The Diversity Declaration

Government of the People, by the People, and for the People

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Help Flip Virginia in 2019!

Our followers may remember that we were active in the Virginia state legislative elections in 2017 as part of a strong network of local grassroots groups. We succeeded in getting several amazing Diversity Declaration champions elected, many of them running in deep red districts! However, the Virginia legislature as a whole hung on to a very slim, one-vote margin in Republican hands.

We’re back and ready to elect even more great diversity champions in Virginia, as well as supporting the re-election of some of our amazing 2017 candidates. We’d like to introduce you to two NEW DD champions, and get you as excited as we are about supporting them!

Joshua Cole, in House District VA-28, was a 2017 Democratic candidate for District 28 of the Virginia House of Delegates. Josh is a longstanding ally to our fight for equity and inclusion. He serves on Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent’s Equity, Diversity and Opportunity Committee, and is the President of the Stafford County. Josh also recently received an endorsement from former Attorney General Eric Holder and his National Democratic Redistricting Committee and this endorsement is so appropriate. Josh lost his race in 2017 largely due to voting irregularities.

Our other new champion is Qasim Rashid in Senate District VA-28, overlapping Josh Cole’s House District and those of some of our other Prince William faves: Elizabeth Guzman, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala.  And just as they did in 2017, he’s seeking to flip a district that has been in Republican hands for a long time. Qasim is a longstanding human rights and civil rights activist, and has been an active representative of Virginia’s Muslim community, and champion for the rights of all religious minorities. He is also a longstanding activist on civil rights, immigration rights and women’s rights.

This is a great time to focus on Virginia. The Democratic share of seats in the Virginia House of Delegates is expected to increase due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 17, confirming new boundaries for 25 GOP-gerrymandered districts. Virginia is one of only four states with legislative elections in 2019.  All 140 seats in the House and Senate are on the ballot.   If each of us do just a little bit, we can get these great champions elected and help change the face not only of politics in Virginia but, as we build a diverse bench, the future politics of our country.

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Virginia on Our Minds

Outraged by the news this week?  We are, too- it felt like white nationalist week at the White House.  But don't just get mad- get active.  Time to end the white male landed gentry's control over public policy, and we are focused on the place where it all started:  Virginia.  

Virginia has a statewide election this year, on November 7.  We want to make sure that we turn state government every shape, size and color and elect candidates that represent an increasingly diverse state population, and that stand up for inclusive public policy that is good for everyone.

Several great candidates have endorsed the Diversity Declaration.  They will work for all of us.  So let's go to work for them!

Hala Ayala is our candidate for District 51, in Prince William county.  Hala is a wonderful part-Latino, part Middle Eastern single mom running against an ultra-conservative opponent who would roll back the clock on women's rights.  Hala is a great champion for women's rights, for immigrants and for working families.  You can read more about Hala and the great reasons to support her here!

Jennifer Foy is our District 2 candidate, a district which bridges Prince William and Stafford Counties.  Jennifer is used to breaking down barriers- she was one of the first women cadets at VMI!  A public defender with a firm commitment to equality for all, Jennifer is walking the walk when it comes to inclusion in her own campaign team, drawing on the terrific team at Inclusv.  Check out Jennifer's impressive bio here.

Danica Roem is our District 13 candidate, and we know she can turn this Prince William/Manassas Park district blue!  A former journalist, Danica is running against a notorious conservative, Bob Marshall.  Danica is a champion for equality of every kind, including economic equality - making sure all Virginians have fair wages and adequate health care.  Check out her fabulous endorsement from Human Rights Campaign here!  
 

Kathy Tran is our District 42 candidate, and she has every reason to be a champion for civil rights, and particularly immigrants' rights as a daughter of refugees. She has pledged to fight gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics, to make sure every Virginian's vote counts.  Find out about her positions here.

Virginia is our immediate focus, but we aim to engage and elect more diversity champions at every level of government, in every state.  We are an all-volunteer organization, and we will need lots more help in Virginia and beyond.  Follow us on Facebook for regular updates about candidates and on and actions that affect voting and civil rights.

Elections in Virginia:  Who Stands for All of Us?

Tomorrow, June 13, is Virginia's primary election.  While Diversity Matters does not provide candidate endorsements, we do track candidate statements and records, and will be sharing our assessments with you.  Today we focus on the primary candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.  

While we are non-partisan, there is a stark divide between the statements and actions of the Democratic and Republican candidates with respect to some very important recent events, including the neo-Nazi actions to protect Confederate statues in Charlottesville, and the anti-Muslim demonstrations (and counter-demonstrations) this past weekend.  Basically, Dems have staked out all the high ground on these issues.  Every one of the Democratic candidates has a stated policy position on civil rights; none of the Republicans do.  Republican candidates, sadly, are either openly embracing white nationalism, or trying hard not to get in the way of rising intolerance, at least for the primaries.  Perhaps the winners will espouse more tolerant views going into next year's general election, but let's not forget their silence around these recent events.

We're tracking statements by all the candidates on what they will do (or have done) to promote diversity and inclusion among their own staff and business partners, what they think the state government can do, and how they are responding to recent acts of hate speech in the state.

The Democrats:

Overall the Democratic candidates have stepped up to own the space when it comes to inclusion.  We reached out to both the gubernatorial candidates via social media, and Tom Periello replied to us.  Here is what he said:

"Virginia is proud of its diversity and I will fight to keep Virginia inclusive and undivided."  His "Inclusive Virginia" coalition engages more than 30 immigrant minority community organizations.  He hasn't been shy about taking a stand for immigrants and communities of color; his platform proudly notes that he joined protesters at Dulles airport when the original travel ban was issued in January 2017, and states he "will ensure Virginia is a firewall against Donald Trump’s hateful and bigoted agenda by championing anti-discrimination protections and commonsense policies, and taking any and every legal means to combat orders like the travel ban."

Although we heard nothing from Ralph Northram, his official platform contains a number of statements on specific policies he would support that would promote inclusion, including ending discrimination in criminal sentencing and in housing.  He opposes the travel ban.  He was cautious in his reaction to the Charlottesville protests, saying that local communities needed to make their own decisions about Confederate symbols.

As for the Lieutenant Governor candidates, Gene Rossi replied to us and was willing to get specific about our call to ensure that Virginia state government ensures diversity among its own staff and business partners.  He stated that he would insist on anti-discrimination practices in hiring and said he would "encourage and persuade companies that diversity is simply good business!"  We also note that of the Lt. Gov. candidates, Rossi's feed was the only one that mentioned his participation in LGBTI rights events this past weekend.

We didn't hear from Justin Fairfax or Susan Platt. Both candidates made strong statements about taking down the Confederate monuments and symbols.  Fairfax' statement was more detailed and personal, with specific commitments to the African American community:  "At the same time that we rightfully remove from our public square the indefensible and psychologically harmful physical monuments celebrating slavery, the Confederacy, and Jim Crow, we also must do the urgent, difficult, and serious policy work of removing the present-day vestiges of the same, including dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, closing the racial wealth and health gap . . . . increasing diversity among our judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, and continuing the fight against racial gerrymandering and voter suppression."

The Republicans:

For Governor:  Ed Gillespie has avoided engaging his rivals and taking a clear position on controversial issues such as the confederate memorials (like Northram, he said it should be a local decision).  He did reply to a Washington Post article this past weekend that accused him of taking support from an anti-Muslim activist, stating that he "does not condone hatred or discrimination under any circumstance or in any form." However, we make note that when it comes to women's rights, he has been endorsed by the National Right to Life committee.

Frank Wagner is the man in the middle.  A Washington Post article on the candidate positions on LGBTI rights noted Wagner's support for anti-discrimination measures in housing and employment.  He made a stop in the weekend campaign events at the Philippine cultural center to cultivate Asian-American voters.  He opposed removing the Confederate statue in Charlottesville, but refrained from making a strong statement, simply calling it 'political correctness run amok.'

Corey Stewart is the openly intolerant white nationalist.  His response to the spate of hate crimes suggest an aggressive anti-diversity agenda.  He fanned the flames of the Charlottesville protests, showing up to address the white nationalists and posting numerous provocative statements on social media intended to stir up a white nationalist base (i.e. "I will protect historical monuments from destruction and keep Virginia heritage intact.")  He supports the travel ban and has made 'cracking down' on illegal immigration an official plank of his policy platform.

And the Lieutenant Governor candidates on the Republican side:  Bryce Reeves was called out by the Washington Post for his openly anti-gay stance and rhetoric, contrasted with Jill Vogel, who has affirmed support for LGBTI rights.  However, Vogel opposes women's access to legal abortion.  Neither candidate seems to have any statements of support from Latino or African-American communities, nor is there much evidence of outreach to these constituencies, but Reeves has made some efforts to engage Asian-Americans.

Moving on to the general election for Virginia's state legislature:  Keep following us, as once the primaries are behind us we'll start taking a closer look at state legislative races and candidates for the general election this November.

We are a non-partisan initiative and will track Democratic, Republican and third party or independent candidates.