by Kellen Squire
I’ve spent most of the time I’ve been involved in politics in the background- one of the army of people who’re neither seen nor heard, but without whom political organizations and movements couldn’t exist. Whether it was helping to expose a McCain campaign staffer as the primary instigator of the “PUMA” crowd, volunteering for Creigh Deeds’ gubernatorial campaign in 2009, knocking doors for a couple upstart rural Virginia Democrats in VA-06 and VA-05 in 2008 & 2010, working against the Trump campaign in Virginia in 2016- I was happy to stay in the background. I had a family to raise, a career to nurture. I wasn’t interested in anything more serious.
Then 2016 changed all that, as I think it did for many of us. Realizing the implications of Trump’s election- which we’ve now all borne witness to- I knew I had to do something. But what?
Then I saw an article in the newspaper, noting Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) had resigned from his leadership role in the House of Delegates, and why. I was impressed enough to fire off an email to Lowell Feld, the human machine and driving force behind progressive blog Blue Virginia, which contained a semi-hinged rant centered on the premise, quote, “That guy (Rasoul) is a fuckin’ genius, sir, if you’ll pardon my language, and we ignore his insight to our party at our own peril.”
I ended up sending Sam himself a message to this effect on his website- and was surprised to receive a message of thanks in return, his personal cell phone number, and an offer to chat anytime about how we could enact positive change for every Virginian. To protect our people and our Commonwealth from Trumpism. A three-hour phone call ensued from that… the end result of which was me deciding to run for the Virginia House of Delegates.
I don’t want to omit other people who deserve credit for what we did in 2017 in the 58th District’s race- people like Taikein Cooper, Sally Hudson, Amanda Litman, Tom Perriello, and a whole host of activists and volunteers on the ground here in rural Virginia. We knew the magnitude of the challenge we were taking on, running in what election prognostication whiz Chaz Nuttycombe calls “the most gerrymandered district in Virginia”. We damn well were going to try and win it all- but to have the chance to “take a bullet” from the Republicans’ House Caucus chair, responsible for sending checks to embattled incumbents in swing districts, and make him spend that money on me instead?
And spend, our GOP opponent did, to the tune of about a half million dollars by the time election day rolled around. Money that got spent in a district the incumbent had drawn specifically for himself, to never have to worry about having a challenge. Money that didn’t go to the half-dozen districts Commonwealth-wide where our wins were within the margin of error.
None of that would have been possible without Sam Rasoul. It’s one of the reasons I love to joke that Sam Rasoul is an even better redneck than I am: he just gets it, on so many issues that affect working class Virginians. He’s been out here in ROVA- the Rest of Virginia, which both parties have ignored and taken advantage of in different ways- putting in the work to push Virginia forward.
I believe unequivocally that we need to prove to every Virginian that we do give a damn about them. That we need to start the long journey of winning back every single corner of the Commonwealth, instead of ignoring anywhere outside the urban crescent of NOVA, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.
That’s why I launched my short-lived campaign for Lieutenant Governor. I saw exactly zero candidates lining up to run statewide from anywhere west of Carytown or south of Manassas- and I knew the Republicans would inevitably get their shit together enough to give Virginia Democrats a real challenge. If we didn’t have a geographically-balanced ticket, we could have real trouble- so I knew someone had to do something.
As an emergency services professional, I get a front-line view of every failure of Richmond to act in the best interests of working Virginia families. Whether it’s about mental health, school funding, the opioid crisis, our complete lack of preparation for global pandemics, the looming medical provider shortage, politicians in Richmond and Washington have largely been content to let those of us in the trenches- firefighters, EMS, teachers, social workers, etc- hold the line, desperately trying to stitch things together, while they worry about their next election.
Sometimes, you get tired of pulling people out of the river… and decide to go upstream to keep them from getting pushed in in the first place. Because working Virginia families out here need help- and they’re not getting it. And finally, I decided that if nobody else was going to, I had to.
Unfortunately, a mental health crisis with a family member made it crystal clear where my priorities lay. Giving that run for LG up was the right decision- and the mandatory overtime the COVID pandemic was about to unload on emergency services providers would’ve left precious little time to dedicate to a political campaign, in any case.
But that’s okay, because Sam Rasoul is a better candidate than I ever was, or ever could have been. He’s been putting in the work in the legislature, and back home in his district, without the benefit of being a white, heterosexual, protestant with a southern drawl. I never got death threats because of the color of my skin, or the faith I worshipped- but Sam has. I never had to worry about my kids being called vulgar, racist slurs- but Sam does. Sam is on the road, criss-crossing from Roanoke to Richmond, fighting the progressive battle to bring everyone forward, to create a rising tide that will raise all ships… and still finds the time to mentor new candidates, run a constituent service program, and be a dedicated dad and husband on top of it.
I know we’ll be able to count on Sam to be responsive and accountable to the people he serves, and fight unapologetically for every working Virginia family- not just in “ROVA”, but in every corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia. To be a true party builder. Whether it’s the Green New Deal or the Marshall Plan for Moms, Sam wants to build a Virginia that works for everyone. A Virginia that’s prepared for the many challenges we have ahead.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we have some great candidates running for Lieutenant Governor this year. Until Sam launched his campaign, I was going to have a real tough time choosing between Sean Perryman and Elizabeth Guzman, both amazing candidates who took the role of Lieutenant Governor seriously, and bring (or brought, as Delegate Guzman has sadly since dropped out of the race) incredible personal stories to the table. This shouldn’t discount Andria McClellan, of course, who is another great candidate- just one I haven’t had the pleasure of working with personally.
But, to me, Sam Rasoul is the unequivocal choice to become the next Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Regardless of who you’re voting for on the Gubernatorial or Attorney General lines, I want to make one thing clear:
For more information on Sam Rasoul, visit his website here.