DPVA Announces Pete Buttigieg to speak at Blue Commonwealth Gala

We are excited to announce that Pete Buttigieg, “Mayor Pete”, will be speaking at our Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond on June 15th!

Don’t miss out on the biggest political event of the year in Virginia — get your tickets today by clicking here!

Presidential contender Buttigieg to speak at Virginia Democratic Party fundraiser (Washington Post)

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg will speak at a fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Virginia in June, the party announced Monday, one day after the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana formally announced his White House bid.

“Mayor Pete” is the first 2020 candidate confirmed for the event but likely not the last. The Blue Commonwealth Gala, an annual fundraiser for Democrats in a critical swing state, drew Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

“We’re in discussion with others,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said in an interview. “Presidential candidates would ignore Virginia at their peril. Things are getting interesting.”

She noted that another contender, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, is making a campaign swing through Virginia Tuesday and Wednesday.

[Pete Buttigieg says he can beat Donald Trump in 2020]

Virginia had been a reliably red presidential state for decades until Obama snapped that streak in 2008. Republicans have not won a statewide race — for president or anything else — since 2009.

The fundraiser, which is set to take place June 15 at Richmond’s historic Main Street Station, will raise money for Virginia legislative races.

This is a pivotal year for control of the state legislature, where Republicans hold just a two-seat majority in each chamber. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 in the state Senate will be on the ballot in November and Democrats are trying to seize control for the first time in decades.

Democratic prospects looked strong at the start of the year, but in February scandals engulfed the state’s three statewide office holders, all Democrats. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface as young men while two women accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault in the early 2000s — charges that Fairfax denies.

As a recent poll showed that public opinion of the three men dropped in the wake of the scandal, their ability to raise significant campaign cash for downballot Democrats is in question.

“Before we take on Trump in 2020, we must work our hearts out to flip the General Assembly blue this November, and we are thrilled that Democratic candidates for President are excited to join us in this mission,” Swecker said in a written statement. “Virginia Democrats are excited to welcome Mayor Pete Buttigieg to speak at our signature annual event, the Blue Commonwealth Gala. We look forward to Mayor Buttigieg energizing our activists and leaders as we turn our attention to victory. We hope many of Mayor Buttigieg’s fellow Democratic candidates join him in Richmond on June 15th and support electing Virginia Democrats this November.”

5th Congressional District Retreat in Charlottesville

On April 13th, the 5th Congressional District committee held a retreat in Charlottesville. It was an immense success, with around 30 CD committee members and local committee chairs in attendance. DPVA’s Political Director, Shyam Raman, and Deputy Political Director, Liddy Gallagher, attended the retreat to speak to members of the 5th CD about how the state party and localities can work together to flip the 5th!

2019 Pat Jennings Training

On April 6th, the Democratic Party of Virginia partnered with the National Democratic Training Committee to hold a full day candidate training in Blacksburg, Virginia as a part of the Pat Jennings Project. With over 60 people in attendance, it was an immense success. Attendees spent the day learning best practices from experts in Communications, Field, Fundraising, Digital Organizing, and VAN. During the training, Delegate Chris Hurst came to speak to the group of fired up democrats about what it takes to flip a red district blue!

Don’t miss it THIS WEEKEND — DPVA’s Barbara Johns Panel and Reception at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond!

The Democratic Party of Virginia’s 4th Annual Barbara Johns Panel and Fundraiser will celebrate the life and legacy of Barbara Johns and shine a light on the important work still being done by Democrats around the Commonwealth and nation to ensure the civil rights of all Americans. We are honored to host both events at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center.

The panel, which is free to the public, will feature Eric H. Holder Jr. the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and stakeholders from around the Commonwealth to discuss the ongoing fight to ensure civil rights for all Virginians, their work towards racial justice, and how these experiences shaped them into the leaders they are today.

RSVP TO PANEL: http://bit.ly/brjpanel19

Following the panel, we will hold a ticketed fundraiser reception to support DPVA efforts to flip the Virginia Legislature in November 2019. Eric H. Holder Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, will headline the reception and discuss his work with guests.

RSVP TO RECEPTION: http://bit.ly/dpvabjohns19

DPVA’s Barbara Johns Civil Rights Essay Contest

The Democratic Party of Virginia is excited to announce an essay contest in conjunction with our annual celebration of the life and legacy of Barbara Johns, who led a walkout of her tar-paper shack school building in 1951 to protest and draw attention to the inequality in education between African-American students and their white counterparts. Barbara became a significant figure in a lawsuit that would join the historic Brown v. Board decision.

Open to all high school students, the essay should be about a civil rights figure who has made an impression or impact on the student. Students are free to select a past or current civil rights leader from across the country whose work embodies the fight for equality and justice.

Two winners will be selected from the submissions and each winner will receive two tickets (value $300) to the 2019 Blue Commonwealth Gala, as well as having their essays published in our weekly e-newsletter, the Demo Memo, and on the Democratic Party of Virginia’s website.

Contest Details

Submission Deadline: May 15, 2019 at 5 PM

Essay Length: 500–1000 words

Essay Submission: submissons@vademocrats.org

Questions? Please contact Nick Scott at (804) 335–0971 or nick@vademocrats.org

Upcoming: Rural Retreat May 3–5 in Roanoke

Get ready for Rural Retreat 2019 with great speakers and discussions focusing on ‘Strong Committees for a Stronger Virginia’ May 3–5 in Roanoke, VA at the newly remodeled Holiday Inn Roanoke — Valley View.

Open to Rural Dems, and those who understand the importance of Rural Dems in making Virginia even more Blue!

Get your tickets today here: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/rr19

$99 per person + Hotel

Click here for Hotel Room info.

Lamont Bagby: An agenda to build a more equal Virginia

EARLIER THIS YEAR, my friend and colleague Del. Jay Jones took to the floor of the Virginia House and gave a heartfelt statement about how racism impacts our commonwealth and our country today.

The speech gave words to the generations of struggle and hurt that define being black in America, particularly in the South.

It offered a personal understanding that the impacts of slavery, segregation and systemic discrimination aren’t relics of the past. They are being felt acutely in black families and communities at this very moment.

Jones’ speech and the controversy that prompted it inspired many white Virginians (including one who writes for this newspaper) to ask about tangible policy steps we can take to combat systemic racism and its impacts on our commonwealth.

That is the right question to ask. However, I hope the people asking can understand why so many black Virginians are frustrated that it took a scandal involving our governor and attorney general to begin a discussion on fixing problems that have plagued our communities for generations.

I felt prompted to write this column, on behalf of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, to answer those questions and advance this important conversation. Our membership and General Assembly members of all races come to Richmond every year with proposals to build a more equal and just Virginia. And every year, many of those proposals fail to advance.

I am hopeful that Virginians who come to this conversation take a fresh look at issues like educational inequality, unfair housing policy, criminal justice reform, health care and many others and decide that this is the moment to act.

Every member of the VLBC came to Richmond this year with legislation aiming to break down barriers to success for the communities we serve. Below is a sample of those ideas. These examples are not a comprehensive agenda for racial reconciliation, however passing them would represent substantial progress and improve life for every Virginian, especially Virginians of color.

• Raise the minimum wage, as proposed by Sen. Rosalyn Dance and many of our colleagues. The importance of raising the minimum wage is particularly striking for families and communities of color who have faced barriers such as under-resourced schools and discrimination in the job market.

• Make the Earned Income Tax Credit fully refundable, as included in the governor’s proposed budget. The EITC creates opportunity for low income families of all races by providing relief from taxes on food and other products. This proposal would provide an economic boost in struggling communities.

• Limit driver’s license suspensions to driving-related offenses, as proposed by Del. Cliff Hayes. There are a million Virginians whose licenses have been suspended partially or solely because of unpaid court fines and fees. And as the Legal Aid Justice Center has found, this particularly hits black Virginians who are stopped by the police more often and are, on average, less able to afford court costs: “Black people make up only 20 percent of Virginia’s population, but receive nearly half of the orders of suspension for unpaid court debt.”

• Increase support staff in Virginia’s public schools, as proposed by Del. Delores McQuinn and Sens. Dance and Jennifer McClellan. The suspension rate for black students was 3.8 times higher than for Hispanic and white students. Support staffers, such as school counselors, are crucial for proactively identifying student behavior challenges, and implementing evidence-based alternatives to school exclusion.

• Expand access to the ballot box by allowing Virginians to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. I proposed this legislation this year to eliminate unnecessary barriers to our democracy, which all too often affect minority communities and the elderly disproportionately.

It is important to remember that many of the challenges black communities face are the product of discriminatory policy decisions that leaders in Richmond made throughout our history. Solving those problems requires a new set of policy decisions and the courage of leaders from every walk of life and every part of Virginia to step forward together.

If we are serious about healing the damage caused by slavery and Jim Crow laws, we must respond with real, tangible action. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus is ready to build a better Virginia for all.

Del. Lamont Bagby represents the 74th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. He lives in Henrico County.

Howell, Surovell and Lopez column: Democrats continue their fight for quality health care for all…

By Janet Howell, Scott Surovell and Alfonso Lopez

Almost every day, we see national and local headlines that include some iteration of the words “debate over health care.” And while there are plenty of complexities to discuss, Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly hold a core belief that is not up for debate: Access to health care is critically important to Virginians’ quality of life and livelihoods and to our economy.

No Virginians should have to worry about how they will pay for life-saving medications, whether their emergency medical bills will bankrupt them or whether their condition is “serious” enough to warrant a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, we are still fighting for Virginians’ access to coverage as Republicans at the national and state level attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

Even before Medicaid expansion, the Affordable Care Act provided Virginians with much-needed relief, ensuring comprehensive essential health benefits, protections for pre-existing conditions and more affordable options. Still, some 800,000 Virginians lacked access to coverage. And while our governors and Virginia Democrats have pushed to expand Medicaid under the ACA every year since 2013, we were continually blocked by the Republican majorities in the General Assembly. Finally, after Democrats flipped 15 Republican-held seats in the House in 2017, we worked out a compromise with our Republican colleagues, and we took one of the most consequential votes of our lifetimes: expanding Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Virginians.

Yet, despite our historic success last year, the Trump administration and Virginia Republicans are continuing their assault on Virginians’ access to affordable, quality care. During this year’s assembly session, Republicans pushed through legislation to create health plans that would allow insurers to:

  • Charge higher premiums based on gender;
  • Exclude coverage of the essential health benefits required under the ACA, including prescription drugs, maternity, mental health and addiction treatment services; and
  • Offer family plans that would only cover up to three primary care visits a year, until a $15,800 deductible is paid.

Not only would the Republicans’ so-called “short-term limited duration plans” and “catastrophic health plans” strip the comprehensive coverage required by the ACA, but they would remove young, healthy people from the marketplace — increasing the cost of premiums for everyone else.

And just recently, President Trump announced that he wanted to see the entire ACA struck down — including the provisions that ensure coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, allow young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and provide access to contraception at no cost. Republican attacks on the ACA threaten access to coverage for hundreds of thousands of Virginians and would nullify the Medicaid expansion that Virginia Democrats fought so hard for — and that many Republicans in the House of Delegates and Senate eventually voted for. Yet, Virginia Republicans have chosen to be silent rather than oppose the Trump administration.

Fortunately, at the state level, our Democratic governor has rejected the General Assembly Republicans’ attempts to strip access to health coverage and allow insurance companies to charge Virginians higher premiums and deductibles. As Democratic legislative whips in the General Assembly, we promise to uphold the governor’s decision to protect access to affordable, quality care. And at the federal level, our attorney general is fighting the Trump administration’s attempts to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

In the “debate over health care,” Virginia Democrats continue to fight for access to affordable, quality and comprehensive coverage — no gimmicks.

Janet Howell serves as Democratic co-whip in the Senate of Virginia and represents the 32nd District. She can be reached at district32@senate.virginia.gov.

Scott Surovell serves as Democratic co-whip in the Senate of Virginia and represents the 36th District. He can be reached at district36@senate.virginia.gov.

Alfonso Lopez serves as Democratic co-whip in the Virginia House of Delegates and represents the 49th District. He can be reached at DelALopez@house.virginia.gov.

Upcoming Events

To get your event added to the DPVA website and the newsletter, email digital@vademocrats.org with event details!

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