by Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director Andrew Whitley
Running as a Democrat in a district that Donald Trump won with 77% of the vote is one of the hardest things you can do in Virginia politics. Doing that as a full-time nurse during a pandemic is even tougher. But when Laurie Buchwald stepped up to run for the Virginia State Senate in a special election, I knew she was the right one to do it. As a board member of Virginia’s List, an organization dedicated to electing more progressive Democrats across the Commonwealth, she’d be an example for other rural Democrats thinking of running for office. While we were under no illusions about the chances of winning that race, the Democratic Party of Virginia was committed to making sure she had the resources necessary to compete with her Republican opponent. Perhaps more important, we also wanted to demonstrate that we are willing, able, and dedicated to supporting candidates in every region of Virginia.
Democrats are running in more House of Delegates districts this year than ever before, which means there will be dozens of Democrats competing in deep-red districts. Laurie’s race isn’t unique; instead, it’s an example of what DPVA is planning to do for other candidates like her this year.
One of the biggest expenses on campaigns is direct mail, which in a rural district where broadband access is limited, can be one of the most effective ways to reach voters. DPVA has developed a template mail program for House campaigns that can help reduce the cost of mail by over $1,000 per piece. This is a major asset for smaller campaigns, one that will enable them to run successful mail programs on tighter budgets. We’ve also hired a full-time training director who will support candidates and their staff, with a focus on those running for the first time. And we’ve partnered with the National Democratic Training Committee to run the first ever local candidates training program to build up the Democratic bench across the Commonwealth. Winning rural districts starts by building Democratic power at the local level, and we’re committed to making sure first-time candidates have all the tools and expertise they need to launch successful campaigns for city council, school board, water commissioner, and more.
Our Chairwoman Susan Swecker likes to say that Democrats didn’t lose these rural districts overnight, and we certainly aren’t going to win them back overnight either. The race in the 38th district was always going to be a challenge, but we and our amazing partners at the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus made a point to invest in Laurie and her campaign to show other candidates running in similar districts that the Party has their backs. We owe it to voters in every corner of the Commonwealth to run strong Democrats in as many districts as possible, and DPVA is committed to assisting our candidates so that they can run strong and effective races.