See below for a press release from Virginia Delegate Michelle Maldonado (D-HD20), as well as an interview she did with me yesterday afternoon, on her campaign for the VA10 Democratic nomination, which she’s officially launching this morning. Del. Maldonado joins State Senator-elect Suhas Subramanyan, Del. Dan Helmer, former VA House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, State Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. David Reid, former VA Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, as well as several candidates I’m not familiar with – Krystle Kaul, Brandon Garay, Mark Leighton – in this race to succeed Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10), who’s not announced in that she’s not running for reelection due to tragic health circumstances. Others, such as former Del. Ibraheem Samirah, also could throw their hats in the ring, so stay tuned.
As for Del. Maldonado, she was first elected to the House of Delegates in November 2021, first defeating then-Del. Lee Carter in the Democratic primary in June 2021. In our interview, here’s how she described her background and reasons for running.
“I come from a family of educators and military folks, and I had sort of ingrained in me from Day 1 about the need for us to be of service. And we’re looking around and I’m seeing us leading and living in really unprecedented and extraordinary times, where we have division and conflict and divide and we’re not getting much things done, particularly in the House at the federal level. And there are a number of reasons for that, not just that we have a small minority of extremists who are holding things up. But also there are some areas where we need some help, some legislators with a unique skill set that can come and lend to those challenges and opportunities.
And the first thing is when I look at some of my background professionally and personally, there is an interesting intersection I think that makes me unique. The first is, you know, as I mentioned, I come from teachers and educators and military folks. But I’m also part of an immigrant family – my grandparents were first generation, I was raised by them, so even though I’m third generation, I have a second-generation experience with a different language being my first language. I’m of Cape Verdean descent, my first language is Portuguese, and I learned Spanish, so I’m also one of the candidates that speaks another language, reads writes and speaks another language, which is important for CD10 because we have such a diverse group of folks.
And the other piece is professionally, my work has brought me into crisis and conflict-ridden communities. I was someone who went in after the Flint water crisis to help the community kind of rebuild and recover from the trauma of toxic water. I was someone who was invited to come and help community leaders after the murder of George Floyd. I was brought in as a collaborator with a nonprofit to help congressional staffers…recover after January 6. And I’ve also worked with our Customs and Border Protection agents and helping keep the humanity in a crisis situation where children were being separated from their parents. So I know how to work in these difficult spaces and places and get people through those difficult conversations into a place where we can find solutions and problem solve. And so that is something that’s really needed at this point, where there are so many people who are angry, who are obstructionists, who are diligently trying to undermine democracy. I’m used to working in those areas.
And then the other piece is looking at what else is it that we need at the federal level that they don’t have or they don’t have enough of. And that is in the AI and technology space. I spent two plus decades in technology, both as a technology lawyer and as a business leader inside the business, so I understand as we’re developing these algorithms, as we’re creating these platforms, as we’re looking at what the coding is and the interoperability with other things, I understand what that is. And I’ve tried really hard in Virginia to help educate other legislators. So I founded a technology and innovation caucus last year, this year stood up a statewide AI technology initiative that was really collaborative – both of these things were bicameral, bipartisan, included our agencies, governor’s office, industry, academia, everything, and then also sit on a nationwide steering committee that’s an AI workgroup of state legislators.
So when I look at those two sort of foundational pillars of who I am and how I lead and what I can do, I think those are things that other candidates don’t bring to the table that, on day one, position me to really roll up the sleeves and get to work and help get things done at the federal level.”
With that, see below for Del. Maldonado’s press release about her VA10 campaign, followed by the rest of our interview…
Tech and Business Leader, Delegate Michelle Maldonado Launches Campaign for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District
MANASSAS PARK, VA – Today, tech leader, entrepreneur, public servant, and mother, Delegate Michelle Maldonado announced her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 10th District. With the announcement, the Maldonado campaign also released a launch video highlighting her upbringing in an immigrant family, breadth of experience in the private and public sectors, and lifelong dedication to bringing people together to find solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.
“Growing up in an immigrant family of educators and military service members, I learned the importance of service above self. This foundation shaped my career as I’ve de-escalated conflict and confronted and navigated crises — from helping Flint, MI, heal in the wake of the water crisis and supporting community leaders in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd, to partnering with United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers and supporting Congressional staffers’ recovery following the January 6th insurrection. I’m running for Congress because this moment calls for strong, steady leadership with the experience necessary to bring people together to truly deliver and get things done,” Michelle said Wednesday.
Michelle’s story of hardship and resilience is like that of many Americans who work hard to make ends meet. That humble upbringing drove her to work that much harder and earn a seat at the table as a corporate and tech attorney turned business leader committed to strengthening compassion, civility, and accountability across sectors. For two decades, Michelle worked in the technology, start-up, online media, nonprofit, and e-learning industries before starting her own company, Lucenscia, a leadership development and business strategy firm, in 2015.
Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2021, Michelle is the first woman and first woman of color to represent her district and has earned a reputation as an effective, results-oriented voice. Leveraging her depth of experience from the business and technology sector, Michelle co-founded the bipartisan Virginia Technology & Innovation Caucus where she serves as Founding Chair and seeks to foster and promote technology and innovation, support legislation that creates jobs, enable the responsible use of technology to improve the lives of all Virginians, promote the technology and innovation climate in Virginia, and engage on emerging policy issues.
Now, Michelle is running for Congress to keep taking on the tough fights, solve problems, and create pathways to opportunity, so that everyone can live, work, and thrive in our communities.
“While Republicans in Congress embrace dysfunction and refuse to govern, families are yearning for action and solutions,” Michelle continued. “I’m running for Congress to leverage my problem-solving experience and technology expertise to continue building pathways to opportunity, so that Virginia families can succeed and our economy works for everyone.”
In what is shaping up to be a very crowded field, Michelle’s leadership skills set her apart from all the others. In times of crisis, she’s the one who gets the call: strengthening communication with law enforcement and the communities they serve; working with federal agencies to address our border crisis; and, counseling congressional staff after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
With government dissatisfaction and dysfunction at an all-time high and fundamental threats to democracy and reproductive freedom on the line, our public servants must be tested, and ready to meet this moment. Michelle Maldonado has done the work, her experience and leadership skills set her apart from the rest of the field.
Currently represented by retiring Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, Virginia’s 10th District is a Democratic-leaning seat located in Northern Virginia and includes all of Rappahannock County, Fauquier County, and Loudoun County, parts of Fairfax County and Prince William County, as well as the independent cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Nearly 50% of the population is non-white — 18% Latino, 18% AAPI, and 11% Black. The district is home to Dulles Airport, a significant population of federal workers, and large technology, telecom, and aerospace companies. The 2024 Democratic primary field is expected to be crowded, and Michelle Maldonado has the profile, message, and drive to connect with primary voters and build a winning coalition.
About Michelle Maldonado
Michelle Maldonado is an entrepreneur, tech leader, public servant, mother, and wife focused on building stronger, safer communities. Michelle has spent her life working in difficult environments, bringing people together, and finding solutions that make our tomorrow better than today.
Michelle is no stranger to hardship. Despite experiencing food insecurity and living in a camping trailer for parts of her childhood, she was taught to always help those around her. Michelle was raised in an immigrant household during her formative years by her grandparents. Her grandfather was an instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen and both her grandmothers were “Rosie the Riveters” during World War II. Michelle is proud that five branches of the military are represented in her family and is especially proud to be the wife of a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
Michelle is a former corporate and tech attorney turned business leader who has worked to strengthen compassion, civility, and accountability within tech companies, corporations, governmental organizations, and law enforcement. Whether it’s supporting our veterans, or working with U.S. Customs during the last presidential administration, helping Flint, MI, heal in the wake of the water crisis, supporting community leaders in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd, partnering with United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers, working with youth in our community, or supporting Congressional staffers’ recovery following the January 6th insurrection, Michelle has brought people together to find solutions.
Michelle made history as the first woman and first person of color to represent her district in the more than 400-year history of the Virginia House of Delegates. As Delegate, she has led efforts to modernize our economy to keep pace with changing technology, strengthen public schools, protect our reproductive rights, fight for good-paying jobs, make housing more affordable, and keep our communities safe from gun violence.
Leveraging her depth of experience from the business and technology sector, Michelle co-founded the bipartisan Virginia Technology & Innovation Caucus where she serves as Founding Chair and seeks to foster and promote technology and innovation, support legislation that creates jobs, enable the responsible use of technology to improve the lives of all Virginians, promote the technology and innovation climate in Virginia, and engage on emerging policy issues.
Michelle’s story of resilience is like many Americans who work hard to make ends meet. From our farmers, to our veterans, to business owners, to federal workers and teachers, to stay-at-home parents and caretakers – she believes we all deserve to live, work, and thrive in our communities.
Now, Michelle is running for Congress to keep taking on the tough fights, solve problems, and create pathways to opportunity. She knows that when we work together, everyone is that much stronger. Learn more at MichelleForUSCongress.com.
Blue Virginia: “If you’re elected to the US House, do you see yourself as following in Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s footsteps in terms of the issues you’ll focus on and policy positions, or would you chart a significantly different path? If the latter, which areas specifically?”
Del. Maldonado: “So I love the question because I have such great and profound respect and affection for Congresswoman Wexton. And she has created legacy. She has created ripples that are so powerful. And I feel like it would be an honor to carry that legacy forward and honor the work that she has done. So we align a lot on the same areas. And the way I look at how I would divide the buckets of things that I would want to focus on are in three key categories that align a lot with what she’s been focusing on during her time and her representation. And the first would be jobs and the economy. [When] we think about that, we have a workforce, sort of pipeline workforce development crisis in the making, whether…do we have enough of the people inside government that are always being enticed away by the private sector, or do we have enough people with the technical experience to meet the moment of AI and new and emerging technologies? Or working with our unions and our trades to help working families who wish to do vocational careers – welders, carpenters and electricians, they actually hold the infrastructure of our nation together, that is what makes us hum. So we have to make sure that those things are in place to give people the opportunity to create a life, maybe just earn a living. And those things matter. Jobs and the economy, they intersect with infrastructure, they intersect with the way that our farming communities are supported. CD10 has farmers in it. And what’s interesting about that is, last summer I think it was, I was the only legislator from the General Assembly to show up to the farm bureau’s urban roundtable with legislators. And the thing that I really learned about, being with them for several hours that day, was not only the general needs of our farming community that we are all familiar with, but the needs in particular of our new and young farmers. And the reason I mention this in the jobs and the economy is because in order for us to have our food and our farming industry sustainable, we need to have new people, just like any other industry. We have to be able to bring the people into it, we have to support them and have the resources appropriate. So when we talk about that, the farming folks have to be part of that equation. And we’re also looking at how do we make sure we’re integrating our folks who are coming from different countries and they can be productive members of society. So I think all of those things are important. Then we have health care. And as part of that, there is maternal health, there’s reproductive health and bodily autonomy. And importantly, something that we talk about a lot is our mental and behavioral health. We have an opioid crisis, we have a number of things that are crises in this moment that we need to help our local and state governments meet those moments and make sure they have the right funding, the right spectrum of programming for it so that we have a healthy society. These are not unrelated. Because jobs, the economy, technology, health care, these are all the things that make a community hum, right? So if we don’t have businesses coming to the community, if we don’t have jobs, people can’t live and work in the same place. If we don’t have the commercial revenue from those businesses, our schools aren’t funded as well because we don’t have the same kind of real estate base to help contribute. So all these things are super connected; people won’t come here if the healthcare is not good, if the schools aren’t good. And that leads me to the third prong, which is a broader umbrella about our kids’ futures. And we have a responsibility to make sure that what we’re passing to our kids, to our young adults, is something that’s viable, that’s safe, that’s healthy. So that goes to our education, it goes to gun safety, it goes to our climate and our environment. And all these things together really bring forward and lend nicely to the skills and the experience I’ve led, whether it was in Flint, Michigan or with helping folks after George Floyd or January 6th or the folks at the border. These are areas where we have to become really skilled to make sure we are putting healthy opportunities and access for people on the ground, so that they feel it; they have to feel it and it has to be real for them. So I think those are the three areas and, you know, I hinted that real estate, but that is affordable living, that includes being able to have access to workforce housing and the ability for our first responders, teachers to be able to afford to work and live in the same place. And it also…includes people at the upper end of the spectrum who are also looking at how they’re affording things, all the way down to folks who are at or below the poverty line. So these things are the special ingredients that make up an incredible CD10, but also reflect the nation. And what I think is really wonderful is that CD10 is so rich and diverse, not just ethnically and racially, but also from experience and education and the type of work that is done. We certainly have a very hightech sort of workforce base, but then we have lots of unions and trades, we have hard working families and I think that’s a beautiful thing. That it would be an honor to represent them.”
Blue Virginia: “I guess on that latter bucket you were talking about I would put two existential issues. I think all the issues are super important, I’m not trying to diminish any of them, but I would say if we don’t have a livable climate or a livable planet, I mean all else is lost basically. And if we don’t have a democracy all else is lost. Do you want to talk for a minute about protecting our democracy? I just feel like that’s so paramount right now.”
Del. Maldonado: “Yes. So thank you for raising them. I didn’t name them in those words, but they’re absolutely part of this conversation and what I’m talking about. So there is no Planet B. And this is why I talk to people all the time, why we have to understand that this stuff, it may go to infrastructure, maybe the way that our companies operate. And I know, having worked with folks in Flint, Michigan after the water crisis, that that stuff doesn’t just end and then there’s no repercussion, there’s no consequence, there’s no ripple. So we have to make sure that we are focusing on the things that impact the health and viability of the very planet that we’re living on, walking on, the air that we’re breathing. You are right; if we don’t have that, nothing else matters. And then the other piece, what I talked about, was around my ability to skillfully navigate these very difficult places where people are angry, they are fearful, there’s a spread…of misinformation. Some people aren’t spreading it because they think it’s not true; there are agitators like that, there are a lot of people who don’t know that it’s not true. And…the levers of fear and anger are being used to manipulate people. This is a threat, it is a crisis, and absolutely and I am used to working in those areas, you know sort of the whole spectrum of it. And that’s why I think that somebody like me is well positioned to go in there to help diffuse, to help bridge, and to help get things done.”
Blue Virginia: “The last [question] I’ll ask you…how would you describe yourself ideologically and are there any members of Congress you view as role models?”
Del. Maldonado: “What I would say is that I lead with values and with priorities, and I think that that is that people also are hoping that we will begin to see with the legislators. People who are stoking the fires just for the sake of theater, I think their time is going to run its course…I would describe myself as somebody who leads with values, that leads with compassion but also is very willing to get in there to have those difficult conversations, to fight where we need to fight, to stand the ground where we need to stand our ground, to help move everybody forward. And the other thing is I want to represent people…all under the umbrella, so that means people who don’t support me, that means people who didn’t vote for me, because we have a responsibility and an honor and a privilege to make life better for everybody. When I think about people inside the federal body, there are a number of people…there are some of the older ones that really touch my heart and some of the newer ones everybody from Jim Clyburn to a new person in the freshman class, Becca Balint. I think there is a broad category of people that really reflect different mindsets, different methods of approaching problem solving, and all of them are important – I don’t believe that there is only one way.”