by Alex Rohr is communications director for 3D GroundGame, a consulting firm employed by each member of the Rural GroundGame coalition.
Traveling from one end of Virginia’s 24th House of Delegates district to the other means crossing over two mountain ridges. The district is almost 2,000 square miles. Now imagine, you live in the middle of the district, and you’re going into labor. Because in the 24th, there’s no hospital with a delivery room.
This alarming fact is one of 10 highlighted in the video “Priority” released by Rural GroundGame campaigns today. Individual campaigns will release regional versions on social media. Each candidate chose a fact about their district representing the challenges their communities face every day. The video reveals the troubling inability or unwillingness of the current state House and Senate to represent rural Virginia.
The Majority in Richmond has had decades to act. They haven’t.
So Rural GroundGame candidates are running to Make Rural Virginia a Priority. As a side quest, they’re working on answering the question asked since 2016 by pundits, reporters, and politicians: What should Democrats do about Rural America?
Virginia is one of the few states with an election in 2019 and the only state considered a solid chance for Democrats to flip a Republican-controlled legislature. The results on Nov. 5 will be a bellwether for 2020, so win or lose, the grassroots we tend today matter tomorrow.
These districts have some of the same problems rural communities face nationwide. Many areas lack access to affordable healthcare and specialists within close proximity. High-speed internet is scarce and often expensive where available. Schools are aging and need investment. The opioid crisis has hit several areas hard, and mental health services are insufficient.
The school to prison pipeline is firmly in place throughout much of rural Virginia as it is in other parts of the commonwealth and the United States, with education and criminal justice systems lacking equity and justice for people of color.
Combined, these factors lead to limited opportunity that often means young people have to move away or end up living in all-but inescapable cycles of poverty, addiction, or recidivism.
For decades, we’ve failed to send legislators from rural Virginia willing and eager to address the systemic issues affecting all of us, especially those that manifest differently in towns, cities, and suburbs.
Progressives haven’t always stepped up to run against entrenched incumbents. And supporters haven’t always backed those who take that courageous step. But it’s time rural Virginians have representatives in Richmond who want to do the work, not stand in the way.
RGG Candidates and Their Districts
Beverly Harrison HD-15: Shenandoah County, Page County, Warren County, Rockingham County
Nine out of 10 single mothers in Page County live near or below the poverty line.
Virginia Smith SD-15: Danville, Campbell County, Pittsylvania County, Mecklenburg County, Prince George County, Halifax County, Dinwiddie County, Nottoway County, Charlotte County, Lunenburg County, Brunswick County
Why is the 15th Senate District home to SIX correctional facilities, but ZERO four-year public universities?
Jennifer Woofter HD-22: Lynchburg, Bedford County, Campbell County, Franklin County
In the 22nd District we face an opioid crisis fueled in part by more than 57 million pain pills poured into our communities in just six years.
David Zilles HD-23: Lynchburg, Amherst County, Bedford County
The majority of Bedford County elementary schools, that’s seven of 13, do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that includes two schools in the 23rd District.
Christian Worth HD-24: Amherst County, Augusta County, Bath County, Buena Vista, Lexington, Rockbridge County
In the almost 2,000 square miles of the 24th House District, there isn’t a single hospital where a mother can deliver her baby.
Jennifer Kitchen HD-25: Albemarle County, Augusta County, Rockingham County
As the 65 and older population in Augusta County rose by 4%, the under 50 population declined.
Brent Finnegan HD-26: Harrisonburg, Rockingham County
Half of our neighbors in the 26th district are living in poverty or they’re working hard and falling further and further behind.
April Moore SD-26: Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Shenandoah County, Page County, Warren County, Rappahannock County
9,800 people in the 26th District had to go without healthcare coverage for more than four years while the incumbent consistently voted against expanding Medicaid.
Elizabeth Alcorn HD-58: Albemarle County, Rockingham County, Greene County, Fluvanna County
Last year the 58th District had the highest health insurance premiums in the entire country.
Tim Hickey HD-59: Albemarle County, Appomattox County, Buckingham County, Campbell County, Nelson County
Roughly half the residents of Buckingham County don’t have access to broadband.