in health care costs.
Unlike Kathy, Adragna clearly doesn’t grasp the implications of his policies. The 42nd District deserves a delegate who will think through a position, not just spout talking points.
Contact the campaign here.
House District 68
Meet the candidate: Dawn Adams
Delegate Dawn M. Adams is a doctoral prepared nurse practitioner with more than thirty years of diverse clinical and administrative health care experience. Currently a small business owner, she is the former Director of the Office of Integrated Health for Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University, where she taught Health Policy to doctoral students.
Dawn’s committee assignments include the House Militia, Police and Public Safety and Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committees. Demonstrating effective leadership and working across the aisle, she successfully passed 57 percent of her introduced legislation in 2019, and is the chief co-patron of 20 bills that became law in her first two years in office.
Dawn’s legislative priorities are health care, particularly around issues affecting elderly and vulnerable populations, protecting and preserving the environment, providing children with a quality, affordable education, and creating infrastructure that builds healthier communities through better policy.
Dawn and her partner of 16 years, Maggie, live in Richmond’s “Fan” District with their therapy pups in training, Ferdinand and Sebastian.
House District 68:
The 68th is newly light blue, having been represented by Republicans for decades until 2017, when Dawn unseated Manoli Loupassi (R). The GOP won the district in a statewide race as recently as 2014, when Ed Gillespie beat Senator Mark Warner by four points.
The district began to shift in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won by ten percentage points over Donald Trump. Dawn won in 2017 by a slim margin of 336 votes despite having been outspent $504,755 to $154,378. A Democrat has not won the 68th in an “off-off” year since, believe it or not, 1963. We need to go all in on helping Dawn make it over the top since the Democrats cannot afford to lose this seat if we’re going to take the House.
About half of the 68th District is located within Richmond City limits, and the rest is split between Henrico and Chesterfield Counties. Click here for more district details.
Just one example of why we cannot let Garrison Coward win:
Before he entered the race against Dawn, Coward was Political Director of the Republican Party of Virginia, campaign manager and political adviser to Rep. Rob Wittman, and Executive Director of the Conservative Professionals Network of Virginia. He was also a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016 where he cast a vote for Donald Trump.
– Regarding campaign finance reform, he stated, “I think you should be able to give however much that you’d like to give to someone who’s running for office, whether you be an individual or a corporation.”
– Regarding funding for public schools, Coward said, “I am a proponent of public charters.”
– On guns, he stated, “I’m very, very proud to be a proponent of the second amendment.”
Coward will be a reliable, inflexible GOP vote. We cannot let him win, and must ensure that Dawn is reelected in the 68th District.
Contact the campaign here.
House District 72
Meet the candidate: Schuyler VanValkenburg
Schuyler VanValkenburg grew up thirty minutes north of Albany, NY, in the small city of Johnstown, nicknamed the “Glove City” for its leather tanning mills in the 19th century. He watched as the city’s economy continually suffered when factory jobs left for overseas factories. His family impressed on him early on the importance education would have in this changing world and he fell in love with the subject of history thanks to some very talented educators.
After high school he enrolled at the University of Richmond in 2001. He excelled in the History Department and completed teacher licensure programs. After college, he began his teaching career in Henrico County Public Schools. He has been a teacher for twelve years, first at Short Pump Middle School, and now at Glen Allen High School.
During his teaching career, Schuyler went back to school to earn his Masters Degree in American History at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008, with a focus on Women’s History. He also won National Board Certification and became the We the People constitutional competition coach at Glen Allen High School.
Schuyler’s experience growing up in small industrial town, attending the University of Richmond, and teaching in Henrico County have all invigorated him in the fight to make the Commonwealth a national leader in education to expand opportunity for all Virginians. He knows firsthand the immeasurable impact a high quality education can have, and is committed to ensuring that for every child across Virginia.
Schuyler understands the importance of providing equitable access and opportunities for every citizen, both by ensuring a democracy where every voice is heard and every vote counted and by increasing job growth and access to economic opportunity.
Finally, Schuyler believes in an inclusive society, and believes that Virginia has no place for discriminatory laws and policies that threaten the constitutional right to equal protection.
House District 72:
The 72nd District was redrawn as a part of this year’s court-ordered redistricting, making it less blue and much more competitive. Holding on to this district is a top priority for Democrats as Schuyler faces off against Republican GayDonna Vandergriff on November 5th.
Schuyler is running a very aggressive, grassroots-powered campaign. Vandergriff’s campaign finance information is on the left, and Schuyler’s is on the right. With eight times the number of small dollar contributions and four times the number of contributions over $100 as Vandergriff, Schuyler has been working hard to make sure his campaign has the resources to persuade and motivate voters.
The district is entirely within Henrico County, located northwest of Richmond City. Click here for more district details.
Just one example of why we cannot let GayDonna Vandergriff win:
Vandergriff, who last sought public office during an unsuccessful run for the Brookland District School Board seat in 2007, is all talking points and no substance. She says she has voters’ “best interests at heart” and “respect[s] the differences that make us stronger when united rather than divided.” Otherwise, there’s little real content on her webpage, and interviews with her reveal nothing about her policy positions.
Here’s what we do know — where her money comes from.
– Nearly half of her contributions come from the Republican State Leadership Committee.
– She has received $38,000 from Speaker Kirk Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC.
Vandergriff is dependent on Republican leadership cash and money from Republican-favored interest groups. There is no chance that — despite her refusal to be pinned down on any issues — she won’t fall in lock-step with her party’s leadership and be another out-of-touch Republican.
Contact the campaign here.
House District 39
Meet the candidate: Vivian Watts
Delegate Vivian Watts represents the 39th House District, which is centered around the Springfield mixing bowl and reaches from beyond the metro tracks almost to the Inova Fairfax Hospital and from Saratoga up to Landmark. In 2017, she became the longest serving woman in the House having taken her seat in 1982 when only 21 women had ever served before her.
In 1986 her landmark work to change the state transportation formula – increasing Fairfax’s share four-fold – led Governor Baliles to tap her to serve as Secretary of Transportation and Public Safety. Her leadership assured long-overdue consideration of urban needs by the Special Session on Transportation and such innovations as Route 28 widening paid for by the business development, tolls being used to fund transit, and Northern Virginia regional coordination.
Before returning to the House in 1996, Vivian built on her insights from facing the challenges of public safety and criminal justice to author two books through a U.S. Justice Department grant. She then devoted herself to a crucial focus on preventing crime and imprisonment as the Executive Director of Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), working with children in the most severe court cases of abuse and neglect.
Today Vivian is the ranking Democrat on three committees: Courts of Justice, Finance, and Science and Technology. Her breadth and depth of experience combined with her 15 years as a citizen activist and work as Chamber of Commerce tax analyst, congressional staffer, and national accounting firm government consultant has been invaluable to the Virginia House Democratic Caucus as Policy Director. She admits to being a nerd and has enthusiastically embraced the obligation she feels to help new members understand issues through preparing daily powerpoint briefings to guide Caucus discussion of upcoming floor action.
Vivian’s legislative achievements include fighting for progressive tax policies and increased funding for education and transportation. She passed bills into law to prevent voter harassment despite Republican opposition. She has effectively spearheaded needed protections within our justice system for children and victims of sexual assault and trafficking. She has addressed a wide range of constituent problems from contractor fraud to predatory sexual assault.
Vivian also aims to address tragically ignored mental health needs, which she understands in depth from her service on the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Select Committee on School Safety, Veteran Services Board, and Public Safety Transition Chair for Governor McAuliffe. She is determined to shape progressive, equitable tax reform and strengthen transportation funding. Her understanding of the critical need to combat climate change in every aspect of transportation policies and green energy action is driven in part by her life-long experience as a backpacker. Most importantly she will enthusiastically continue to do her homework to effectively bring her experience to bear in meeting today’s challenges.
House District 39:
Located entirely within Fairfax County, the 39th District’s voters have elected Vivian Watts to represent them in the House of Delegates for over a quarter of a century (1982-1986, 1996 to present). She briefly left the General Assembly to serve as Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation and Public Safety during the administration of former Governor Gerald Baliles (D).
Despite Vivian’s long, successful record as a Delegate and the district’s traditionally Democratic leaning, Nick Bell has out-raised Vivian so far this cycle by over $7,000. Vivian’s seat is one that we must hold if we want any chance of taking back the majority. She needs our help now.
Just one example of why we cannot let Nick Bell win:
Bell is as extremely conservative as it gets and would be a terrible fit for a district that voted for Governor Northam with nearly 70 percent. A former Trump official, Bell has focused his far-right campaign almost exclusively on abortion issues, though it appears he has no understanding of the issue. Bell literally said: “‘Obviously my district is majority pro-choice, but we’re not talking about abortion in the first trimester; we’re talking about killing babies who are born.’”
“Killing babies who are born” is called infanticide, and it is very clearly illegal in Virginia. There is no ambiguity there, despite Bell’s implications.
Another great article excerpt: “‘Right now, it’s only me, so I am just doing this all myself,’ Bell informs me. He adds with a smile.”
As the son of a former U.S. Senator, Bell is not “just doing this all” himself. Take a look at Nick Bell’s top donors. They have something important in common – several of them gave to Bell’s father’s failed senate campaign against Cory Booker in 2014, a campaign on which Nick Bell was the “Grassroots Director.”
– Sean Fieler: contributed the maximum amount to Bell’s father’s campaign, and then $20,000 to Bell.
– Robert Slingsby: contributed $2,600 to Bell’s father’s campaign, and $10,000 to Bell.
– Colin Moran: gave multiple thousands of dollars to Jeff Bell, and $2,500 to the Nick Bell.
– Peter Ohlhausen: gave three large donations to the older Bell, and $2,000 to the younger.
– Alfred Angelo: gave $2,600 to Nick’s father’s campaign, and $1,000 to Nick.
And the list goes on. Given that nearly a quarter of Nick Bell’s funding comes from New Jersey, it’s clear that Bell is relying on his father’s name to mount a campaign. Only 29 percent of his donors are from Virginia, whereas 87 percent of Vivian’s donors live here at home. Vivian also has 24 times the number of low dollar donors as Bell. It’s clear who is running the grassroots Virginia campaign here.
Contact the campaign here.
That’s it for Volume XIV. I encourage you to review this email and past editions to find a candidate or candidates whom you would like to support with your time or financial resources.