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Why I’m Running For State Senate

My life’s bucket list did not include running for office…until November 9, 2016. The ugly and divisive presidential campaign, and especially the result transformed me forever. Protests and marches are wonderful, but that’s not what I wanted to do. If I wanted change to happen, then I had to be part of that change by running for office.
So in March 2017, I decided to run for the Democratic nomination for House of Delegates seat in the 30th District. The District includes all of Madison and Orange Counties, and the southern half of Culpeper County. I lost to Ben Hixon at the District Convention in April by one vote.
Immediately after I lost, I was recruited to run for the Madison County Board of Supervisors. In the heat of the moment, I said yes. In the midst of getting names on my petition to get on the ballot, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this? Is it what I really want to do?” It wasn’t.
I had already registered for Candidate Training with the House Democratic Caucus. I went, and while I was there, decided I really should run for the State Senate.
The Republican incumbent, Emmett Hanger of Augusta County, has had that Senate seat since 1996 and before that, was in the House of Delegates. The last time he had a Democratic challenger was in 2007, before redistricting in 2011. Because of gerrymandering, he was drawn a “safe” district. He is Senate Finance Co-Chair, a budget conferree and Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance subcommittee.
Sen. Hanger is the only Republican who supports some form of Medicaid expansion. That’s why some Democrats don’t want to challenge him, but he votes with his Republican colleagues on just about everything else. But Sen. Hanger says this on his website,
“I don’t support a straight expansion of Medicaid. What I do support is a broad-based reform of our healthcare delivery system and a private option insurance plan to provide a more economical way for the uninsured (mostly the working poor, many veterans, and some disabled citizens) to get care rather than showing up at an emergency room.”
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“If You Get Sick, Please Die Quickly”*

(From April 9, 2017 when I was running for the Democratic nomination for House of Delegates)

That’s a pretty blunt statement, but that’s what the Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates told over 460,000 people when they once again voted against Medicaid expansion on April 5.

According to the Competitive Commonwealth Fund, Delegate Nick Freitas (who I will run against in the 30th District), said “no thanks” to over $21.5 million and 355 jobs for his constituents.
Let’s look at some numbers from healthinsurance.org.
968,666 are covered by Medicaid and CHIP as of June 2016
462,000 additional who could be covered
131,000 have no realistic access to health insurance without Medicaid expansion
$14.7 billion is going elsewhere over the next 10 years
More than 1,000 people in Virginia died from opioid overdoses in 2015. Those lives could have been saved if Medicaid was expanded.
The General Assembly Republicans always believed that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed once there was a Republican President and Congress. If they limited the amount the people who benefited from the ACA, there would be less political damage to them if the rug got pulled out. When the American Health Care Act was pulled by the House of Representatives Republican leadership because it didn’t have the votes, the General Assembly Republicans lost that argument.

Republicans believe that nobody has the right to medical care or anything beyond what they are willing to spend and can afford to pay. Yes, you can always go to the emergency room, but by the time you do, your illness may be advanced enough that it requires expensive treatment. And everyone else paying for health insurance gets to pay for that with higher premiums. With more people covered by Medicaid expansion, those increases in premiums would be a lot less.

If you get cancer and you can’t afford treatment, the Republican response is die quickly.

I responded to a Facebook post a few weeks ago that said, “Health care is for people who get off their asses and work everyday.” My question was, “If people get off their asses, work everyday and still can’t afford health care, then they don’t deserve it?” No response back.

I sincerely hope that person never faces a health crisis.

*Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) in 2009
“The Republicans’ health care plan for America: ‘Don’t get sick.’ That’s right — don’t get sick. If you have insurance, don’t get sick; if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick — just don’t get sick! That’s what the Republicans have in mind for you, America. That’s the Republicans’ health care plan. But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn’t always going to work — it’s not a foolproof plan. So the Republicans have a backup plan, in case you do get sick. If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: ‘Die quickly.’ That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.”

Disabled Kids Aren’t Criminals

(From April 24, 2017 when I was running for the Democratic nomination for House of Delegates)

The Washington Post story published Friday about John Benjamin Haywood, a 10-year-old Florida boy with autism, whose arrest video was filmed by his mother and went viral, really hit me hard.
In 1999, my then 14-year-old older son with bipolar disorder was attending one of Fairfax County’s high schools for emotionally disabled students. He got into a fight with another student over Pokémon cards. A male counselor stepped in to separate them. As my son was reaching for the other student, he hit the counselor. When I was reached by phone by school staff, I was informed not only that my son was being suspended from school for five school days, the school was filing assault charges against him for hitting the counselor.
My son’s therapist and I met with school officials and the resource officer. We were unable to convince them to drop the assault charge. My husband and I now had to find a lawyer to defend our son in Juvenile Court. Fortunately, we found one who specialized in educational issues. Our lawyer also put us in contact with an educational consultant who became another strong advocate for our son’s educational rights as a disabled student for the next three years. He pled guilty and received 12 months probation. His probation officer, thankfully, had many years experience dealing with emotionally disabled kids.
Virginia leads the nation in school based referrals to law enforcement. It is three times the national average. According to the Virginia Education Association, in 2014-2015, public schools issued 123,107 short term suspensions and 388 expulsions to approximately 70,000 students. Over one-fifth of suspended students were in pre-K through 5th grade. Male students, African-American students and students with disabilities made 51.5 percent, 23 percent and 12.3 percent respectively of the total school population, but they received 72.9 percent, 57.5 percent, and 27.4 percent of suspensions and expulsions, respectively.
This has got to stop!
Voices for Virginia’s Children posted on their website in late February that two bills crafted by the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center did not pass this session. SB995 would have redefined long term suspension from 11-365 school days to 11-60 school days and exceptions for certain school-based offenses. It was defeated in the House on a 39-56 vote. SB997 would have allowed for suspension up to 10 school days for children pre-K to 3rd grade and granted exemptions to suspend longer for 260g offenses defined in the Code of Virginia. This bill was defeated in the House on a 46-50 vote. Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) who currently holds the 30th District seat, voted no on both bills.
Del. Freitas wants to keep things the way they are. I’m running for the House of Delegates in the 30th District to work with state officials, educators, parents and their children to come up with common sense solutions to help these kids succeed in school and not be labeled as troublemakers. We need to end Virginia’s school to prison pipeline now.