Cross-posted from Daily Kos at the request of the author
Katie Sponsler is the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 66th House district. She is a fierce supporter of human rights, domestic violence victims, gun violence prevention, people with disabilities, the environment and climate action, veterans affairs, fully-funded public education, public-sector unions, free-and-fair elections, the need to keep church and state separate, and affordable high-quality healthcare for all. She is a veteran, a former Park Service Ranger, a mother, and a survivor of both gun violence and cancer. But most importantly, she has traveled a road similar to the constituents in her district–so much so that, at a recent canvass launch with Commonwealth Forward, Qasim Rashid described her as “the perfect candidate”.
Katie is running in a district where Democratic voices and issues have not been represented for decades, because the district was heavily gerrymandered. Due to the gerrymander, former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R) won the seat every two years since 1990.
Katie ran against Kirk Cox in 2017, the first person to challenge him since 1995. She lost. But as a first-time-ever candidate, she received over 10,000 votes (more than 36%), proving there was a Democratic base in the district hungry for a candidate who would represent their interests.
The following year, in June 2018, a panel of federal judges ruled that 11 of Virginia’s house districts, including the 66th, were racially gerrymandered and ordered the boundaries be redrawn. The new boundary lines suddenly made the 66th much more winnable for a Democratic candidate. Katie, by now diagnosed with lymphoma, took the next election cycle off to manage her health and care for her children, then 4 and 19, both diagnosed with autism. Democratic candidate Sheila Bynum Coleman ran instead and came much closer, gaining 47% of the vote. Katie supported Sheila’s race by knocking doors for her.
Several of the districts that received newly redrawn boundary lines are in Chesterfield county, including the 66th. Chesterfield is the fourth-largest county in the state and has been known as the political bellwether county for Virginia for at least the last decade. It is part of the Richmond metro area. It has been moving to an increasingly purple status over the last several years as the county becomes more diverse. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost in the county by 4,000 votes. In 2018, Chesterfield voted for Ralph Northam. And in 2020, Joe Biden won Chesterfield, the first time in 72 years the county voted for a democrat for president. With the new district lines and the increasingly blue trend, there is no reason Katie Sponsler cannot win the 66th.
Even though Kirk Cox is not running for the seat again, the Republican machine he set in place in his 30 years as the district’s delegate is extremely well oiled. Cox was a longstanding member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Education task force and received donations from the Koch backed Americans For Prosperity (AFP). Katie’s Republican challenger, Mike Cherry, has received at least one enormous donation from AFP, as have several other Republican candidates running in the now flippable districts. This seat is one of the MOST flippable in Virginia this year.
Katie is one of the most honest candidates I have had the pleasure to know. She is 1000% for her constituents and for Virginians, especially those who are frequently overlooked. The 66th deserves and needs a candidate like Katie to represent them the way they should be represented—genuinely, honestly, and with the passion of a thousand suns.