Column: The People Have Spoken

After the elections last week, the “blue” state of Virginia suddenly turned “red.” Just look at a map of the Commonwealth with the cities and counties colored red if they voted Republican and blue if they voted Democratic, and the state is overwhelmingly red again. After the 2019 elections Democrats controlled the three statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general and the two houses of the General Assembly. After the elections last week Republicans will control all those offices with the exception of the State Senate as soon as the winners are sworn in in January.

Under blue Democratic leadership over the last two years the state made transformational progress on issues of ending discrimination, enacting gun safety legislation, protecting a woman’s right to choose, requiring a move to clean energy, ending the death penalty, easing access to the polls, and more. Will the change in political leadership in the state imperil these advances for which progressives took such pride, or will the state change direction or simply move at a much slower pace?

The people have spoken, but what message will those assuming leadership positions have heard? Virginia had the reputation during most of the 20th century of having very restrictive laws related to registering and voting. The Commonwealth now has the most open and accessible laws on registering and voting in the country. Will there be an effort to restrict voting under the guise of preventing unknown instances of fraud? Will there be a forensic audit of the 2020 election results in which President Biden carried the state by ten percent as one of the new governor’s advisers is quoted in the press as saying should happen? Does fraud in elections only occur when the other side wins?

What will happen with human rights in the new administration following one in which the rights of women, Blacks, and LGBTQ+ people have had such an emphasis with non-discrimination legislation and hate crime laws? Certainly we will not be re-erecting Confederate statutes, but will we under the guise of eliminating the imagined “Critical Race Theory” rewrite history to take away references to slavery and racial discrimination in the state?

Will charges of soft on crime stop or reverse the meaningful work that has been done to reform the criminal justice system to eliminate racial discrimination and to expand programs aimed at rehabilitation? Will we continue the effort to distinguish criminal behavior from mental health episodes?

As is often the case in a democratic republic, the message from the people is not always clear nor is there agreement on how that message is to be interpreted. The message is sent following millions of dollars having been spent and endless television and digital commercials having been run to convince the public of the correctness of the side one is on. Casting the vote is one step in the process of influencing government policy and actions. As the new administration unfolds and the General Assembly convenes there will be additional opportunities for the public to be heard. We must use these opportunities to be clear on the direction we want the Commonwealth to proceed.

Thank you to all who supported me in my re-election campaign. I look forward to hearing from you and being your voice in the legislature. I am honored to represent you! 

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