Hanover County Democratic Committee

Moving Hanover Forward


By James Doran

Back in December 2012, I had my first introduction to Hanover County politics. With the school board seat for my district coming up for appointment in 2013, I decided to reach out to the person that would be doing the appointing — Cold Harbor Supervisor Elton Wade. When I talked to Elton about throwing my hat in the ring, he was nice enough on the phone and agreed to meet with me after the holidays. 

That meeting never occurred. The reason it didn’t occur is that the next issue of the Mechanicsville Local featured a story about Norman Sulser and how he thought he had a  “handshake “ deal with Elton dating back 20 years and should be appointed to the school board as his reward. Elton said he didn’t remember making that agreement, but went with Norm’s word and appointed him in June 2013. As you might imagine, that experience left a sour taste in my mouth and made me wonder why Hanover appoints its school board members rather than elects them.

Roughly eight years later, I’m still convinced that an elected school board is in the best interest of the citizens of Hanover County. More importantly, I’m convinced that an elected school board is in the best interests of the 17,000 schoolchildren in Hanover. I ran for the Board of Supervisors seat in Cold Harbor in 2019 and one of the main reasons was that position currently appoints the school board member from our district. I’m not pushing for an elected school board with designs on running for it myself. I want the citizens in Hanover to have more of a say in who makes these decisions.

A brief history lesson on appointed school boards in Virginia, courtesy of the ACLU of Virginia. In a report dated in 2009, they stated:

Appointed school boards are part of the legacy of Virginia’s post-Reconstruction period, during which the state’s white leaders sought to limit the political influence of African Americans. It culminated in the infamous Constitutional Convention of 1901, which was devoted to codifying Jim Crow practices. At that well-documented gathering, Virginia’s leading statesmen amended the Constitution to require literacy tests and poll taxes and reinstituted felon disfranchisement. They also rejected attempts to allow elected school boards in Virginia.

Between 1918 and 1927, four separate state legislative studies concluded that appointed school boards should be abandoned in favor of elected school boards. But the General Assembly refused to follow the recommendations and continued to ban school board elections.

In 1947, the General Assembly finally capitulated to the wishes of Arlington County by passing a law permitting that one jurisdiction to elect its school board members. But even this refreshing turnabout had a distressing ending. In 1956, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Arlington’s school board voted to integrate the school system. The General Assembly reacted immediately by repealing the law allowing elected school boards in Arlington.

In 1987, the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on elected school boards as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU demonstrated that African Americans were significantly underrepresented in many of the jurisdictions with large African American populations.

The ACLU lost their case, but in the process exposed the shamefully racist philosophy that spawned appointed school boards in Virginia and then nurtured them for an additional 90 years.

Several years after the ACLU lawsuit, in 1992, the General Assembly finally voted to allow elected school boards. The bill was signed into law by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
Since jurisdictions were given the opportunity for elected school boards in 1992, 114 of the 135 localities in Virginia have made the switch. Hanover County is the largest school division that still appoints its school board members. It is also the only one in the entire Richmond region to do so.

Speaking specifically on policy issues that have come before the school board recently, the case for an elected board is made stronger. The first instance is the school board’s insistence on keeping the names of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson on the high school and middle school in the eastern part of the county. 

The board voted in 2018 to keep the names. One of the two board members that wanted to change the names (Marla Coleman) was not reappointed to her seat when it came up in 2019. Her vote was the reason Supervisor Sean Davis replaced her with George Sutton.

Later in 2018, the local chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the county to try and get the county to change the names. Rather than come to some sort of compromise with the NAACP, the school board decided to use county taxpayer dollars to fight the lawsuit. In early 2020, the lawsuit was dismissed by a like-minded judge and the NAACP was planning to appeal. 

During this time, there were two unplanned vacancies on the school board, and new appointments needed to be made. These two new members, as well as the members from the Ashland and Chickahominy districts, voted to finally change the names in a 4-3 vote. Promptly after the vote was taken, both supervisors that had appointed the new members expressed their displeasure in a public board meeting, wishing that the names had remained the same. That this was even an issue still being discussed in 2020 is a frustrating reality in Hanover.

Another issue that came before the school board in 2020 was the establishment of an equity policy. The equity community advisory board had done a great deal of work in coming up with the policy, incorporating language from similar policies around the commonwealth. When it came time to vote to adopt the policy, the school board struck out the most important section of the policy and replaced it with watered-down language. I’ll let you be the judge — here’s the section as it was planned by the equity board:

 “To that end, the division superintendent and all employees will create a barrier-free (positive) educational experience for all students, that accepts and acknowledges their individuality based on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, cognitive/physical/emotional abilities, English language fluency, gender religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and other personal characteristics."

And here’s what that section was changed to by the school board during a meeting:

 “To that end, the division superintendent and all employees will create a positive educational experience for all students. “
This change was done without any prior knowledge given to the public, without hearing any public comment on the change, and without any pushback from the school administration. I’ll never forget the defeated looks on the faces of those that had come to the meeting to advocate for the equity policy that they thought was going to be approved.

A recent survey conducted by the HDC asked our members if they favored an elected school board. Of those that responded to the question with a  “Yes “ or  “No,” 93% stated their preference for an elected board while 7% preferred appointed.

The process for getting a school board changed from appointed to elected seems simple but it will be a lot of work. We need to gather the signatures of 10% of registered voters in Hanover County by July 14. That’s 8,000 signatures based on this past year’s voter rolls. 

If we are successful in getting the necessary number of signatures, then the question  “Should Hanover County change its method of school board member assignment from appointed to elected?” will be on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. We have already received a commitment from over 60 volunteers that will be collecting signatures when and where they can, given the current state of the pandemic. 

We’re hopeful that by late spring, there will be the ability to gather many signatures at various events in the county. If you’d like to help, please let me know by emailing me at jpdoran1@yahoo.com or call/text 804-514-7297. 

Thanks for your time!

Two Lieutenant Governor Candidates Will Join Us in January

Our monthly meeting of the Hanover Democratic Committee will feature two candidates for the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination in 2021. The action starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Elizabeth Guzman is a social worker, a public administrator, and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 31st District, which includes portions of Fauquier and Prince William counties. Xavier Warren is an Arlington businessman who is running on a pro-jobs platform.

Each will have the floor at our virtual meeting for about 10-12 minutes, with Guzman going first, and then we will open up the session for questions and answers. Learn more about Delegate Guzman and Xavier Warren via their websites, so you'll be prepared when you log in to our January meeting.

Here's how:
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 856 9904 0716
Passcode: 890597

+1 301 715 8592 US

Live Streamed on YouTube

Shop with Democrats

The Hanover County Democratic Store is now up and running correctly. You can access the store here: https://www.bsnteamsports.com/shop/HanVADems.

.You may need to copy and paste it into your web browser. The T-shirts and sweatshirts will have the new Hanover Democratic logo across the middle of the front and the polos will have the logo on the top left of the chest. 

The store will be open till January 4. When the items come in, they will be hand-delivered to your front door. Place your orders soon. These are the lowest prices that the items will ever be.


The Men's Forum makes its triumphant return after a brief holiday hiatus. This month, we're joined by Ms. Caitlin Hodge, the Chickahominy Health District's Public Information Officer and COVID Response Team Leader, for the latest on COVID-19 in our area. 

Log into Zoom at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 27, to learn about the county's pandemic response and upcoming vaccine distribution. Ms. Hodge holds a Bachelor of Science in community health from Ithaca College, along with a Masters in Public Health from the University of Albany.  

The floor will open for questions following Ms. Hodge's presentation. To assure your question is responded to please forward your questions to Don Barth by January 20 who will forward them to Ms. Hodge.   

Our monthly Men's Forum informs, invigorates and connects Hanover's Democratic community and has long provided a candid way for Hanover Democrats to meet, talk politics, and hear interesting speakers in our predominantly Republican, but slowing turning Democratic county. 

We are grateful to be back to our regularly scheduled programming, despite the ongoing pandemic, and thank our members for their continued support. 

Join the Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85699040716?

Password: cGtvK0lwbkpZcjFmUUVSSONPZ0FXdz09 

Meeting ID:  856 9904 0716 
Passcode:  890597 
By Phone  +1 301 715 8592 US 

RSVP to Don Barth at donna.don@comcast.net, or call his cellphone or text 856.889.5905, or leave a message on his landline 804.299.3160

HCDC has a team store!

The Hanover County Democratic Committee apparel is now open! Find items that we've picked out specifically for our team. There is also spirit wear available for your family and friends. Check out the shop details below.

- Shop Now: https://www.bsnteamsports.com/shop/HanoverDem
- Store Open From November 23 - December 21, 2020

Items will be delivered to the house of Chair Daniel McGraw. We will then distribute them to the members. Get your orders in now! These are the lowest prices that they will ever be. The expected arrival of the items is from late January to early February.

PROBLEMS WITH YOUR EMAIL? a possible fix ...

Many of you on Comcast platforms have not been getting recent emails because Comcast has updated its mail server. It is blocking forwarded mail unless you contact your email postmaster. This affects you because we forward emails through HVAdems.com. We know this is going on because we're getting a ton of bouncebacks. As best we can tell, it appears that Comcast has increased their security to require e-mail addresses to be pre-approved.

Mary Laymen has created a quick video on “How to approve emails from a person or organization in Comcast." It is located at this link: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cYXv2XNnEw.

Please watch and review the video even if you do not use Comcast internet because other Internet providers are moving to new systems. This video shows a skill that is becoming an industry standard. Share this with friends.

Appointed School Board vs. Elected School Board?

We want to hear from you about whether you believe one version of the board is preferred to the other one. Currently, we have an appointed school board. Please take this two (2) question survey and let us know your thoughts. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QWM9J7D

we need your support!

There are two runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021, in the Georgia elections. Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff really need your support. This election is crucial to all of us and especially crucial to the success of the Biden administration. If we can win these two seats, we will break Mitch McConnell's chokehold on the Senate. Please go on Warnock's and Ossoff's websites and donate to their campaigns: https://warnockforgeorgia.com/ and https://electjon.com/

Hanover Democratic Women's Coffee Caucus

All Democratic and Like-Minded Women Are Welcome!  

We'll be starting off our ninth year of Hanover Democratic Women's Coffees in late January — still by Zoom, of course — so be looking for more information on the date soon.

While we celebrate the victories of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, it's time to look forward to 2021's Virginia government elections and the 2021 state legislature meeting, as well. There are many candidates to meet and issues to weigh in on. 

Our Coffees are great for energizing fellowship with other Democratic Women. Come to learn, come to talk. There's plenty of room for a really big group at these virtual Coffees, so everybody, please join us — and please encourage like-minded friends and neighbors to "zoom" with us, too. For more information contact Diane Neergaard at daneergaard@comcast.net or 804-304-1951. 

Our Coffee Caucus is a group of Democratic women of all ages who, in non-Covid -19 times, meet monthly, sometimes in the day and sometimes in the evening, at the homes of volunteer hostesses at different locations around the county for the pleasure of being with other Democratic women and to make bonds so we can better work together.  In this pandemic time, we are grateful to continue to meet by Zoom. We have no formal memberships or fees.