Monthly Two Cents

MY TWO CENTS: Reliance on a Fair Process is not Enough to Protect the Vote

By Chance Lee

The General Assembly has already proved itself a godsend. In just a few short weeks, we’ve seen the passage of the ERA, action on no-excuse absentee voting, and, despite fierce opposition, major movement on commonsense gun reform. More difficult, though, will be the conversation to address partisan gerrymandering. Some of our leaders in Richmond are confident they can craft a fair and durable process while still allowing the legislature to draw district lines. However, a new rulebook will never be enough to uphold free elections if lawmakers retain their grip on mapmaking. And as I wait for the gun control dustup to settle, it occurs to me that the latest specter of right-wing discontent illustrates why a sole focus on process, instead of the people responsible, for its execution is misplaced.

The lone Democratic voice on the Hanover Board of Supervisors, Faye Prichard, spoke with us in December. She described how hundreds of people nearly gave the county fire marshal a coronary by flooding the boardroom to demand the adoption of a gun sanctuary resolution. The measure was a vapid temper tantrum directed against the General Assembly, and it passed 5-1 to the surprise of no one. That the resolution’s intent to “… accept no efforts to change or diminish [gun] rights …” was, on paper, unenforceable hardly mattered.

The lesson to take from Supervisor Prichard’s experience, along with this entire gun debacle, is that process by itself has little consequence. The new legislative majority was less than a month old before our Republican-controlled board decided to flout new proposed rules.
More than 100 Virginia counties, cities, and towns similarly laughed off the Assembly’s electoral mandate. These resolutions have galvanized the ugly side of the right, and the powder keg that is the Capitol is a direct result of their contempt for norms.

Process won’t protect itself; that job rests solely with flesh and blood people. Unfortunately for most Virginians, localities across the Commonwealth aren’t interested in safeguarding the proposals of a duly elected majority, and if Facebook posts are any indicator, it’s a possibility our own Sheriff tacitly agrees. What recourse then does process alone have when those charged with the law are skeptical of it? We needn’t look further than the federal level to show us there is none. We’ve watched a venal presidential administration shrug off emoluments violations, break FEC rules, and skip through salacious scandal after scandal. With recent events in Congress, it’s clear any path to accountability ends in a brick wall unless the people in power choose otherwise. My hopes aren’t high knowing Washington’s senators.

Which brings me back to redistricting. A focus on the map-drawing alone mechanism, well-intentioned as it is, ignores the fundamental problem; lawmakers cannot be allowed a choice of voters. The temptation for dishonesty is ever-present. We need an entirely different body responsible for districting, ideally a professional, independent commission with as few political ties as possible. For now, we have a trustworthy Assembly and Governor’s office. The Attorney General, for instance, has enough integrity and simple acumen to recognize there is no legal basis for county gun sanctuaries, but we should understand that characters like Mark Herring are a temporary luxury at best. The next crop of state executives or class of legislators could very well be the sort of Republicans we can’t count on to preserve the processes Democrats put so much faith in. Any redistricting plan that fails to account for that possibility by resting power in the Assembly’s hands should be a non-starter.

We need your support

by Dan McGraw, HDC Chair

Please help us in any way you can. Without you, we have nothing. I have listened with great amazement from people like Gordon Silver and Toni Radler about the growth of the Hanover Democratic Committee. Although no youngster myself, I am a baby by comparison in terms of committee membership. I began attending meetings in 2015, when the committee was already significant in size. I watched it grow from 170 to over 300+. During that time, I heard about the times when there were just a handful of members.

And those members have kept this committee moving in the right direction. That is why we need your help. We must continue to expound upon the legacy of so many people who have given strength to Hanover Democrats like you and me. We need phone bankers, canvassers, logistics coordinators, social media specialists, financial donors, and people who can spread the message that “We are proud Democrats and we need more enthusiasts and activists and citizens yearning for a better America.”

Therefore, we need to get more Democrats elected in local, state, and national positions. We need you to do that with us. I was asked to share my vision as the newly elected chair to the Hanover Democratic Committee. My view is strength in numbers. More Democrats in PTA leadership positions, day-care volunteers, non-profits and local clubs, etc. The more involved you are in the community, the stronger our community will be.  I am proud of you.  As the message began, “Please help us in any way you can.” We are stronger in numbers and powerful beyond measure.

Invite your friends to join us. Tell your family to take a peek. Keep yourself involved. Let me know what I can do to encourage you and keep the light going. Taking on the role of the chair is an incredible task. I have already started to see the overwhelming number of hats Toni and those before her have had to wear. I am humbled by the feat, and I am up for the task. In 2019, we flipped the House and Senate. With your support, we have the opportunity to get even more Democrats elected.

I look forward to serving you.

Time to Face the 21st Century

by Robert Barnette

President, Hanover NAACP

The Hanover Branch of the NAACP sued the County School Board and Board of Supervisors in August, saying that Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School names violate the constitutional rights of black students and their families by making them feel unwelcome and creating an unequal learning environment. Specifically, the lawsuit claims; under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Compelled Speech claims under the First Amendment, and claims under the Equal Education Opportunity Act.

• The Equal Protection Clause protects African American members of the NAACP from being treated differently from others by Hanover County representatives.

• The First Amendment protects “free speech” but it also stops the government from forcing people to make statements they do not believe in—for example, wearing school uniforms or shirts that celebrate the Confederate soldiers and mascots.

• The Equal Education Opportunity Act requires schools to remove vestiges of segregation. The School Board has failed to do this since the 1960s when it chose Confederate names that told every African American student that s/he was not welcome in Hanover County.

The judge dismissed a motion by the School Board attorneys that the BOS did not have the authority to change the names of these two schools. Now the sole defendant of the NAACP’s lawsuit is the School Board. The School Board held a closed session meeting on November 22nd to consider resolving the lawsuit but chose to take no action.

The Hanover Branch of the NAACP held its November meeting on Tuesday, November 26th and the main topic of concern was to answer questions from the public concerning the litigation status. Kaitlin Banner and Azadeh Erfani, from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, were present and answered questions from the audience. Questions included; what are the next steps in the litigation process? What is the cost of the County’s attorney fees? Why did the judge dismiss the Board of Supervisors, when do you anticipate this lawsuit will be heard in court? And many other questions were asked.

Most people indicated that the Board of Supervisors should not have been dismissed because they appoint School Board representatives. Several people indicated that the cost figures for changing the name were inflated and not accurate due to other organizations such as the Band Boosters and PTAs contributing to the cost of purchasing uniforms and/or equipment.

It’s time Hanover begins thinking about what’s best for students facing the challenges of the 21st century, and not stay stuck in the past.

My Two Cents

By Ernest Mason

A few days ago, two scenes in a courtroom caught my attention. I quickly put one aside. The other I shall never forget, nor do I want to. After playing them over and over in my mind, I realize that each scene represents the atmosphere in America today. I write the following to put my thoughts into focus, and I hope these thoughts stimulate your thinking. I feel certain that a dramatic moment touched each of you.

Scene One takes place in the courtroom. An 18-year-old man addresses the young woman who has just been sentenced for shooting his brother. In clear terms, he expresses his feelings for her. He closes by telling her that he forgives her. Then he does the unthinkable and asks the judge if he may hug the prisoner. A more poignant scene has not occurred in America in quite some time. It is a scene of great beauty. The judge is so moved that she speaks to the young woman, gives her a Bible and hugs her. The woman is led away to jail for 10 years.

Scene Two takes place outside the courthouse. A crowd has gathered. Television shows people yelling, screaming and calling for more jail time.

I hope you will bear with me as I react to Scene One and let Scene Two speak for itself. I take no political stand and do not judge. I simply want you to see the real drama in Scene One, and what it says to each of us and to a political party.

That young man freed himself. He delivered himself from hate and opened the door to move on without a burden of hate or fear. He lifted a burden off his shoulders which would have haunted him for the remainder of his life. His gracious action also lifted a great burden off the young woman’s mind and outlook. No artist can produce a more beautiful picture.

America is in crisis. That needs no explanation. It needs a good dose of love, care, and healing. Therein comes the lesson. It compels us as individuals and as the Hanover County Democratic Committee to say to America, “We love you, and even with all your faults, we forgive you.”

Then we as individuals and collectively join hands and give our country a great big hug to assure her of our love. We stand together in support of her healing. We squeeze her tightly signaling that strength comes when we are linked together. Finally, we promise her that we will do everything we possibly can as individuals and as members of the Hanover County Democratic Committee to revive America’s spirit. As each of us does his or her part to revive America, she will become really great and proud again.

Sound simplistic? Remember the impact of one young man: “I forgive” — then a hug.

(Every month, the HDC newsletter features a Two Cents Column. This month, we are sharing the Two Cents of our two House Candidates: Morgan Goodman from the 55th District, and Kevin Washington from the 97th District. These are two great exciting candidates. We think you’ll like their Two Cents.)

Winning your Race

By Kevin Washington

I am pleased and truly honored to have the opportunity to represent you as your candidate for delegate for the 97th District. During the past few months, I have been able to meet residents from all walks of life, various professions, diverse ethnicities, and a wide range of socioeconomic status.

This election is about providing these many people a voice. Protecting Virginians with common-sense gun legislation, funding early childhood education, providing access to rural broadband facilities and so much more is on the line this November.

The 97th District, which encompasses much of Hanover east of U.S. 301, is an area ripe for change. It might seem to some as an opportunity of a lifetime, but an opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity. At a time when the opposition is looking to silence your voice and disenfranchise voters, you must fight harder than ever. With the 30-day mark quickly approaching, we must be diligent and determined to create an environment where everyone is valued.

This is your race! This is your chance to effect change. This is your chance to have your voices heard. This is your chance for both equity and equality. I have committed to fighting as hard as I can, and I am determined to leave it all on the field! Together, as a team, we will win.

It will absolutely take each and every one of us running this race together. November 5 is about your voice being heard. It is about having a representative in the General Assembly who will be an extension of you. We are in the final leg of this race. Do not weary or grow tired. Call someone and tell them to stay motivated. Pick up someone up and take them canvassing. Get a couple of friends together and phone bank. You have exactly what it takes to win your race. You are exactly what the 97th District needs. You are the change that everyone has so patiently been waiting for. This election is about winning your race.

Team, I am calling the play: From now until November 5, commit to telling five people every day that Kevin Washington is running for House of Delegates in the 97th District. When you are at work, a church, a gas station, a grocery store, a fast-food joint — everywhere you go — explain why you are voting and encourage them to do the same. Just find five people a day and tell them. Tell them why this is their race. Run YOUR RACE and watch the amazing results.

Proud Democrat

by Morgan Goodman

Somebody asked me the other day when I knew I was a Democrat, and I will admit that I didn’t have an “aha” moment about that. It has always been the party that my belief system lined up with. My moral compass has pointed me to the party that wants to help people, regardless of their gender, race, religion, nationality, or who they love. I am proud to be a Democrat. I am proud to fight for environmental protection, equal rights, and an economy that works for everyone, not just an elite few. And I am proud to run for House of Delegates as a Democrat in a “red” district.

With everything that has been happening in the news, including the Republican call for citizens who aren’t happy to just leave the country, I did have an “aha” moment that came to mind. I remember the moment I decided that it was more important to stand up and fight for the change you believe in than to give up because you don’t like the way things are.

I was in college and having a conversation with another student, a friend of mine, who wasn’t happy about the state of the government and the degradation of our environment and trampling of our human rights. He said he wanted to move to Europe after college to get away from a system that he believed too broken to fix. And that’s when it happened, at that moment I realized that I didn’t have it in me to turn my back on the problems we faced, but stand up and fight to make this country better.

Criticizing the United States and acknowledging the problems we face does not make us un-American and it does not mean we love this country less. I am running for office because I love where I live AND because I think it could be better. I love the school my kids go to and all of the staff, but I also know that teachers deserve fair pay and the school infrastructure needs investment. Virginia has always been my home and I love it, but it isn’t perfect. We have a long way to go towards equal rights, a fair electoral system, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and so many other issues that voters tell me at their doors. That’s why I am running for office, because I love this commonwealth and I love this country, and I want to make it a better place. We need legislators that will listen, and if they are out of touch then they need to be out of office.

Don’t listen to the calls saying you should leave if you aren’t happy with the status quo. If you don’t feel represented and you don’t like the way things are then stand up, speak up, and show up on Election Day.