VA01 is a gerrymandered, “red”-leaning district that’s very tough for Democrats to win. It’s also a district with a truly incredible contrast in candidates, with Trump enabler Rep. Rob Wittman (R) on the one hand, and the incredibly impressive Democratic nominee Qasim Rashid on the other. Throughout this campaign, Rashid’s been telling us some inspiring, powerful stories from the trail – for instance, check out this one from October 19, in which flag-waving, horn-honking Trump supporters crashed his event, and he responded in a way that will leave you in awe! Now, here’s Rashid’s latest powerful story, from the last night of his 2020 campaign. Check it out, and let’s all hope Rashid pulls off an amazing upset tonight – VA01 residents will all be much, much, much better off if he does!
A quick story…
Today at our final campaign event, Trump supporters interrupted and crashed our event. They showed up without masks and approached the stage. Here’s what happened.
After inspiring remarks by Chairman Matt Rowe, Senator Scott Surovell, Senator Jeremy McPike, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, Supervisor Kenny Boddye, and Delegate Joshua Cole—it was my turn to speak.
I spoke about the blessings I’ve been afforded in this country. How I arrived at 4, not knowing a word of English. How the most important lesson my parents ever taught me was that if I’m not centering service to humanity in everything I do, then I’m wasting my life.
I contrasted my work as a human rights lawyer with my opponent’s record. I support women who survive domestic violence, fight for Christians and Jews persecuted for their faith, and for meaningful criminal justice reform. My opponent has spent his time in Congress not passing a single bill on broadband and voting against countless bi-partisan bills that would have strengthened voting rights, combatted racism, protected the USPS, and advanced criminal justice reform.
It was around when I mentioned that the President and my opponent sat silent as foreign powers putting bounties on the heads of our service members, that the Trump supporters spoke up and interrupted me. Let’s call the Trump/Wittman supporter Thomas.
Me: I’m not going to have a yelling match with y’all. But I promise to have a conversation afterwards and—
Thomas: Why are you lying to the American people about gun violence!? How many of those 40,000 annual deaths are by suicide? Do you know the number?
Me: I do, but these folks are here to hear me speak. Let me speak with them and then we can chat offline.
Thomas and a few others weren’t having it, and continued to yell and raise their voice. Thomas didn’t have a mask on and approached the stage. The nearly 75 attendees weren’t having it. Before I knew it I was surrounded by our supporters as they chanted “QA-SIM QA-SIM QA-SIM.”
I promised the protestors once more that I’m not here to shut them down and I’m happy to chat afterwards.
Me: I’m running as a Democrat but when I’m elected to Congress, I won’t be a Congressman only for Democrats, but for all residents of the First district.
The robust crowd cheered with applause. My supporters surrounded me in a beautiful show of solidarity. It was incredible. Finally, we thought we’d convinced the Trump supporters to quiet down and let me finish my remarks. They backed away and I continued my remarks. Unfortunately, they continued to yell throughout. I finished my remarks by quoting James Baldwin, someone I deeply admire as an icon of American civil rights.
Me: I know every person here is here because they want to uphold equal justice for all people—and yes I’m talking about our friends across the aisle too.
Trump Supporter: Yes that’s true. We agree on that.
Me: We are living in difficult times. 235,000 of our neighbors have died of this deadly virus. These are preventable deaths.
Trump Supporters: HOW WAS THAT PREVENTABLE? IT WASN’T!
Me: Nearly 10 million are infected. 30 million Americans are out of work. 46 million Americans are living below the poverty line. Life seems bleak but it is times like these that I remember James Baldwin’s wisdom when he says, “I know what I’m asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand-and one is, after all, emboldened by the spectacle of human history in general, and the American Negro history in particular, for it testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”
Me: My family came here for that promise of equal justice, of forming that more perfect union. Let’s go out and win tomorrow and form that more perfect union for all! So let’s go out and make the impossible happen tomorrow. Let’s make it inevitable. And let’s get to work on November 4 for that more perfect union!
[Crowd applauds. I step off the stage. The Trump supporters make a B-line straight to me]
Kim: (Our outreach director) No one can speak with Qasim unless they’re wearing a mask.
Thomas: I came prepared! [He suddenly pulled out a mask and approached me].
Me: I promised we’d have a dialogue. What’s your question? You speak, then I speak.
Thomas proceeded with a lengthy commentary spanning several different issues. He spoke for several minutes.
Me: I need you to clarify your question. I don’t know what specifically you’re asking.
Thomas: Why are you misleading your supporters by saying there are 40,000 gun violence deaths when you know full well that the majority of those deaths are by suicide?
Me: Well, first of all, gun deaths by suicide is still gun violence, and—
Thomas: No it’s not!
Me: Excuse me, I let you speak. Now you have to let me speak. That’s what we agreed to.
Thomas: Okay, sorry.
Me: Gun deaths by suicide is still gun violence, and the studies show that when people who are suicidal have easier access to guns they—
Thomas: Again you’re missing the point. You can’t just—
Me: Didn’t we just agree I get to speak and then when I’m done you can respond?
Thomas: Sorry, sorry. Ok, please continue.
Me: And the evidence shows that we can decrease gun deaths if we have better legislation to ensure those who—
Thomas: But what you’re refusing to—
Me: That’s three times now you’ve interrupted me. I let you ask a lengthy question without interruption. You promised to follow those rules so we can have a dialogue. If you interrupt me again I’m going to have to walk away and we can meet another time after the election.
Thomas: Right right, sorry. Ok, I’m sorry.
Me: If we have better legislation to ensure those who are struggling with suicide have a more difficult time accessing firearms, we can save lives. A homocide or a suicide by a gun is still a gun death. That’s not up for debate. And my view of firearms is—
Thomas: But it’s not. I don’t agree that you—
Me: That’s four times now. Four times you interrupted me after promising you’d let me speak. I let you speak for several minutes. And this is the problem. You won’t even respect the rules we agreed to. If you interrupt me again before I finish, I’m walking away.
Thomas: My bad. You’re right. You’re right.
Me: Look. I consider myself pro Second Amendment. I was 11 and my brother was 16 when my parents bought him a hunting rifle. I learned safe firearm usage at a young age with target practice and hunting small game. I have no issue with firearms. I want to pass legislation that ensures law abiding citizens have access to firearms, and those who aren’t, have a more difficult time. No law is perfect, but we have proven models that we know work.
Me: But here’s what bothers me about the dishonesty my opponent proposes. And this should bother you too. I’ll give you an example. When Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana he passed what’s commonly known as a Red Flag Law. It allows people to petition a court to issue a warrant to allow law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others. I know the data here and so does Mike Pence. This law helps DV survivors. The FBI data shows that when a firearm is present, women are 100 times more likely to die by that firearm than to defend themselves with that firearm. Mike Pence knows Red Flag laws save lives, so he passed that law when he was Governor.
Me: And when VP Pence was asked about that low last year, in September of 2019 he called it “A blueprint for the entire nation.” My opponent, Wittman, said nothing in protest to VP Pence. Not a word. But this legislative session when the Virginia General Assembly passed a carbon copy of the exact same bill that VP Pence called “A blueprint for the entire nation,” Wittman sent out email after email accusing us of being anti-Second Amendment, anti-Constitution, and promoting tyranny. That level of dishonesty and malice doesn’t make us safer. It makes us more divided. Why aren’t you objecting to that? That’s my question to you?
Thomas: But you’re missing the point about mental health and the need for meaningful mental health reform.
[He didn’t answer my question]
Me: Well that’s another difference between me and my opponent. I want to pass medicare for all to ensure anyone who needs mental health treatment has access. Wittman wants to repeal the ACA even during this pandemic, kicking 20M more Americans off healthcare.
Thomas: Healthcare is a hard issue that both parties struggle with.
Me: No. When Dems had the House, Senate, and White House, they passed the ACA and got 20M more Americans healthcare. When GOP had the House, Senate, and White House, they passed nothing, and want to repeal the ACA. There’s no comparison. I’m here having a conversation with you. My opponent hasn’t held a public town hall since March of 2019. That’s the difference.
Thomas: Well look, all politicians say they’ll be accessible when they’re running. But once they’re elected they disappear.
Me: I won’t disappear, because I’m funded by the people, not the corporations. I answer to you, not to corporations. Once I win, I promise to continue this conversation. I won’t promise we’ll always agree, but I promise we will keep the door open.
Thomas: Well I’ll tell you what. If you win, I promise you’ll have my full support to make you successful.
With that, our conversation ended and we headed out. I later learned that Thomas was a former Republican candidate for US Senate. What began with an unprompted party crash, ended up with the Trump supporter committing to working with me once we’re elected to Congress. Compassion through Action isn’t just a slogan to us. It’s how we live. I’ve lived my life as a human rights lawyer working with folks across the political spectrum to ensure we are uniting people and looking at the facts to arrive at the best solution possible. That’s what true leadership requires of us. That’s what I promise to bring to Congress.I ask for your vote on November 3 to end the divisiveness and fear of the other. I ask to be your Congressman so we can work together to fight for equal justice for all and form that more perfect union we all deserve. Thank you all and God bless you. Let’s go out and win.