by Kellen Squire
Yesterday was a beautiful late July day here in Virginia; I woke up early and headed to the Albemarle County Farmer’s Market in Hollymead, Virginia. In my campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates, I’ve been trying to make myself as available and accessible to the voters of my brand new district as I can
To say the previous Republican incumbents hereabouts were “unavailable” is a much more charitable explanation than they deserve. One of them took the money allocated by the General Assembly to open a district office for constituent services and then simply made his basement his “office”, effectively paying himself rent and never showing up to anything but Tea Party events. Real cute.
So I’ve made it a point to do the opposite, having “office hours” at local coffee shops, farmer’s markets, breweries, etc. So I parked myself under our tent and canopy and opened myself up to anyone in the community who wanted to talk.
I’d be lying if I said our reception was unequivocally positive. One person openly snorted at the rainbow campaign sign, created by my LGBTQ teenager, I had prominently displayed. Another handful approached us and asked me, “Are you a Republican or Democrat?” and then waved us off when I answered – although I pulled one back in by telling them, quite frankly, I could never fight for working families and run as a Republican. I give it even odds he’ll vote for me or not – but we had a great chat, and he couldn’t deny my arguments.
But the majority of our interactions were amazing and positive. A lovely woman came up and pointed at the sign I mentioned above, asking if she and her wife could volunteer for us even though they didn’t live in our district. A small business owner at the market was so stoked by our presence he began to sing my praises to one of the folks who asked which party I belonged to, which made me swell with pride. And I made the day of a couple from Greene County when I told them they were actually no longer in the odious Bob Good’s district, and instead had been redistricted into Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger’s VA-07. I could do that kind of stuff all day, every day.
And that leads me into the tougher part of the day. Meeting people and chatting them up at length is lots of fun; left to my own devices, I’d do that for hours and hours, much to the chagrin of my campaign manager. But I also promised Abigail I’d hit every door for her in the “small sliver” of Albemarle County that was drawn into the new 7th District for balance purposes; a teeny hunk of territory in the extreme northwest corner of the county. So our campaign hosted a canvass for her, asking a half-dozen of our own volunteers to knock doors to help send her back for her third term in Washington.
Abigail’s field team is exceptional, and one of her field directors came down to help us get everyone set up. He expertly coached some of our new volunteers on the downloadable “MiniVAN” program, ran over the script, answered questions, helped navigate smartphones for self-described technophobes, all without a moment’s hesitation. Seriously, he was a miracle worker. Once that was done, however, he turned to me with a concerned look. “That small sliver is pretty, ahh, aggressive territory.” I nodded, knowingly. He didn’t mean partisanship; in fact, the “small sliver” is a lot more evenly divided than other parts of rural Virginia.
No, he meant that it’s not in the foothills of the mountains; it’s IN the mountains. Switchbacks galore and one lane bridges nestled between mountains thousands of feet high on each side. More cows than people and more bicycles and farm equipment than cars by an order of magnitude. Miss your stop and you’ll drive five minutes before you can turn around. Like, if it wasn’t for the trees you could see the Appalachian Trail right there. I understood exactly what he meant.
So I sent the rest of our canvassers out into much easier, more walkable areas where the Spanberger campaign had marked as the utmost importance, and I took off for the “small sliver.” The territory I sent my folks to wasn’t in my district, but that doesn’t matter. I want to do everything I can to give everyone in the 55th someone in Washington who gives a damn about them, and the 7th District race promises to be one of the very tightest in the entire country – Joe Biden and Glenn Youngkin both won 52% of the vote in the district.
So we can’t give up on rural Virginia. We have to go out to every holler and hill, every zip code, every corner of the Commonwealth, and prove that we are the ones who will show up for them, that we are the ones who give a damn.
That’s what I did – and that’s what I’ll keep doing.
For as long as it takes.