By Brandon Thurner
“What issues are important to voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District?” “What is it like interacting with Trump voters in real life and virtually?” “What do you know about your Republican opponent?”
After hosting at least one town hall in all 10 counties of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District in central Virginia, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA07) is accustomed to getting many questions from voters.
The difference is that the questions listed above were posed to the Congresswoman by nearly 30 members of the Providence District Democratic Committee (PDDC), which virtually hosted Congresswoman Spanberger, Field Director Toby Cain, and Orange County Democratic Committee Co-Chairs, Elaine and Joe Freeland, in a wide-ranging conversation on Tuesday, July 28th. Providence District is one of nine magisterial districts in the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
The Zoom video call lasted for approximately one hour. Abigail (or Abby, as she is known to constituents) held court with members of PDDC and across Fairfax County, discussing in detail important issues in her district – such as rural broadband, which is taking on new meaning given the coronavirus’ disruptions and possible longer-term changes to the workforce and education. She also discussed the way campaigns have changed during a pandemic.
Campaigns as we know them have changed, explained the Congresswoman. Traditional pushes to field a vibrant door knocking operation have transformed into all digital operations from the safety of the homes of supporters, volunteers, and staff. The Congresswoman reported higher pick-up rates for calls made through phone banking than in pre-pandemic times.
The significance of Spanberger’s victory in 2018 comes from it being one of the 41 largely swing district victories. As the first Democrat to win in the 7th CD since 1968, Spanberger’s victory helped to give Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP challenger this year is Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), who for the second year in a row failed to file paper work on time to be placed on the ballot.
Spanberger’s commitment to the 7th CD – in the midst of a pandemic – has been demonstrated through her holding town halls in all 10 counties in the sprawling district, as well as in pursuing legislation that would benefit everyone from suburban Henrico to rural Orange and Culpeper counties. All of this speaks volumes.
Enter the now-transformed 2020 “down-ballot” and presidential campaigns, which bring a historic opportunity for the different geographic regions of our Commonwealth to come together and help each other win races up and down the ballot.
The changing nature of campaigning in the coronavirus era, and Providence District Democrats understanding the importance of winning in all geographic regions of Virginia, provide the backdrop for our increased efforts in 2020.
“Sometimes, a little extra help can make all the difference in swing district re-election races, such as the one Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is running in a ‘toss up’ district,” explained Providence District Co Chair Saddam Salim. “These swing districts contribute to preserving the Democratic majority in the U.S. House.”
In this spirit, Providence District participated in its first-ever virtual phone bank for a member of Congress for the Congresswoman on August 4th. A handful of long-time and new volunteers from Providence spoke with voters, largely based in Henrico County, about Congresswoman Spanberger’s positions on the issues, and whether the voter would be voting by mail or in-person.
These types of efforts also dovetail with the inaugural Vice Chair for Statewide Support leadership role within the Providence District – both to help when and where possible in nearby jurisdictions while fostering a dialogue to understand both the needs and views of other jurisdictions and how they intersect with our own.
Working together through listening and dialogue, we can achieve a durable Democratic majority that does not know regional and geographic boundaries.
If anyone is interested in volunteering and supporting Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger’s efforts while practicing safe social distancing habits, please contact Team Spanberger directly on her campaign website – https://abigailspanberger.com/
Brandon Thurner is a member of the Providence District Democratic Committee, where he serves as the inaugural Vice Chair for Statewide Support. He is also a member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.