When Virginia Democrats came together in the days after the shooting to call for new gun safety measures to prevent further, similar tragedies, DeSteph said it was too soon to talk about new policies and that “no gun control laws would have stopped what happened.”
The thing is, a bill that would have banned the large-capacity magazine used by the Virginia Beach gunman was blocked by Republicans in a Senate committee in January.
A Democratic majority could have moved that bill forward. A Democratic majority could have passed it—and other gun safety legislation.
This is, of course, just one of several crucial priorities Democrats will be in a position to advance with majorities in both legislative chambers. Republicans have been preventing progress on everything from reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality to environmental protection and election fairness—and more.
And with the 2020 census less than a year away, that also means redistricting looms large. If Democrats can take back Virginia, they can enact fair maps for both Congress and the legislature that will last a decade, all while protecting and expanding the right to vote.
John Bell is running in Senate District 13 to replace retiring Sen. Dick Black—a noxious opponent of LGBTQ rights, a pernicious foe of abortion rights, and, for some reason, an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. GOP candidate Geary Higgins aims to follow in Black’s extreme right-wing footsteps and is an outspoken opponent of reproductive freedom and gun safety measures.
Joshua Cole is making a second run for House District 28, aiming to remediate the debacle by election administrators here two years ago that saw 147 ballots cast in the wrong district—in a race that was decided by just 73 votes. Cole won’t get a rematch against Republican Del. Bob Thomas, though, because the incumbent lost his primary to ultra-conservative challenger Paul Milde.
Nancy Guy, meanwhile, is taking on Del. Chris Stolle in House District 83. Stolle earned some notoriety this year when he prevented the Equal Rights Amendment from receiving a floor vote in the state House (it had already passed the Senate)—despite the fact that he was a cosponsor of the bill.
Phil Hernandez, a native of the Hampton roads area who’s running in nearby House District 100, faces Republican Del. Rob Bloxom Jr., whose name is literally synonymous with part of the district. Seriously: Bloxoms have been a fixture on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for so long that there’s an actual town named for them. Bloxom Jr. also thought it was a good idea to hold a “town hall” with the NRA (which, by the by, they prohibited press from attending) in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting.
Virginia Democrats need your help. There’s no race at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, so each of these candidates has to Get Out The Vote on their own. Can you send them $1 apiece?
And last but most definitely not least, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, who’s running in House District 66, brings a wealth of personal experience to her campaign. As a single mother of three, she worked her way through college. Her son has a rare heart disease and a learning disability. Her daughter survived getting shot at a party just three years ago—a near-tragedy that animates Bynum-Coleman’s drive to pass meaningful gun safety laws.
Her opponent is none other than House Speaker Kirk Cox, who, over his 29 years in the legislature, has actively opposed essential progressive priorities, such as expanding access to health care and extending anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Virginians. Most recently, Cox singlehandedly made a mockery of the special legislative session called to pass new gun safety measures in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting. Instead of actually considering legislation, Cox shunted it all to a commission and adjourned after just 90 minutes, deriding the session as an “election-year stunt.”
As Bynum-Coleman put it, her daughter getting shot wasn’t a “stunt.” Neither was the murder of 12 people in Virginia Beach.
Cox, for his part, appears to be running scared. (And he should be: The new House map a court ordered to remedy the GOP’s attempts to discriminate against black voters has made his district much bluer than it’s ever been.) He recently launched a TV ad buy that attempts to appeal to the new diversity of his would-be constituents (over a third of the district’s voters are now black)—an incredibly early buy in any House of Delegates race, much less from the commonwealth’s most powerful lawmaker.
But scared or not, Cox has extensive resources and experience at his disposal, which will make defeating him in November difficult, regardless of the makeup of his district.
It will also make defeating him that much sweeter.
Maintaining Virginia’s progressive trajectory depends on electing candidates like Smasal, Bell, Cole, Guy, Hernandez, and Bynum-Coleman to the legislature and establishing Democratic majorities in both chambers. Flipping just two seats in each chamber may seem like an uncomplicated endeavor on paper, but Republicans will go to every extreme to ensure their party keeps these seats as they struggle to maintain their grip on power and control over the next round of redistricting.
The victories of these Democrats will ensure progressive majorities in the legislature after this fall—and a blue Virginia for years to come.
We can stop Republican attacks on voting rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights! Give $1 to each of these six Democrats to turn Virginia blue and usher in a new progressive era!
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