As I pointed out recently, 2023 is going to be a VERY busy year in Virginia politics, with the entire General Assembly (all 140 seats) up for reelection, and also with many important local offices – for county board, school board, etc. – up for grabs as well, and with a slew of primaries (both between incumbents and also between newcomers, between an incumbent and a challenger, etc.). The stakes are high, with Gov. Glenn Youngkin hoping to gain a governing “trifecta” in order to push through his right-wing agenda, including placing severe restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom and rolling back much of the progress we made during the 2020-2021 Democratic “trifecta.” Obviously, we need to make sure that doesn’t happen, because it would be an unmitigated disaster in ever way.
So obviously, many Democrats are concerned that Youngkin could spend a TON of money this year, trying to win full control of Virginia’s government. And many Democratic incumbents are grumbling about the potential for primaries to draw resources away from the fight against Republicans in the general election. On the other hand, we do still live in a democracy (even if it’s tenuous and in danger of falling apart), and people do have a right to run if they feel they’d make a better elected official, if they have ideas they feel strongly about, etc. So overall, yes, there can be downsides to primaries, but they’re also the only real mechanism voters have in solidly “blue” (or solidly “red”) districts to decide who they think is best to represent them, since whoever wins these primaries is pretty much a lock to win in November.
With this context, see below for a press release from Heidi Drauschak, who is running in solidly “blue” SD35 in Fairfax County, which was redrawn to include both incumbent Senator Dave Marsden and Senator Dick Saslaw. Of course, it’s no secret that Sen. Saslaw plans to retire, which means that Sen. Marsden will be the sole incumbent in SD35. According to VAPLAN’s 2022 scorecard, Sen. Marsden ranked as the 16th most progressive member of the State Senate last year, similar to his #13 ranking in 2021. So basically, Marsden is a moderately progressive legislator, certainly not on the “left” of the caucus but not really a conservative Democrat (like Sen. Lynwood Lewis or Sen. Chap Petersen) either. I’d add that I’ve had many chances to chat with Dave Marsden over the years, have published many of his op-eds on Blue Virginia, and find him to be a very personable, likable person who works hard at his job and takes it very seriously.
With that, see below for an introduction by Sen. Marsden’s Democratic primary opponent, Heidi Drauschak, as well as the press release on her campaign announcement. I had a chance to speak with her this morning, and I’d say her intro and press release sum up our conversation very well: 1) she’s running against “special interests, corporate interests, party politics, and personal interests,” and really against the “Virginia Way” (which I’d argue is mostly about corporate interests; the “revolving door” between the General Assembly, lobbying, etc; and money; 2) she wants to address “many of these systemic issues (like campaign finance reform, General Assembly reform, and good governance reforms like ranked-choice voting) will help bring Virginia’s government into the modern age and allow us to address many of the pressing issues that real Virginians face”; 3) she’s not going to be taking corporate contributions, but hopes to run a people-powered campaign. It was a good conversation and I look forward to hearing more from her, and to a campaign that helps shed light on these important topics.
“I’m excited for the next few months and ready to speak with my neighbors and fellow residents about the issues that matter to them. I’m a strong believer that representatives are exactly that – representatives of their constituents – so I believe it’s my job to figure out what the people of SD35 really care about, so that I can bring those issues to Richmond and work with other legislators – from both parties – to address them.
I think the Virginia government has embraced the ‘Virginia Way’ for far too long and it’s time for candidates that really care about their constituents, rather than special interests, corporate interests, party politics, and personal interests. To that end, I won’t be taking any corporate contributions, I will host weekly town halls for the duration of my campaign (barring a short break to give birth!), and am dedicated to exploring ways to make our government more of a two-way conversation between citizens and legislators, rather than the black box it is today. I think that addressing many of these systemic issues (like campaign finance reform, General Assembly reform, and good governance reforms like ranked-choice voting) will help bring Virginia’s government into the modern age and allow us to address many of the pressing issues that real Virginians face, like rising energy bills, opaque and inaccessible healthcare costs, a lack of childcare access (or the paid time off to do it oneself), and an underfunded educational system.”
Good Governance Advocate Heidi Drauschak Announces Candidacy for Virginia Senate District 35
SPRINGFIELD, VA – On January 5th, 2023, Springfield resident and longtime activist Heidi Drauschak will announce her candidacy for Virginia’s newly drawn Senate District 35, which largely encompasses the towns of Springfield, West Springfield, and Annandale and is located entirely within Fairfax County. Heidi’s campaign is focused on ensuring that the residents of the 35th District have a state senator who listens to them, holds
corporate and special interests accountable, and works to make life better for all Virginians trying to live, work, and raise their families in the Commonwealth.
Heidi is a resident of Springfield, Virginia, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, cat, and soon-to-be son (expected May 2023)! She first moved to Virginia to attend the University of Richmond, where she earned her law degree and MBA. She initially got involved in state government when she founded CrowdLobby – an organization dedicated to giving everyday people access to lobbyists through crowdfunded campaigns – which she still runs today as a passion project. She believed then, as she does now, that corporate interests were overrunning our government and more needed to be done to give everyday people honest access to their legislators. In pursuit of those ideals, she helped found and run a non-partisan good governance organization focused on campaign finance reform, government transparency, and increased citizen engagement in Virginia, all
while helping mission-driven organizations that primarily focused on environmental, educational, and good governance issues in Virginia and across the country. She now works with her husband, Sam, at their own consultancy, and is an executive committee member of BigMoneyOutVA, which advocates for campaign finance reform in Virginia. She has been one of the key organizers behind this year’s Democracy Day, to be held at the
state capitol on January 24th. You can read more about her background here.
Heidi originally entered state politics in the hopes of seeing progress on environmental and educational issues, but quickly realized the inadequacies of Virginia’s government. With a short legislative session, unlimited campaign contributions (from individuals and corporations), unmitigated corporate lobbying, and outdated campaign finance laws, it became apparent that progress on any issue would be extremely difficult until these
systemic deficiencies were addressed. After years of advocating for these reforms, professionally and personally, Heidi grew increasingly frustrated with the inaction she saw from the state legislature. Instead of seeing progress, she witnessed Virginia slip to the 43rd spot on the national S.W.A.M.P. index, which ranks the corruption in states based on current laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency.
After being repeatedly told by legislators that these issues were not a priority, she has decided to seek change from within the legislature itself. As a candidate, she has promised to refuse corporate contributions and instead engage with the citizens of SD35 directly. She will be hosting weekly town halls throughout her campaign, both virtually and in-person across the district, to answer questions and hear citizen concerns. As a soon-to-be mom planting roots in the community for her new family, Heidi is excited to explore the diverse needs of her neighbors and work to build a stronger community for all families.
If elected to the state legislature, she plans to be a strong progressive advocate and champion the very campaign finance and good governance reforms she has fought for, for so many years, including a ban on the personal use of campaign funds, campaign contribution limits, publicly-funded elections, ranked-choice voting, and increased disclosure requirements for campaigns. Heidi believes that addressing these systemic issues will help her and other legislators advocate for real solutions for the people of Virginia, rather than special interests. Whether it’s the rising cost of energy bills, the deterioration of workers’ rights, the lack of childcare options for hard-working parents, or the struggle to access affordable medicine and healthcare, almost every issue in Virginia is affected by outsized influence of corporations and Heidi believes it is time for representation that holds these powers accountable.
…You can read more about her candidacy at www.heidiforvirginia.com.