Weekly Recap | HRC launches largest-ever investment in VA, Trump to NRA: universal background checks off the table…

HRC Launches Largest-Ever Investment in Virginia to Elect Pro-Equality Majorities in Richmond (HRC)

HRC announced endorsements for 27 pro-equality candidates across Virginia.

In one of his first moves since taking the helm at the organization, HRC President Alphonso David made clear his commitment to electing new leadership to the House of Delegates and establishing pro-equality majorities in the Virginia legislature. HRC’s six-figure, 27-candidate investment marks the most endorsements and money invested in Virginia’s state legislative elections in HRC’s history. HRC’s endorsements also underscore our commitment to diversity; 7/9 Senate endorsements and 11/18 House endorsements are women; and 3/9 Senate endorsements and 7/18 House endorsements are people of color.

“HRC is proud to endorse these pro-equality champions who will be our partners in achieving long-overdue non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Virginia is at a turning point: voters are fed up with politicians who insist on playing politics with the lives of LGBTQ people. Virginians deserve leaders who will fight for them and bring people together, not pit us against each other. In the coming months, HRC will work tirelessly to turn out the 1.2 million Equality Voters in Virginia and elect new leadership in Richmond that will put the needs of Virginians ahead of the needs of special interests.”

The endorsements will mark the largest field, digital and direct mail program HRC has ever developed in the state of Virginia. From Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads, HRC field organizers will be deployed to mobilize 1.2 million Equality Voters across the state. In 2018, HRC used sophisticated analytics to identify and mobilize 57 million “Equality Voters” nationwide who prioritize LGBTQ-inclusive policies including marriage equality, equitable family law, and laws that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. HRC will be targeting these voters in the 27 districts where HRC has made an endorsement.

In 2019, despite support from a bi-partisan majority of delegates, Virginia Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo and other Republican leaders in the House of Delegates, refused to bring commonsense LGBTQ non-discrimination protections up for a vote in committee. The two bills, HB 2677 and HB 2067, would add crucial, commonsense nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians in housing and public employment, respectively. Similar bills have passed the Virginia Senate several years in a row, including this year, with bipartisan support.

“We as Virginians believe in treating others as they themselves want to be treated,” said Equality Virginia Deputy Director Vee Lamneck. “For the past six years, the Republican-controlled State Senate has passed legislation to protect LGBT people from discrimination. But despite strong support from within his own Republican caucus, House Speaker Kirk Cox has repeatedly killed a number of bills that would have ensured LGBT people were treated fairly and equitably under our laws including common-sense, bipartisan bills that would have provided nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Virginians. Virginia can’t afford to allow discrimination to continue in our commonwealth. We need new leadership that will truly represent Virginia’s values.”

According to recent polling, both measures have overwhelming support amongst Virginians, including a majority of Virginia Republicans. Over the past several elections, HRC has successfully elected pro-equality champions at every level of Virginia’s state government and will continue to engage in this important work in the weeks and months leading up to this November’s election.

HRC Endorsed Candidates

Virginia State Senate:

  • Del. Cheryl Turpin (SD-07)
  • Missy Cotter Smasal (SD-08)
  • Sen. Jennifer McClellan (SD-09)
  • Ghazala Hashmi (SD-10)
  • Amanda Pohl (SD-11)
  • Del. Debra Rodman (SD-12)
  • Del. John Bell (SD-13)
  • Amy Laufer (SD-17)
  • Sen. Adam Ebbin (SD-30)

Virginia House of Delegates:

  • Del. Wendy Gooditis (HD-10)
  • Del. Danica Roem (HD-13)
  • Joshua Cole (HD-28)
  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31)
  • Mavis Taintor (HD-33)
  • Dan Helmer (HD-40)
  • Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (HD-41)
  • Del. Mark Sickles (HD-43)
  • Del. Mark Levine (HD-45)
  • Del. Hala Ayala (HD-51)
  • Sheila Bynum-Coleman (HD-66)
  • Del. Dawn Adams (HD-68)
  • Clint Jenkins (HD-76)
  • Len Myers (HD-81)
  • Nancy Guy (HD-83)
  • Martha Mugler (HD-91)
  • Shelly Simonds (HD-94)
  • Phil Hernandez (HD-100)

Watch the press conference here.

Virginia Crime Commission Meets to Discuss Gun Violence Legislation (Roanoke Times)

[…]

Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt, boasted at a meeting with political activists in Roanoke County following the special session how Republicans devised a plan to “neutralize the conversation” until after the election.

“We came up with a strategy that would neutralize the issues he was trying to make campaign issues,” Head said of Northam. “We needed to make it go away.”

Republicans called the special session an election-year stunt to steer attention from Northam’s racist yearbook photo scandal. They said sending the legislation to the crime commission was a way to take a levelheaded approach to complex issues. Democrats called that a political stunt as well.

“Republicans abandoned their responsibilities and let down Virginians by quickly adjourning the special session on gun violence without considering any solutions,” Kathryn Gilley, spokeswoman for the House Democratic caucus, said in a statement. “We cannot keep waiting until after elections to talk about gun violence just to save Republicans from taking tough votes.”

Legislators have filed more than 70 bills, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, reinstating the state’s lapsed one-handgun-a-month law, mandatory minimum sentences for firearm offenses and the ability of localities to regulate firearms.

[…]

Read the full article here.

Trump tells NRA chief that universal background checks are off the table (Richmond Times Dispatch)

President Donald Trump talked Tuesday with National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre and assured him that universal background checks were off the table, according to several people familiar with the call.

Trump told LaPierre that the White House remained interested in proposals that would address weapons getting into the hands of the mentally ill, including the possibility of backing so-called “red flag” laws that would allow the police to temporarily confiscate guns from people who have been shown to be a danger to themselves or others.

Nonetheless, the president’s conversation with LaPierre, which was first reported by the Atlantic, further reduced hopes that major new gun-safety measures will be enacted after the latest round of mass shootings.

“I know the gun lobby is putting the full-court press on everyone surrounding the president,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who said he was hoping for a process to be set up this week to move forward on a bipartisan backgrounds check bill. “I have not received any different signal than I got last week,” he said.

But while the president was in Bedminster, New Jersey, last week, NRA officials repeatedly talked to him, according to people familiar with those conversations. It seems the conversations were effective, which may further fuel public anger on the topic.

“Every time he raises expectations, then he clearly and publicly walks away from the commitments he made, it makes the lives of Republicans more miserable,” Murphy said.

A spokesman for another Democratic senator advocating background checks, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he has not been told to stand down by the White House.

In the days after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Trump inspired hope among gun-control advocates by noting “there is a great appetite” for tightening background checks on people who buy firearms.

Federal legislation mandating background checks has been opposed by the NRA in the past. After the latest shootings, officials across the country called for expanding background checks to cover all gun buyers, including those making purchases at gun shows. With the NRA in some disarray following complaints of mismanagement, there was some hope among gun-control advocates that Trump might defy the politically powerful organization.

In the past, Trump has mocked lawmakers as fearful of the NRA, but he has also repeatedly lavished praise on the organization, whose political arm spent $30 million to help elect him. The president tweeted support for the NRA nearly a dozen times since early last year, most recently lamenting that “our great NRA” is a “victim of harassment” by the New York attorney general, which is investigating the tax-exempt group’s spending.

After hearing from NRA leaders over the past week, the president stopped talking about instituting such checks, emphasizing instead the need to keep guns away from people who are mentally disturbed. He noted in recent days that the country already has “very strong background checks,” a position that aligns with that of the NRA leadership.

Tuesday’s call with LaPierre, which was initiated by Trump, lasted 45 minutes and by the end of it, the two men had no disagreements, the people familiar with the call said. The president seemed more focused on funding for mental health programs and other topics of interest to the NRA, the people said.

For his part, LaPierre seemed pleased with his conversation with Trump, tweeting about it late Tuesday.

“I spoke to the president today,” he wrote. “We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies. President Trump is a strong 2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms!”

Searching for Hints About 2020, All Eyes Turn to a Reshaped Virginia (NY Times)

On a sweltering afternoon, Kirk Cox, the powerful Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, was chatting to voters and handing out free hot dogs at a campaign event when he was approached by a woman.

The two made small talk before the woman, Vanessa Wilkerson, 62, cautioned the conservative lawmaker that she hardly fit the profile of his typical supporter. “I’m a Democrat,” she said.

Mr. Cox might once have moved on, but, after decades of representing one of the safest Republican seats in the nation, he must vie for every vote this fall — even the unlikeliest ones.

Facing a Democratic opponent in a district with new boundaries, Mr. Cox has been campaigning with the ardor of a man who has everything to lose: He has spent the summer in khaki shorts and sneakers knocking on doors in unfamiliar neighborhoods. He has posted photos of himself on Twitter with a broad range of voters, rolled out a television ad featuring multicultural endorsers and distributed 1,500 American flags, his name attached.

“This almost goes back to my first race 30 years ago,” Mr. Cox said. “What I’m trying to do is to introduce myself.”

Virginia is the only state in the nation where partisan control of the Legislature is seen as up for grabs this fall, and that has brought an intense focus to what happens here, attracting interest and donations from the Koch brothers, the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, the National Rifle Association and Amazon, among others, and appearances by national figures including Vice President Mike Pence.

With political leaders searching for signs of what to expect from voters across the country in 2020, Virginia’s legislative elections are viewed as an early test case, both as a measure of Democratic momentum against Republican control and for what they may reveal about voters’ attitudes on policy issues and campaign messages.

Changes brought by shifting demographics and court-ordered redistricting have transformed Virginia’s legislative races, and the party that captures control of the State Capitol will get the added prize of having the power to redraw political maps in its favor during redistricting in 2021, potentially tilting state and congressional elections its way for the next decade.

Mr. Cox looked on as President Trump spoke in Williamsburg, Va., in July.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Republicans now hold a slim majority in the Virginia House of Delegates and the State Senate, and all 140 seats are on the ballot in November.

Control of the Legislature in Virginia has shifted fairly frequentlybetween the two parties during the past 30 years, and Republicans held on to leadership of the House of Delegates two years ago only after a race had to be decided by drawing a candidate’s name from a bowl.

Democrats say they can win back both chambers this fall. In recent years, Virginia has become more Democratic as suburbs around Washington, Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia’s so-called urban crescent, have grown and population declines have persisted in the state’s western, rural areas, which have traditionally been Republican.

Republicans say they can hold on to power by focusing on restricting access to abortions late in pregnancy and protecting gun rights in some areas of the state, while focusing on improving schools and cutting taxes in more moderate areas.

They have also reminded voters of a scandal that swirled around Democratic leaders this year.

Gov. Ralph Northam has struggled to recover politically after acknowledging that he appeared in a photograph either wearing blackface or dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan when he was a medical student in 1984. (Mr. Northam first admitted being in the photograph and then flatly denied it.) Two other Democrats, Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring, the attorney general, were also embroiled in scandal. Mr. Fairfax has denied allegations of sexual assault. Mr. Herring admitted to wearing blackface while in college.

Democratic Party leaders in Virginia, who have announced plans for what they describe as the state’s most expansive grass-roots campaign, say they will focus on setting new restrictions on guns, creating rules to outlaw housing and employment discriminationagainst L.G.B.T.Q. people and expanding environmental rules to combat climate change.

The candidates also plan to invoke the name of President Trump, who is unpopular in the state and lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“Candidates who are aligned with Donald Trump are going to pay for being aligned with Donald Trump,” Jake Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Virginia Democratic Party, said.

Sheila Bynum-Coleman, a Democrat who is running against Mr. Cox, left campaign materials at a home in North Chesterfield, Va., last month.CreditJason Andrew for The New York Times

Both parties also want desperately to control the redrawing of political maps, which will begin in 2021. The state’s legislative maps have been the focus of a legal fight, and federal courts ultimately threw out the last set of maps, ruling that it had been made with an illegal emphasis on the racial makeup of the electorate.

The courts imposed new maps drawn by a California political scientist, changing the makeup of a number of districts, perhaps none as dramatically as that of Mr. Cox, the Republican speaker.

So Mr. Cox finds himself running in a largely unfamiliar district in portions of Richmond and its suburbs. His district was once overwhelmingly white and Republican; now, it is more than one-third African-American, and Democrats outnumber Republicans.

With the election nearing, Republicans acknowledged that Mr. Cox, first elected in 1989, might be in trouble — and, more critically, that the party’s slim majorities might not survive.

“The House is still very much in play, but it is going to be tougher,” said John Findlay, the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, about the court-imposed maps.

The political differences between Mr. Cox and his Democratic opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, could hardly be more stark.

Ms. Bynum-Coleman, who is African-American, supports abortion rights, gun control and raising the state’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage; Mr. Cox, who is white, opposes all three.

Mr. Cox, 61, oversaw a special legislative session in July in which Republicans refused to consider gun legislation introduced by Democrats. The session lasted only about 90 minutes.

Ms. Bynum-Coleman speaking with Jeremy Levinson, her deputy campaign manager, while Rob Silverstein, her campaign manager, looked on.CreditJason Andrew for The New York Times

Ms. Bynum-Coleman, 47, has made gun restrictions a central tenet of her campaign, speaking often about how her daughter was wounded by gunfire at a party.

In recent months, there have been indications that Virginia’s liberal gun laws have become less popular after 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach in May.

Annette Skinner, a Democratic voter who was at Mr. Cox’s hot dog event in July, said she viewed gun control as a central issue in the coming election.

“People who can get a gun should be getting a background check,” she said.

Mr. Cox has stuck to what he describes as a “common-sense conservative agenda,” which he acknowledges has changed littleover the years. He has a 93 percent rating from the N.R.A.

If he has a slightly awkward campaigning style, and sometimes struggles to make small talk, it may be because he is out of practice.

In recent years, election results show, Mr. Cox had little need to campaign: In a 1995 election, he beat his Democratic opponent by 64 percentage points, and from 1997 to 2015 he ran unopposed. In 2017, he won by 27 points.

But now, his district — 63 percent Republican in 2011 — is 53 percent Democratic, and only about half of the 21 precincts that make up the new district are in neighborhoods he represented previously.

Dana Layne, a voter in the new district, said she tended to support Republicans and had been impressed by Mr. Cox’s efforts to win pay raises for teachers, though she wanted more job opportunities for local residents — including job training — in a district that includes areas that are urban, suburban and rural.

But Ms. Bynum-Coleman, Mr. Cox’s opponent, said the speaker was out of step in a district that includes far more African-Americans and Democrats than he represented in the past.

“Virginia,” she said, “has changed.”

In the Wake of Virginia Beach Shootings, GOP Va State Sen. Hopeful Geary Higgins Embraces NRA (American Ledger)

In the days following the deadly mass shooting on May 31, 2019 that took the lives of 12 people in Virginia Beach, State Senate Candidate Geary Higgins doubled down on his embrace of the gun lobby. Instead of disavowing his support of the National Rifle Association in the wake of the tragedy, Higgins continued to run ads on Facebook trumpeting the group’s endorsement.

Coincidentally, the NRA returned the favor just weeks later, spending nearly $6,000 to give Higgins the boost he needed to win the Republican primary to represent Virginia’s 13th District in the State Senate.

Higgins’ support from the NRA comes after a long-standing record of voting in lockstep with the powerful gun lobby’s interests during his time as Loudoun County Board Supervisor.

In June 2018, Higgins voted against a proposed ordinance in Loudoun County to study increasing the minimum distance that an individual must be away from an occupied structure or building in order to discharge a firearm.

The NRA strongly opposed this measure, and later praised Higgins for his vote, stating “Thank you to those NRA Members and Second Amendment supporters who attended and contacted the Board of Supervisors in opposition to this ordinance.”

Other gun control measures Higgins voted against during his tenure as Loudoun County Supervisor include researching increasing the prohibited distance from roadways that a firearm could be discharged and restricting hunting with a firearm within 100 yards of a public park or school.

In November, Higgins is seeking election to represent Virginia’s 13th District in the State Senate.

Nearly 100 Guests Joined Virginia Democrats at Pints on the Patio Happy Hour

We were thrilled to welcome Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and House of Delegates candidate Larry Barnett last Thursday for our Pints on the Patio event!

Nearly 100 guests joined us to sip summer drinks, eat delicious bites, and hear from the Congresswoman about the importance of this November’s election. The highlight of the evening was a live performance by Larry’s talented and esteemed band, the Blue Wave Trio.

A big thank you to our host, Stephanie Lynch, and to our sponsors, Dr. Susan Miller, Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, Adalyn Brugger, Steve Nash, Ashton Burton, and the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association!

LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia Equality Breakfast: September 21

New Merchandise Alert!

Just Launched: Take the Majority 2019 Website!

Visit takethemajority2019.org keeps you up to date with our program, introduces you to our team, and is your one stop shop to sign up to volunteer, find events, and donate!

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!

8/24 CD5 Annual Budget

8/24 Coffee With Sylvia

8/26 Postcard Get-Together

8/27 August PCDC Meeting

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

9/7 Northern Neck BLUE Crab Feast

9/11 September 2019 Hunter Mill Democrats Meeting

9/11 Hunter Mill Democrats Meeting

9/14 Arlington Dems — September Breakfast

9/21 LGBT Democrats of Virginia Equality Breakfast

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