Q&A: Winning in Virginia
Swing Left Campaigns Manager
In her role as Campaigns Manager, Lottie Ash works with Swing Left's Political team to determine our target races, which districts will be most competitive, and manages relationships with campaign managers and state parties. Right now, she’s focused primarily on our efforts in Virginia.
How is Swing Left involved in Virginia this year?
As someone who’s from Virginia, I’m personally really excited to say that Swing Left is going to be supporting candidates in Virginia this year! Democrats secured the trifecta there in 2019, and have the opportunity to maintain this trifecta and send a message that Democrats are here, and here to stay. From a national perspective, this is an amazing opportunity to get involved and see that coming out of 2020, Democratic messaging is still strong. This is an opportunity for us to ensure that all of our momentum and volunteer efforts don’t just go away now that we’ve gotten Donald Trump out of office. There's so much more that we can do as a party, and so much more we can do to make real change.
Why is Virginia considered a bellwether state?
When we refer to bellwether states, we’re talking about state elections that give us an indication of how the upcoming national elections may play out. In 2016, Donald Trump was elected. But in 2017, Virginians stood up and showed up and said, "absolutely not, this does not represent our country, and this does not represent our state." Not only did we elect Democrats at the top of the ticket at the state level, we also elected a bunch of Democrats to the Virginia House of Delegates, significantly closing the margin in the state legislature that was held by Republicans at the time. Then in 2018, we saw the national Blue Wave.
Virginia canvass kickoff in 2019 with Del. Alex Askew, Del. Nancy Guy, former Del. Cheryl Turpin, and U.S. Senator Mark Warner.
What are some key issues you expect to see in Virginia this year?
Some of the hot topics on the campaign trail will be related to wins Democrats have had since 2019. One of the biggest is abolishing the death penalty, which made Virginia the first southern state to do so. A few other big issues for 2021 will be COVID-related topics like reopening schools, COVID relief, and vaccines. We also expect a big focus on abolishing the right to work in order to make unions stronger in Virginia.
How is Swing Left determining target districts in Virginia?
When we look at 2021 as compared to 2019, the overall strategy is actually pretty similar. We always take a data-driven approach to determining our target districts, and we focus on races that are very competitive, which is typically based on Democratic turnout from past cycles. One key difference between 2019 and 2021 is that our objective has changed: in 2019, we were focused on winning the Democratic trifecta, and now we’re protecting it. We’re really excited about the six target districts we’re rolling out now, and we expect to add more targets as we see how things play out throughout the year.
Where are the key districts in Virginia?
The most competitive districts in Virginia tend to be in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Virginia Beach/Norfolk regions. The six districts we’re starting out with all fall into these regions, predominantly in the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas. One of these candidates is Del. Alex Askew, a 2019 Swing Left alum, who is focused on COVID relief, health care access, affordable prescriptions drugs, and access to the COVID vaccine. We are also supporting Del. Josh Cole, another Swing Left alum who represents Northern Virginia and one of the youngest members of the Virginia General Assembly! Another candidate we’re supporting is Del. Nancy Guy, also a Swing Left alum who won by only 41 votes in 2019. To put that in perspective a little bit, 41 votes is about four hours of a volunteer’s time knocking on doors, or a few hours writing letters or phone banking. All of our volunteers’ grassroots work is incredibly important, and we’re really excited to be supporting both Del. Askew’s and Del. Guy’s reelection campaigns.
Del. Joshua Cole
Del. Nancy Guy
Del. Alex Askew
What about the gubernatorial race?
Something that's really exciting about 2021 is that the Virginia gubernatorial race will be the first for Swing Left. We’re making sure that we’re protecting the Democratic trifecta in Virginia, and focusing on the message coming out of the 2020 cycle, which is that Democratic priorities are really resonating with voters. As we build out our 2022 strategy, we’re looking at all levels of the ballot—including gubernatorial races—to see what races are going to be most competitive and how we can continue to secure Democratic power across the country so that Democrats can accomplish their policy agendas.
What does success in Virginia look like?
Success in Virginia looks like maintaining the Democratic trifecta. Since securing the trifecta in 2019, Democrats have accomplished some huge things like becoming the first southern state to abolish the death penalty and legalizing recreational marijuana. As we move forward, there are so many more things we can achieve so we can continue making lives better.
What’s the best way to get involved now? Is it too early?
It’s never too early! You can find more information at swingleft.org/virginia or check out these opportunities to support candidates, local organizations, or write letters to voters:
Donate to keep VA blue
We're raising early money now for key races so that we can deliver critical funds to eventual nominees when they need it most.
Support local orgs
Blueprint, Swing Left's platform for year-round political giving, makes it easy to support local orgs and candidates all in one place.
Write letters to voters
Writing letters to voters is one of the most effective ways to increase election turnout. Sign up for letter writing opportunities.