Among the most crucial, must-win General Assembly races is the one in SD24 (Newport News, York County, Williamsburg, Poquoson, James City County) between incumbent State Sen. Monty Mason (D) and Republican challenger Danny Diggs. How competitive is this district? Per VPAP, Democrats narrowly won it (by 1.2 points) in 2022, after losing it (by 3.4 points) in 2021, narrowly winning it (by 3.4 points for Mark Herring) in 2017, etc. And in this election, it’s tight in terms of money (Sen. Mason had $357k cash-on-hand at the end of August, while Diggs had $425k) and in polling, from what I’ve heard.
Last but not least, the difference between these two candidates is huge. For more on that, see The Democratic Workhorse vs. the Know-Nothing GOP Sheriff: Monty Mason’s Must-Win Senate Race (SD-24) (“Mason’s GOP opponent’s website alternates between right-wing dog whistles and statements too vague to tell voters anything”). According to this excellent article by “kindler,” Sen. Mason has been excellent on women’s reproductive freedom (Mason got an A+ grade from Repro Rising in 2023), the environment (the VA Sierra Club named Mason a “Standout Legislator” in 2023); gun violence prevention (Mason got an “F” rating from the pro-gun-extremist NRA in 2023), and basically anything else you care about. As for Diggs, he’s terrible on pretty much every issue – as “kindler” writes:
His website alternates between right-wing dog whistles (“I oppose efforts to criminalize law abiding gun owners”) and statements too vague to tell voters anything (like “We need commonsense, conservative reforms to cut health care costs”). That said, he is quite clear about the fact that he supports Youngkin’s proposal to ban and criminalize abortion after 15 weeks.
But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more (bad stuff about Diggs, that is)! For instance, looking into his record as sheriff (for York County and Poquoson), it turns out that Diggs fired his political opponents and was lenient on his friends. This, after Diggs – when he first ran for sheriff – criticized his predecessor for running the department through cronyism (per the 1999 Newport Daily News, “Accusations that [previous Sheriff] Williams was a ‘good old boy’ who lacked professional management skills and ran the department by cronyism was a central issue in Diggs’ last campaign for the office.” Yet when Diggs took office, according to the 11/20/99 Newport News Daily Press, this is what he did:
“Maj. Joe Adam, who ran for York County sheriff in November, has been given his walking papers by the man who defeated him. Adam is the second-in-command in the office. He came in third in a four-way race won by Danny Diggs, currently a major in the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office. […] Adam will be leaving next month after 26 years in the department. He said Diggs told him this week that he won’t have a job Jan. 1, when Diggs takes office. […] Adam acknowledged this week that when he was deciding whether to run, he weighed the risk of losing his job if he didn’t win. But Diggs made a point during the campaign of saying no one would be out of a job for not supporting him politically, Adam complained.”
Also, per the 1/29/00 Newport News Daily Press:
“Other than that, Diggs said, the most significant change was one person whom he wouldn’t identify who was demoted. However, he didn’t deny that Felton Johnson, who also ran against him, is now a road deputy. Johnson was a lieutenant.”
This all happened, by the way, after Diggs “made a point during the campaign of saying no one would be out of a job for not supporting him politically” (source: 11/20/99 Newport News Daily Press).
The reaction to Diggs’ hiring and firing decisions? According to a letter to the editor in the Newport News Daily Press (11/26/99):
“One promise broken already, and he hasn’t even taken office. I refer to the firing of Major Joe Adam of the York County Sheriff’s Department by sheriff-elect Danny Diggs. Adam has dedicated 26 years of his life to this county and I am appalled that Diggs would dismiss him simply because he was his opponent. Adam deserves better treatment. Does Felton Johnson still work for the department? Is he next on the chopping block? Also Diggs, are there any other promises you wish to recant prior to taking office? For the voters who were tired of the ‘good ol’ boy’ mentality in the Sheriffs Office, welcome to Phase II”
And another letter to the editor asked:
“Why does the recently elected Sheriff of York County, Danny Diggs, have to give Major Joe Adam the boot? Adam won’t have a job Jan. 1, 2000, when Diggs takes office because Diggs will not reappoint Adam, although Diggs said he would offer reappointment to everyone else in the York County Sheriff’s Department. […] Why is Diggs really letting Adam go? Is his decision to not reappoint Adam based on Adam’s poor performance? I don’t think so. It is a disgrace to ‘fire’ someone with 26 years of law enforcement service with no explanation other than you ran against me, I won and you lost.”
Meanwhile, as Sheriff, Diggs defended a York-Poquoson sheriff’s deputy (Jean Browning) who had worn Blackface as part of a Halloween costume, saying the deputy’s intent was simply to be “funny,” and – according to the local NAACP – “it became clear in the meeting that no disciplinary action would be taken against Browning.”
In sum, Diggs is a right winger all the way – against women’s reproductive freedom, against any measures to combat gun violence, you name it – and also someone who, as Sheriff, fired his political opponents and was lenient on his friends. Is this the type of person who should be elevated to the Virginia State Senate? The answer: obviously not, especially when SD24 already has a superb State Senator, Monty Mason, well representing it in Richmond!