People Have The Power
As you can probably tell from this guest post by Emily Scott, there isn't a more qualified candidate running for office anywhere than she is. And she's running for a Virginia legislative seat held by cartoon arch-villain Todd Gilbert, who's been in office since 2006. Far less qualified-- i.e, professional politicians-- are afraid to run against Gilbert in his northwest Virginia district that's mostly Shenandoah and Page counties with a bit of Warren and Rockingham. Democrats don't campaign in this corner of the Commonwealth. Trump lost Virginia in 2016 but HD-15 went to Trump 72-24%. That isn't keeping Scott from running though.
Unlike her Texas-born and reared opponent, Scott was born and raised in Virginia-- in Woodstock, Shenandoah County. The people there are her people. She is a Bernie supporter-- a former Bernie delegate to the Democratic convention in 2016-- in the middle of a deep red part of Virginia and she's spreading the word, talking with her neighbors about raising the minimum wage and repealing Virginia's right-to-work statute, about Medicare-for-All and revitalizing and bringing broadband to her rural corner of Virginia. There are no limits on contributions to state campaigns in Virginia... but $10 and $20 contributions are going a long way in Emily Scott's 100% grassroots campaign. The Blue America state legislative thermometer on the left is where you can make a contribution if you're moved to do so after reading her guest post.
People Deserve A Choice
-by Emily Scott,
Candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates
I believe people deserve a choice. So, when no one stepped up to run against Todd Gilbert for his super safe seat in the House of Delegates in deep red District 15, I said, "I’ll do it." I didn’t feel that I was particularly qualified. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t have any legislative experience. But I can speak in public and present myself well. I was tired of Republicans always winning by default in rural Virginia so I volunteered because no one else would. With my name on the ballot, at least people would have a choice.
I honestly didn’t think it would be too difficult. I work full-time, but my only objective was to be a name on the ballot, right? So, I printed off some brochures on my home computer. I got myself an inexperienced campaign manager and before long people started to give us a little money. So, we bought some yard signs and signed up for a few events; but I have got to admit, my heart wasn’t in it. I felt an obligation to the people who had donated to my campaign, but I couldn’t muster any real enthusiasm for it myself.
Don’t get me wrong. We need change. Todd Gilbert has held the seat for fifteen years and votes "no" any time something comes up that might help our district. He doesn’t support funding education or broadband or mental health. The poverty rate here is 10% and during the Covid crisis, our food pantries have been crazy busy. But his seat is safe so he can spend his time playing party politics and angle for that elusive judgeship. What does he care if the people in his district have crappy jobs and no health care? Did I mention that he voted against the Medicaid expansion? That said, I wasn’t going to let myself get all fired up when I was just a sacrificial lamb. But then came Mayfest.
We Democrats gathered in Strasburg for the parade. There weren’t many of us, but we held my signs and I felt pretty good. I was meeting my responsibility as a candidate. Some were a little nervous that the crowd might be hostile because we were Democrats, but it was ok. We marched and smiled at all the people in the crowd, all the typical people that you see at a small-town parade. And as we marched, I watched the onlookers with interest. I remember a small group that caught my eye. They looked more diverse than I had expected. And it occurred to me that I had a responsibly to everyone, especially all the people who were not being served by the current representative; all the people working and working and working and never getting ahead. They smiled when they took the brochures that I offered. And there was this one guy. He was standing a little back from the crowd. He seemed tentative, almost nervous but he came forward when I offered my brochure. He was wearing makeup and he looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you." And my heart melted and for the first time I truly understood why my campaign was important. I remember thinking, "Change is coming. We’re not going to be a whitebread Republican district forever. And all these people deserve a choice!"
I happen to have a good paying job with benefits and leave time and a good working environment. I’m lucky.
But what about everyone else? The median income in Shenandoah County is $32,000. People have crappy jobs with lousy benefits and that’s the way it is going be if the "Right to Work" laws stay in place. And that’s not right.
Anyone who is willing to work should have a good job-- like mine. People need to have the opportunity to organize so they can have good paying jobs with leave and benefits. And people are not all the same. They deserve real representation from someone who sees and accepts them and wants to help. They deserve a choice. And now that’s what I want to give them.