by Amy Laufer
I get asked all the time why I started Virginia’s List, the only organization in Virginia dedicated to getting pro-choice, Democratic women elected to state office. The answer is simple, I had to do something. Women’s voices weren’t being heard in our state government and to move forward as a state we needed that to change.
In the Commonwealth and across the country, women’s rights are directly under attack. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, legislatures from coast to coast have considered legislation that restricts a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and healthcare. It has never been more critical to have women in office to influence these discussions and ensure their right to privacy is protected. But, the idea for Virginia’s List began well before our rights were so clearly on the chopping block.
The need to increase female representation in our state government became apparent to me back when I was on the Charlottesville School Board. As a member of the board, and especially once I became the chair, I frequently found myself traveling down to Richmond to lobby on behalf of our students. While there I also frequently found myself wondering ‘where the heck are all the women?’. Don’t get me wrong, I saw plenty of secretaries and staffers but the people making the decisions were mostly men.
Maybe it’s the farm kid in me but when I see a problem, I can’t help but look for solutions. It didn’t make sense to me why the only women I was frequently seeing were staffers and not representatives. Despite making up more than half of the state, less than 1 in 5 members were women. This meant that our perspectives, experiences, and needs weren’t being represented in policy decisions. This underrepresentation in the General Assembly couldn’t continue. I knew I needed to do something!
Around that time, I participated in a program with Emerge Virginia, an organization that trains and prepares women to run for office. In that program, I met several inspiring women who would go on to become delegates, senators, and members of local governments across the Commonwealth. However, through my own research, I found that one of the biggest obstacles these candidates faced was funding. It was then that I realized the need for a Political Action Committee (PAC) dedicated solely to getting progressive women elected to state office. And so, Virginia’s List was born.
Since its founding, we’ve supported every Democratic woman currently serving in the General Assembly. In 2017, just a few years after we got started, we had one of our most successful years ever. Our efforts in Virginia helped launch the nationwide blue wave that helped flip the House of Representatives. In Virginia, we nearly doubled the number of women in the chamber, raising the number of women in the House of Delegates from 17 to 28!
Despite our down year in 2021, I know Virginia’s future needs more women leaders. Our perspectives and experiences are needed in the General Assembly now more than ever before. Now is the time to think big. We need a Constitutional Amendment protecting women’s right to privacy in the Commonwealth. We need real solutions to the gun violence plaguing our community. We need to make transformative investments in education that fully funds our schools, supports our teachers, and gives every student a real shot at success.
I founded Virginia’s List to make sure that women are in every room where decisions are made. Today, I’m asking that you help me get into those rooms as well. If you’re able to support our grassroots campaign, please chip in here.