Home 2019 Elections On Run For Something Day, Honoring EVERY Virginia Democrat Who Stood Up...

On Run For Something Day, Honoring EVERY Virginia Democrat Who Stood Up in 2019 – Win or Lose

1

by Kellen Squire

Today is National Run For Something Day! Run For Something, a grassroots organization dedicated to empowering people to stand up and be the change they want to see in our political system today, is the brainchild of Amanda Litman, the email director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and Ross Morales Rocketto, a veteran of political campaigns across the country. Launched on January 20, 2017 (an auspicious date), it has been an unmitigated success since, empowering hundreds of everyday folks to stand up to… wait for it… RUN FOR SOMETHING!

Amanda noticed a roadblock that people kept repeating over and over again as an impediment to starting that process was simply that they didn’t even know how to start. There are often complex rules to becoming a candidate, a plethora of forms to fill out, and even if you get that done perfectly, there’s the looming threat of everything you don’t know. To the uninitiated, it looks like an impassable raging river, something that there’s no way you could ever navigate by yourself.

Which is exactly why Run For Something’s work is so important. They help make up the difference in that nascent stage where you “don’t know what you don’t know”, where you build the structural framework you need to be successful later on. They give you the tools and training to empower you to go out and succeed, instead of having to rely on “gatekeepers” who are often more interested in hoarding that knowledge for themselves and a select few.

As a Run For Something alumni myself, I can tell you- their support absolutely made the difference.

But the simple fact about political campaigns is that, at the end of the day, there can only be one winner. And you can do everything right- be the right candidate at the right time in the right place with the right message- but still come up short on election day.

I want to tell you something, though. Win or lose? Your hard work absolutely made a difference.

A week ago today was election day here in Virginia. From school board to state senate, hundreds of candidates won, ushering in a stunning repudiation of Trumpism, and giving progressives a chance to usher in a generation of change. It will take hard work and the constant earning of the people’s support and votes- but none of it would have been possible without everyone who stood up.

That’s why I want to take the time to honor the folks here in Virginia that fell a little short last week. Because we don’t do near enough to show these public servants, who sacrificed just as much, worked just as hard- or harder!- than some of the folks who won, who gave it their all and

This list is long, but not comprehensive; not by a long shot. And it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the amazing group of volunteers and activists that were the true power behind every single candidate and all our successes here in Virginia; that deserves a “War and Peace” length post alone.

This will never do true justice to the appreciation we have for everyone who stood up this past fall. No mere words could do that.

Sheila Bynum-Coleman – Sheila was in on her race well before the lines changed, which gave her a fighting chance to take out, arguably, the most powerful Republican in the state. I’ve seen how hard she worked, how much her story meant to so many people… and for a guy who usually has a giant problem with verbosity, I’m at a loss for words to describe how it felt to see Sheila wouldn’t be in Richmond next session.

Maybe it’s because it hits so close to home. In 2017, when I ran for the House of Delegates, I was disappointed we came up short. But we made the Virginia GOP panic, and move to save their caucus election chair- spending money on him instead of the other races they were supposed to be spending on, to the tune of almost half a million dollars. It was a sacrifice fly to put runs on the board.

And that’s exactly what Sheila did this year. She paved the road for others to follow on. She took the brunt of the Republican war machine, mobilized to save their Speaker and their majority. I’ve always said that the true hallmark of a leader is whether they can equip or enable other people to succeed- so look no further than Sheila if you need an example of that.

Moral victories are great… but they’ll never be better than real ones. Which is why it hurts so much that Sheila came up short, even though the incredible effort she put in over these past few years will help- has already helped!- pave the way for others, and will make a giant impact going forward across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Jess Foster – For a group of people who were relentless workers, Jess stands out. The woman has no off button- she just works as hard as she can, nonstop. A working parent and a defense attorney for some of the most at-risk folks in our society, Jess is an American hero. That’s not a term I bandy about lightly, either… but damn if it isn’t true.

Ann Richards once famously said “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” To translate that into millennial terms, Jess did everything that everyone else did- she just did them on fire, running 130 miles per hour through a hospital zone, being chased by helicopters and ninjas.

And the ninjas were all on fire, too.

Ronnie Ross – Ronnie? I’m not sure how the man was able to spend any time at home. He had to drive from the West Virginia border to Stafford County to visit his whole district- and he did. He was everywhere. Doing everything. Seven oil changes, thousands (or tens of thousands!) of doors later, Ronnie came up a bit short. But, as I’ll detail later with more specifics, he outperformed everyone who preceded him. And after watching him work, you’d never question why.

But you don’t have to take my word for it; the last time Ronnie’s opponent ran opposed, in 2011, she won with 74.7% of the Fauquier County vote – the Democratic candidate received a slim 2,586 votes. Compare that to this year, when Ronnie earned 8,300 votes in Fauquier. Over three times more ain’t too shabby in my book!

Tim Hickey – A one-man door knocking machine. In a ground-game-heavy environment, Tim went above and beyond. And I mean he REALLY did. I don’t care if it was Buckingham, Nelson, Albemarle, Appomattox, or even Campbell County, which hasn’t supported a Democrat since the 1960’s. He knocked over 7,000 doors—-by himself. Let me say that again… by himself. In territory where ten or twelve doors an hour is breakneck speed. Tim is, without a doubt, an All-American when it comes to putting foot-to-butt and standing up for the people of his district.

Amy Laufer – Amy sacrificed so much to run for the Senate, and came so, so achingly close. I knew her from when she was on the school board in Charlottesville. The passion and energy she put into serving parents, teachers, and students there absolutely translated over into a higher political realm. The conventional wisdom was that her district was unwinnable, so she had to work hard to muscle the support she raised- and she did amazingly at that. From Albemarle to Culpeper to Fredericksburg and back, Amy and her amazing team didn’t miss a beat.

Jennifer Kitchen – A community organizer with seemingly infinite passion and drive, Jenni worked her butt off and pulled almost 40% of the vote. Jennifer had an amazing story about her fight with opioid addiction- a story that should be a warning for every single one of us. That it could happen to us, too. The power it took to share something so personal was nothing short of amazing.

She’s going to bring it all back in 2021- and this time, by God, she’s gonna win.

Neri Canahui-Ortiz – You want an unapologetic fighter for labor and public unions in Virginia, take a look at Neri. Neri emigrated from war-torn Guatemala when he was 17, to build his version of the American Dream right here in Virginia. He took on a Republican who hadn’t had an opponent in forever, and who is incredibly hostile to workers’ rights. The odds were stacked against him the way the district is drawn, but Neri never let that bother him or slow him down.

Kevin Washington – Kevin ran in the 97th District, home of the GOP Civil War- one of the reasons Nick Freitas didn’t have time to file his re-election paperwork properly was because he was busy trying to kneecap Delegate Chris Peace. Kevin knew the odds- and laughed at them. Kevin sits neatly at the intersection of family and fighter, knowing he could have been doing a lot of other stuff but not willing not let the status quo go unchallenged. I’m glad he stood up for the people in his district, who were otherwise just treated like an afterthought for two warring Republicans.

Herb Jones – I met Herb way back this January, in Hampton, Virginia, when he was at a joint meet-and-greet for another candidate, stumping for votes. Hampton. In one of his precincts. If you haven’t seen the map of the 3rd Senate District, you might not understand why that’s so stunning. The 3rd is a case study for what gerrymandering looks like, curving all the way from Hampton to Smithfield and then most of the way up to Fredericksburg. Tommy Norment, the former Senate Majority Leader, was so incensed that Herb- a service-disabled veteran of 30 years in the US Army, including two tours in Iraq- was running against him, he refused to confirm the Governor’s appointment of him to the Virginia Military Advisory Council.

Herb took on a juggernaut, and had to pay for it personally. But he never wavered on his commitment to stand up for the people of the 3rd District. He might be retired from the military, but Herb clearly never stopped putting himself into harm’s way for the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Eric Stamps – I have long said there is a progressive revolution brewing in rural America, waiting for us to tap into it. Eric is one of the faces of that people-powered movement. Take the time to sit down with him. Listen to his story. Have him walk you through Danville, to show you where progress is being made, and where it is lacking. Let him tell you about how many times the people of Danville have been told that if we give just a little more taxpayer money to the corporations, maybe- just maybe- the jobs will come back.

Do that and you’ll understand why Eric felt like enough was enough- and why he had no choice but to take on his good ‘ole boy opponent. To stand up for folks who nobody else was looking out for. And why his candidacy was such a big deal for all of us.

Darlene Lewis – After the loss in the special election in 2018, nobody wanted to tackle the 8th District race again for a third time in three years. But Darlene stood up and said, no. No, I will not let this race go unchallenged- and as a former resident of the 8th District myself, I have to tell you how heartening that is to me. With no name recognition, and no structural support coming in from Richmond, she put the whole race on her back, with a relentlessly positive message that infused everything she did. Darlene is an inspiration to rural Dems everywhere.

Ann Ridgeway – I have to be circumspect on this one because I have very strong feelings about this race, particularly after watching Ann’s opponent- Nick Freitas- blame her for the fact he wasn’t on the ballot. Literally, he sent out mailers blaming Ann for the fact he was too busy plotting to run against Abigail Spanberger and build a political dynasty to bother filling out his paperwork. Ann Ridgeway, the Sunday School teacher. Ann Ridgeway, who volunteered with a slew of local organizations to provide for the underserved citizens of Madison County.

It’s certainly unbecoming of a future statewide official to give my unbridled opinion of Mr. Freitas and what he put Ann through. Ann just wanted the people of her district to have someone in Richmond who cared about them. So I’ll just say this: Ann Ridgeway is an amazing human being, and I’m damned glad she was out there fighting for her people.

Flo Kettner – Flo did the work of five people, running against a Republican who fancies himself a populist, “man of the people”. She easily showed him up, and what a real populist looks like in rural Virginia: an unapologetic progressive who is willing to fight it make things better for working Virginia families. Her tenacity and refusal to be cowed are nothing short of amazing.

Amanda Pohl – Amanda Pohl would be easy to support because of who she ran against – the, um, possibly most controversial person in Virginia politics. At the very least, it’s always nice to have a Senator who doesn’t scream “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?” to police officers when parked illegally. But Amanda… sigh.

She is such an amazing candidate, and amazing person. Down-to-earth; soft-spoken but uncompromising with an incredible command of policy and wonk, with one of the rarest skills of all: the ability to translate that into “kitchen table” speak. I don’t know if that’s because of her background in mental health or from being a minister, but either way, she’s honed it to a level that’s second to none. It would have been a sincere asset to have in Richmond; not just for the folks in Chesterfield or Amelia Courthouse, but for every corner of the Commonwealth.

Larry Barnett – I often joke that if assholes weren’t allowed in Virginia politics, the only two people left would be Tim Kaine and Larry Barnett. And that’s no joke. Larry made a campaign commercial riffing on this, a takeoff of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” that was so authentically cute it made me legitimately envision watching him take off his sweater and shoes on the giant, grainy 700-pound TV that was in my living room growing up.

Sometimes I think that Larry is a refugee from Earth 2, where political campaigns are run solely on policy, candidates try to out-do each other on how congenial they can be to one another, and people are elected based on the depth of their detailed plan to amend the tax rate levied on properties in abutment of church lands. Whatever the case may be, his presence in Richmond will be sincerely missed.

Mark Downey – A few weeks ago, I saw some polling that indicated Dr. Downey was only down five points… and had enough space to make up the difference. Would another $20k have made it up? I don’t know, but it’s clear that the 96th District is worth investing in, especially with a candidate of the caliber of Dr. Downey’s. This, again, was one of those “let’s not even bother to try” districts just a few short years ago. He and the team he assembled laughed at that. And even as busy as they were, Mark is the kind of guy that- well, I’ll tell this story.

I had an issue with something that needed the attention of a legislator. I offhandedly mentioned that to one of Mark’s staffers in passing, not thinking much of our conversation. Twenty minutes later, I had a call from Mark, wanting to talk to me about this issue, giving me concrete ways he wanted to fix it- and he used them in his campaign! Usually it’s nurses who have to look out for doctors- but dang if this wasn’t one time that worked in reverse. Which is why his loss hit particularly hard. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Dr. Downey.

Ella Webster – I’m only going to mention Ella in passing here, and it isn’t because she’s not worth mentioning. It’s because I know first hand how passionate she is about fighting for rural Virginia (you should see her work a room), and I know her efforts this year were at the center of the ethos that progress is made by inches, not miles. She always envisioned her commitment to the Commonwealth as a multi-year effort. Knowing how hard she works as a physician, and how hard it is to run for office, she’s shown incredible dedication, and is deserving of sincere recognition. (And if you’ve never seen her work a room, you’re missing out!)

Cheryl Turpin – Cheryl made a huge difference. She won a House of Delegates district- a Trump district!- that is now, because of her hard work, reliably blue. It seems like a lifetime ago, but dang if it hasn’t been just three short years ago when she took on that special election race. I remember doing phone banking for her, the freezing cold outside, but how good it felt to be fighting back, even just a little… and what a gut-blow it was when she came up short- but she didn’t give up. She went right back at it. But that’s a teacher for you; they don’t give up on anyoneever. And that’s Cheryl to a T.

Qasim Rashid – Qasim handled death threats and incredible vitriol with an ease that staggers me. He shouldn’t have had to go through what he did. I mean, it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers after a decade in the emergency department, but I have to tell you… if people did or said to me what they did about Qasim (his opponent straight-up implied he was a terrorist), I just don’t know how I’d respond. But Qasim never lost his cool. Never once wavered from his campaign message on how he was going to make things better for the people of the 28th District.

Beverly Harrison  Beverly stepped up to run against Todd Gilbert, the now ex-Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, in bright red Shenandoah and Rockingham counties- something that takes an enormous amount of guts. But she recognized he couldn’t go unopposed for another year, because Beverly didn’t need to wait for him to move to adjourn a special session on gun violence after just 90 minutes, without any debate or votes.

Annette Hyde  Annette and I were at the first meeting of the Madison County Democrats back in, I believe, December 2016. I remember toting my then-seven month old to a packed room of folks who were still in shock, and not sure the way forward. Annette got up in front of everyone and said she was going to do whatever it took, even if it meant taking the entrenched GOP incumbents in the area head-on. She dang well lived up to her word, and did just that.

Phil Hernandez – I could regale you with Phil’s impressive resume, or the way he took a race to which nobody thought to pay attention, and took it down to the wire. The way he inspired volunteers and whipped up something amazing out of scratch; a wonk just this side of Elizabeth Warren, who reminded me of a young Barack Obama. But I think this probably says it all: The man wrote poems, by hand, on his thank you notes to donors and supporters.

Morgan Goodman – Imagine the horror of having a real-life scientist in the Virginia House of Delegates. Bills would be drafted using peer-reviewed research, drawn from best practices studies! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria! But in all seriousness, Morgan is an amazing candidate; the fact she tackled that mountain two cycles in a row is magnificent. Morgan is the kind of person I’d like my daughter to grow up seeing in public office. A hard working scientist who’s not afraid to stand up for working folks?

Stan Scott – I first met Stan when we were discussing what it’d take to flip the 1st Congressional District. Stan took on Ryan McDougal, the poster boy for campaign finance reform in Virginia, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, and spending it on, well… $25k on one Richmond restaurant alone. But you gerrymander yourself into a corner of the state and vote how the lobbyists want, and the money train comes a-rollin’ in. Stan deserves sincere kudos for taking him on, out of principle alone.

Laura Galante – Maybe I’m biased, but Laura’s campaign slogan of “The Future is Rural!” struck home to me in a huge way. And she was unapologetic about it, too, not shying from that message at any point. That’s because she’s damn well right. Rural Virginia is an amazing and diverse place, full of people who’ll stand up and fight for you, as long as you make it clear you’ll do the same. Laura recognized that and never backed down from saying so, and she’s got my sincere respect and admiration for doing so.

Missy Cotter-Smasal – Missy went toe-to-toe with  a well-known incumbent in a very red district. She outraised him and increased the profile of common-sense gun legislation in Virginia. For someone who started as a grassroots activist trying to ensure every school child in Virginia Beach had a safe environment to grow and thrive in, what she accomplished is nothing short of amazing.

Debra Rodman – Way back in the olden days of winter 2018, when we were just starting to come down from the sugar high that was the Blue Wave that saw Virginia send Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, and Jennifer Wexton to Congress. I was at a small house party in Henrico County with Debra. We chatted about a number of things. It was one of the first times I opened up amongst a group of people who weren’t immediate friends about two things. First, about pondering my run for Lieutenant Governor. She was there when I voiced it aloud, which made it more than a fleeting thought or hypothesis, but a true reality.

And second, she was there when I opened up about the material difference enacting Medicaid Expansion was going to have, and the hurt I saw day in and day out that made it so important to have passed. I told her, you know, legislators can vote on things and never, ever see the impact their vote has on people- but in the ER, I have a firsthand view of every single impact, for better or worse. And this one was truly going to help more people than she’d ever know. The words of encouragement she gave me, I won’t share here (other than she joked that my voice sounded “like buttah”)- but they absolutely mattered.

Elizabeth Alcorn – Elizabeth and I go way back. We have history. Instead of getting all misty-eyed, though, I want to recognize that she made inroads that’ll last for a generation in rural Virginia. Republicans had for years enforced strict (but un-Constitutional) rules about signage and campaigning in HOAs in the 58th District. She finally got tired of playing nice, sued them to get them to follow the law- and won! That will pay huge dividends in elections going forward. And I’m so glad she stepped up to make sure the people of the 58th had something positive to vote for once again.

Mike Asip – In a Commonwealth known for them, Mike stood up in one of the most ridiculously gerrymandered districts around, running from Chesterfield to Fluvanna. A former teacher and principal, he ignored what talking heads said about his district and went from Powhatan to Fork Union, working relentlessly to try and bring positive change and accountable leadership to central Virginia.

Karen Mallard – I’ve known Karen since the early days, before her run for Congress, when the Indivisible Guide was nothing more than a Google Document. Hell, she was one of the first people I confided in that I was considering running for lieutenant governor; whose advice I sought on whether a populist progressive and blue-collar shift worker could summit the mountain of a statewide office.

A teacher and the daughter of a coal miner, she fought so hard her opponent was terrified into pretending he was a Democrat. When that didn’t work, he started pulling campaign finance shenanigans, off-the-wall messaging, and basically throwing everything but the kitchen sink to see if it’d stick. Through it all, Karen stayed on message and ran a campaign we can all be very proud of. It’s why she came within three points in a district nobody thought was winnable- an amazing showing in a very red district.

Gayle Johnson – An ardent environmentalist, Gayle entered her race wearing her fight against sea-level rise and to mitigate coastal flooding- which makes perfect sense if you look at the threat both pose to the people of her district. She put her heart into her grassroots campaign, knocking doors in the reddest parts of Virginia Beach. Her message resonated. And she will prevail- she made it clear that she has to. Her district is the most at-risk for climate change of any place outside of New Orleans.

Janie Zimmerman–  As a special education teacher in Prince Edward County, Janie was running to fight for those who have no one to fight for them. A self-run campaign, she didn’t leave a single county in her district untouched, making work with duct tape and baling wire the kinds of things it normally takes candidates tens of thousands of dollars to make work. Janie is the kind of person and candidate we need to be systematically supporting. It’s not hard to do, and candidates like Janie make it work- $5k in her district is like $50k in a NOVA race. If we want to prove we’re the party of every Virginian, in every part of the Commonwealth, people and races like Janie’s are where we need to start.

Jennifer Lewis – Jen’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I first met her when she was doing the hard work of keeping folks suffering from mental health crises from having to come back into my ER. Making sure they had the support they need before it became a crisis. I know stories about her that we can never share… but if everyone knew about them, there’s absolutely zero chance she’d ever lose an election. Jen took that same passion and dedication into running for office; she is truly someone who loves everyone, unequivocally, and will put everything aside to fight for you.

Virginia Smith – Virginia refused to let her Senator go unchallenged. The territory that makes up the 15th Senate District is as red as it comes- Campbell County has been voting dark-red for Republicans since the 1950s, for God’s sake- so that is no mean feat. It would have been easier for her to just sit back and do nothing, but instead, she went to every corner of her district and made sure the people there knew they had someone who’d stand up for them.

Lindsey Dougherty – It’s a battle royale between Lindsey and Tim Hickey to see who’d personally knocked more doors, but when you start counting to see who actually is closest to 7,000, I think you’re having the wrong argument. Lindsey took on a seat that had becoming tougher to win in the last redistricting, but if you ever read her “why” story, about what propelled her into politics, you’ll know why she felt like she didn’t have a choice but to stand up.

Lindsey is down to earth and policy heavy; a friend of mine confided to me that Lindsey “made me believe in integrity again, really and truly.” But maybe the best comment someone made to me about much Lindsey meant to them was an activist who said she refused to throw away Lindsey’s literature. Knowing what a lot of volunteers’ cars look like post election, that’s a statement in and of itself.

Juanita Jo Matkins– A local indivisible leader in Louisa County who stepped up to run against John McGuire after he changed his position on the ERA and made it obvious he cared less about the people of the 56th District than running against Abigail Spanberger. She was everybody’s favorite science teacher in Louisa County for 30 years and she could have been enjoying a well-earned retirement, but she knew how important it was to fight for both teachers and students.

And so she did- because (speaking of a fight) she was never one to back down from one! The people of Louisa should call themselves damn proud to have had Juanita Jo standing up for them.

Mavis Taintor – This one hurt. As an ER Nurse, the story she tells about what she’s been through is something I’ve seen too many times to count. One of the reasons I got into politics at all was seeing how even well-meaning politicians just don’t get the realities of what goes on with the opioid crisis. I’m sorry, but they just don’t.

Mavis does. I wish she didn’t, but she does. And to have someone in Richmond who would have fought so unapologetically for my brothers and sisters in emergency services, and for every family who is, has been, or will go through what she went through… well. It’s a true damned loss, especially for as hard as she worked.

Brent Finnegan – The man broke his back organizing two elections in a row. Three, actually; he and his entire staff (shoutout here to my sister from another mister Lynlee) went to bat for Jennifer Lewis when she ran for Congress in the 6th District in 2018. It’s truly disappointing; but it shows that gerrymandering works. Now, they made enormous progress; enormous. I think if every single campaign could organize in a small-ball, people-oriented way like Brent’s did, we would have an unassailable position in American politics.

Linda Sperling – Linda came within a recount margin of winning against the strongest Republican in Northern Virginia (for God’s sake, the county buildings are named after the man’s father), even though she raised a sixth of what he did. Seriously, the guy she ran against outraised most of our House of Delegate and Senate candidates; I could easily win a statewide primary with less money than he raised. But she refused to be deterred by that and came achingly close to pulling it off.

I worked the polls all day on election day and still had to work an eight-hour ER shift once I got done, but Linda texted me and asked if I’d potentially be available for recount help in the morning. Had she needed it, I would have skipped sleep and headed up to Clifton to do whatever needed doing, period. End of story. That’s how impressed I am with Linda and how hard she worked.

Marques Jones – Marques is a long time community activist who took on the tough job of challenging Henrico’s longest serving Republican on the Board of supervisors. And he did that after stepping back from running for the State Senate, when it looked like the Senate race was going to be a three-way primary and nobody wanted to tackle that hard- but incredibly necessary- work. A sterling example of when ego comes last in a public servant’s hierarchy of needs.

Maggie Hansford – I was hoping we could go for broke in Prince William County. Maggie certainly worked hard enough to make that happen. But even though Prince William is trending much bluer than it used to be, it’s still an awful tough road to hoe. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Maggie; but regardless, I’m positive she won’t let this end her make Prince William County a better place for everyone.

Steve Burkharth – Steve ran for the Brookland Supervisor slot in Henrico County when no one else would. A real team player, Steve was always concerned about his chunk of Henrico- but he always wanted to make sure everyone else was taken care of, too. Just a really principled, dang nice guy.

Nick DeSilva – I could say a lot about Nick, but maybe the best thing I could relate about the “pothole socialist” (an absolute term of endearment), is a conversation I had with a fellow politician about him. We were discussing future challenges on the horizon, and he brought up Nick unbidden. “You know, I’m not a socialist,” he told me, “not by a long shot. But if I lived in Richmond, damn if I wouldn’t have considered voting for Nick.”

Tia Walbridge – The first thing I ever heard about Tia Walbridge was a story about some crazy lady who showed up to a Loudoun County Dems meeting covered in sheep guts and talking about grassroots organizing and how to push the Commonwealth forward. For years, I avoided asking Tia about this, because I was afraid it wasn’t actually true, and it was too badass a story to ruin.

Unfortunately, indeed, I found out the story wasn’t true. It was actually sheep afterbirth, not guts. My bad. But she takes that relentlessly down-to-earth, unafraid to tackle anything sentiment into everything she does- the exact sort of thing we need in public office today.

Ed Dunphy – Speaking of investing in great candidates for local elections, Ed lost by thirty votes in Culpeper County. Anyone who knows about Culpeper County will know how stunning this is, and how much hard work it would have taken to even get within 10% in Culpeper, much less thirty votes. This loss should be a slap in the face to all of us, across the state, who knew the Republicans were pouring in support to save Nick Fretias’ butt, but didn’t think to send support to candidates like Ed.

Mike Hammond and Rachel Bongiovi – Every Fauquier candidate- from Jess Foster to Ronnie Ross, Laura Galante to Elizabeth Guzman, as well as Mike Hammond and Rachel Bongiovi, ran strong, positive, solution-oriented campaigns against long, long odds. Delegate Guzman was the only one who won the day, an amazing upbeat note on an otherwise disappointing day in Fauquier.

But this progress had to be made in inches, not miles. And progress was absolutely made. They knocked tons of doors, represented our side well at community gatherings and events, gathered valuable data on Dem voters including lots of rural voters with really long driveways, raised critical issues like mental health and structural inefficiencies in the school system (among others).

Mike Hammond, in particular, lost his school board race by only 41 votes. For a race that we’ve entirely ignored in the past, I’d damn well call that a success. These are the kinds of races we have to start investing in systematically, with great candidates like Mike and Rachel.

(In fact, a deeper dive into the Fauquier results tells the story of the top-to-bottom effort in Fauquier County even more powerfully.  In an off-off year election, where Dems historically do their worst, Del. Guzman (31st District) actually got MORE votes in Fauquier than in the Blue Wave of 2017 — 1,983 (31.1%) this year to 1,906 two years ago (30.8%).  The same happened in the ruby-red Fauquier portions of the 18th District.  Laura Galante pulled 5,913 votes (41.4%) where Tristan Shields (admittedly slightly complicated by Will King’s third party run) gained 5,442 votes (36.2%) in 2017.  And in the absolutely unforgiving Fauquier precincts of the 88th.  Jess Foster earned 835 votes (31.2%) this year, where Steve Aycock (again complicated somewhat by a third party candidacy) polled 756 votes (27.6%). That’s a lot of numbers, but the bottom line is: in an environment that favored GOP candidates, Democrats outperformed their results from two years ago.  That’s a testament to the hard work and trailblazing candidates from 2017, and the continued efforts by this year’s candidates up and down the ballot.)

Like I said, that list is long, but not comprehensive- and will never do justice to the debt we owe these folks for standing up and fighting to make their homes a better place for everyone.

Thank you. Each and every one of you. More than I can ever say.