Weekly Recap | Commemoration of the First African Landing, Q3 Labor Council, New Low for Trump in Statewide Poll…

1619–2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing

The First African Landing Commemorative Weekend at Fort Monroe commemorated the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619.

Quarter 3 Labor Council

The DPVA held our 3rd Labor Council of 2019 on Monday at the IAM Captial Air Lodge 1759 in Herndon with special guest Jennifer Wexton! We were joined by 25 Union members from 10 Unions around the Commonwealth. The DPVA is proud to partner with our elected officials and Organized Labor to ensure a better and brighter future for Virginia!

DPVA Chair Susan Swecker attends kickoff in HD66

Tuesday night, DPVA Chair Susan Swecker kicked off a big event for Sheila Bynum-Coleman (HD66) with Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Attorney General Mark Herring. The momentum to #TakeTheMajority is strong in Chesterfield!

Trump Approval Hits New Low Among Virginians in Roanoke College Poll (Washington Post)

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Virginia Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-Fairfax) yells as he interrupts President Trump’s address July 30 in Jamestown during a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of representative democracy. Virginians disapprove of Trump’s job performance, according to a new poll. (Steve Helber/AP)

Virginians’ dislike of President Trump is growing, according to a new statewide poll that suggests the head winds Republicans could face in crucial legislative elections this fall.

A Roanoke College poll released Monday found that more than half of potential Virginia voters — 53 percent — said they disapproved of Trump’s performance, while 27 percent said they approved. That is a new low for Trump in the Roanoke poll, down from a peak approval rating of 38 percent of Virginia adults overall when the college polled in February.

The president has been a drag on Republicans in statewide elections since 2016. This year is especially significant because all 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the Nov. 5 ballot. Democrats hope to take control of the legislature, with Republicans defending razor-thin majorities of 20 to 19 in the Senate and 51 to 48 in the House of Delegates, with one vacancy in each chamber.

The president’s weak approval ratings didn’t stop the state’s top Republicans from heartily welcoming him to historic Jamestown last month, where he gave an address to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of representative democracy. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was the only high-ranking Democrat on the dais at the event, which was boycotted by the Legislative Black Caucus and some Democratic lawmakers.

The poll suggests that Democrats are not under a similar cloud from their own tainted party leadership. Gov. Ralph Northam, who faced a scandal in February over a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook, is not nearly as toxic as Trump: Northam scored 37 percent approval versus 29 percent disapproval among possible voters in the Roanoke College poll.

Northam’s approval rating is similar to the findings of a Virginia Commonwealth University poll in June, which showed that 37 percent approved of his performance while 28 percent disapproved.

The Roanoke College poll found that Democrats had a slight edge over Republicans — 36 percent to 31 percent — when potential voters were asked which party should control the state Senate, and a more significant advantage in the House, at 38 percent to 30 percent.

“While we are more than two months from the elections and generic ballots have limited utility, one would prefer their party to be ahead,” poll director Harry Wilson said in a news release. He added that while Trump’s low approval could help Democrats, “Republicans can benefit from lower turnout, which is typical in Virginia midterm elections.”

The poll asked respondents to rate issues in terms of importance and found that the economy came out on top with an average rating of about 9 on a 10-point scale, with 10 being most important. Education and health care were close behind.

The more inflammatory topics that each side has emphasized in recent months were not rated quite as high: Gun control scored about 8, and abortion policy was about 7.5.

The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College conducted the poll of 556 potential Virginia voters between Aug. 11 and Aug. 19. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Gun Debate Raises Stakes in Battle for Virginia Legislature (The Hill)

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A high-stakes state election in Virginia this year is set to get even more heated as both sides of the gun control debate pour money and resources to reshape an almost evenly split legislature in the wake of recent mass shootings across the country.

At the center of the upcoming battle is a set of comprehensive gun control bills, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, that failed to pass the legislature last month after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called for a special session following a Virginia Beach shooting that killed 12 people in May.

Democrats blame Republican leadership for abruptly ending the session, saying the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights groups swayed GOP legislators. But Republicans say they wanted more time to examine the policy proposals and accuse Democrats of using the Virginia Beach shooting as a political prop ahead of the election.

The proposed gun control reform is set to be considered in mid-November, just days after a Nov. 5 election that will determine who controls Virginia’s legislature next year.

Virginia has become increasingly blue, having voted twice for President Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. Both of its senators as well as its governor are Democrats.

But Republicans currently hold a 51–48 advantage over Democrats in the House of Delegates and a 20–19 majority in the state Senate. There is one vacancy in each chamber.

That has made legislative races a key battle for activists in both sides of the gun debate, especially on the heels of shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that have again shined attention to the issue.

Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledged to invest at least $2.5 million in Virginia before election day, spokeswoman Molly Corbett told The Hill.

And NextGen America, a Democratic political action committee founded by billionaire and 2020 presidential contender Tom Steyer, launched a six-figure digital ad campaign Thursday focussed on the Virginia state elections.

Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence political director Joanna Belanger said the group is also paying close attention to the Virginia races and is considering ramping up fundraising as well as bringing former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), who survived an assassination attempt in 2011.

“Things have come a long way in Virginia but I think after what we saw in July in the special session there’s a lot more work that needs to be done,” Belanger said. “And we all know it’s the backyard of the [National Rifle Association], and the NRA certainly has a stronghold on some of those districts, but we’re working hard with all the tools we have.”

But gun rights groups are equally motivated. The NRA said it will “fight with everything” it has to protect gun rights in its home state.

“Our message to politicians is simple: Instead of seeking to slam the door on the Constitution, we need to slam the door on violent criminals,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen added in a statement. “We need solutions that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals while also ensuring that Virginia’s honest, hard-working citizens have the ability to defend themselves.”

Gun control remains a divisive topic in Virginia, just like it is nationally. Rural areas remain largely conservative and strongholds for gun right advocates.

But the state’s diversifying suburbs have helped boost Democrats, electing moderates like freshman Rep. Jennifer Wexton who beat two-term Republican Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C, last year.

Gun control activists believe the battle for the legislature will be waged in these suburbs.

Everytown launched a digital ad campaign this week totaling $135,000 that is focused on suburbs, according to The Washington Post. The ads attack Republicans for not doing enough “to prevent gun deaths.”

It is a message being adopted by Democratic candidates taking on incumbent Republicans.

Giffords-endorsed candidate Sheila Bynum-Coleman is making gun law reform a key part of her platform as she takes on veteran state House Speaker Kirk Cox in a district that encompasses the southern suburb of Richmond.

Voters are already bringing it up as an issue they care about, she said in an interview with The Hill.

“I don’t care who I’m talking to, no matter who I’m talking to they’re saying, ‘Can you keep our streets safe?’ They’re concerned about the gun violence, even going to the grocery store people are concerned about their safety,” Bynum-Coleman said.

Bynum-Coleman knows that fear all too well. Three years ago she got a call no mother wants to receive — her daughter had been shot. A bullet went through her shoulder and grazed her chin, but Bynum-Coleman’s daughter survived.

“I’ve knocked on so many doors and I talk to people who are very Republican and I also speak to Democrats. I talk to everybody who I can reach, and no matter who I’m talking to, the majority of people say we want universal background checks,” she said. “Not to take away our guns, but let’s make sure the people who have them should have them.”

Bynum-Coleman blamed her opponent for bringing the debate on the gun bills, which included imposing a one handgun a month limit and a requirement to report lost or stolen firearms, to a halt last month.

She also accused Cox of only speaking with the NRA and other gun rights groups before calling off the session hours after it began.

Cox’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Republicans, however, plan to fight back, while accusing Democrats of politicizing the gun debate.

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, the chairman of a Republican-appointed crime commission tasked with evaluating potential measures in the aftermath of the Virginia Beach shooting, said Democrats were looking to distract from controversies surrounding Northam as well as Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Northam came under intense scrutiny earlier this year after his student page in his medical school yearbook included an image of a man in blackface accompanied by a man in Ku Klux Klan garb. Northam at first acknowledged being in the picture but later denied he was either of the two men.

Meanwhile, Fairfax has faced accusations of sexual assault, but has strongly denied the allegations.

“I think we owe the victims and their families of Virginia Beach more than to use them as props. I think we have an opportunity to look for bipartisan approaches that will make a difference, not approaches that are going to be brochure bills in political elections coming up or to divert attention to the scandals that have been dogging the governor and the executive branch during the year,” Obenshain told The Hill.

“I don’t want to politicize this I want to adopt real solutions that are going to make Virginia a safer place,” he said.

Chris Jones blocked Medicaid expansion for years, but now claims he “led the fight” to expand it (VA Dogwood)

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Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) spent years opposing Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Now, in a new advertisement, he is boasting that he “led the fight to expand Medicaid.”

Jones, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, was one of the key opponents of Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that the Commonwealth Institute estimated it would extend healthcare coverage to over a thousand of his constituents. The Washington Post even described him as “a leader in the fight against Medicaid expansion” as he worked to remove Medicaid expansion from the 2014 state budget.

Jones continued working to remove Medicaid expansion from the budget every year during former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration. He reversed his position in 2018 after Republicans — who ran on an anti-expansion platform — lost a staggering 15 seats in the House of Delegates during the 2017 General Assembly elections.

The Democratic Party of Virginia released a statement on Tuesday calling attention to Jones’ claims that he was a proponent of expansion and pointed out that his own website still featuresan article highlighting his fight against expansion.

DPVA Secretary Grant Fox criticized Jones’ flip-flop. “He spent years fighting tooth and nail to deny thousands of people in his community access to affordable health care and they know it. Now that his political career is at risk, he’s distorting his record on Medicaid expansion,” Fox said.

Canvassing across the Commonwealth

Don’t miss out on the fun — it’s never too late to get involved! Sign up to be a volunteer today!

LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia Equality Breakfast: September 21

DPVA Quarter 3 Happy Hour

Chat with fellow Democrats, make new friends, and celebrate what we’ve accomplished and the work that lies ahead! Quarter 3 will be taking place in Fredericksburg!

Upcoming Events

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

8/31 Roanoke City Democratic Committee Moonshine & Democrats

9/1 Annual Labor Day Dinner and Silent Auction

9/2 Powhatan Democratic Committee Parade Marchers

9/2 ADC’s Annual Labor Day Picnic

9/5 Richmond City Democratic Committee September Mtg

9/7 Northern Neck BLUE Crab Feast

9/10 Flip VA Blue! Event in San Francisco

9/11 September 2019 Hunter Mill Democrats Meeting

9/11 Hunter Mill Democrats Meeting

9/14 Arlington Dems — September Breakfast

9/15 11th CD ‘Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day’ event

9/20 DPVA Q3 Happy Hour in Fredericksburg

9/21 LGBT Democrats of Virginia Equality Breakfast

9/21 Westmoreland Democratic Committee Meeting

10/3 Richmond City Democratic Committee Monthly Meeting

10/5 Amelia County Democrats Annual Fish Fry

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