The throwback cheesy ads for Virginia Slims had a point.
I grew up in the Tidewater area 40 years ago. Race mixing was seriously looked down upon, the Confederate flag was everywhere, and we didn’t celebrate Martin Luther King Day—it was officially called “Lee-Jackson-King” Day. And the kids—we were brutal. The worst insult in the world you could give someone was to call them “gay.”
No one considered Virginia a bastion for tolerance in those days. In other words, it was a GOP paradise. Politicians were white, male, and ignorant. (We were a red state in every election since 1952—until 2008. Thanks, Obama.)
Women in the legislature were a rarity indeed, and it was quite the story when one managed to break through. Delegate Vivian E. Watts (D-Fairfax) arrived in 1982. She still serves today, and remembers having to ask “permission” from the legislative body to wear long pants. The Legislative Lounge was made “men only.”
Maybe having a woman serve as Minority Leader isn’t a big deal in your state, but to me, it’s a huge indication of how progressive Virginia has become. Eileen Filler-Corn was elected the first female Minority Leader in Virginia’s history this past Friday. (If we play our cards right in 2019, she will be Virginia’s first female Speaker.) She’s such a solid candidate that the Republican candidate who once defeated her actually endorsed her in her special election because she promised to fund Fairfax County schools; whereas her opponent said their funding was already “excessive.”
Women in the Virginia state legislature are now at a record high. There are 28 of them out of 100 in the House of Delegates, and 10 out of 40 in the Virginia Senate. The capital building now has a childcare room and lactation room—one that delegate Kathy Tran has needed for her one-year-old that she sometimes brings in the chamber.
The women are diverse as well. In this election, the freshmen class include the first Latinas, the first Asian American women, as well as the first lesbian and the first transgender person to be elected to the chamber. The Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, has named eight women to his 15-member Cabinet, which will be the first time in Virginia history that the governor's inner circle is majority female.
Across the nation, emboldened by the backlash against our misogynistic president and his apologist party, women have run in record numbers—and won. They didn’t just win in deep blue areas, but red districts made up of suburbs and even rural farmland.
Virginia has been trending blue for the past decade. Now, we have the chance to put Virginia solidly in our column for the foreseeable future.
Virginia has off-year midterms (like New Jersey) and is poised to have the Democratic trifecta.
- The 100 seats of the House of Delegates has a breakdown of 51 GOP and 49 Dem.
- The 40 seats of the Virginia Senate has the same issue: 21 GOP to 19 Dem.
One+ victory in each chamber, and the Democrats—and by extension, Virginia citizens—<boom> win. That means a shift away from Trump’s hate-filled agenda to women’s rights, healthcare, childcare, education, and better lives for everyone.
Virginia has a slew of great progressive candidates running. The DLCC just committed $1 million to the cause. The state Dem party is even helping. (I know that last one should be a no-brainer, but try living in Florida.)
Today, every urban center in the state is blue—with the exception of Virginia Beach, which is turning. Once this area falls, it’s all over, and I see signs of change everywhere as I walk through the Boardwalk. I even considered returning to my hometown, which I was so anxious to leave. Years ago, I wanted to run to a place of tolerance and acceptance. After living under GOP rule in Florida for so long, I never thought I’d long to return.
You really have come a long way, baby.