Finding Unity in the 12th Senate District

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Pictured above: 12th district incumbent, Siobhan Dunnavant (R)

By Laura Pho

(This is a guest post from Laura, her opinions do not represent the opinions of R2D)

I want to weigh in on the current situation with the State Senate 12th District race with encompasses most of Henrico & part of Hanover.

The picture above this is of my endorsement of Veena Gupta Lothe who is a Democrat running in the 12th district against Siobhan Dunnavant (who must be replaced, but this isn’t about that). Veena is a community leader, an Ivy-League educated immigration and union-side labor attorney, and a mother who has raised two amazing, civically-engaged young adults. Veena and I forged a personal connection during the General Assembly session in 2017 when she was the only one to respond to my plea for help in advocating for a bill that would provide K-12 age-appropriate body safety education to children. Within 24 hours, Veena put me in touch with community and education advocates to help get the bill passed. As a sexual assault survivor and mother of two young children, I’ll always be grateful to Veena for her guidance and support with an issue so close to my heart. She’s been campaigning for a year for the 12th district senate race and her help with this bill is an example of how involved with and caring she is about her community. I was the first private citizen to publicly endorse Veena’s campaign shortly after the November elections. To be clear, I asked her if she’d like my endorsement because I believe in her.

This picture is of me and my dear friend Debra Rodman outside the polls during the 2017 Democratic primary for the 73rd District House of Delegates seat. Debra went on to win the primary, then to beat an 18-year Republican incumbent & was part of the historic blue wave of delegates that year. I’ve been with her since the beginning of this journey–she announced her decision to run for the House from my couch. Again, on election day, I worked with Debra at the polls–she was in high spirits even in the rainy weather & in her element making instant connections with people even before she got close enough to shake their hands, seamlessly conversing between English and Spanish. Between polls, we stopped by a local cafe for quick takeout –while I ordered, I told her to have a moment to herself on the nearby couch. When I went to get her, she was sitting peacefully with tears streaming down her face, thinking about her father & feeling his support and pride even in his absence. Watching the election results that night in a room full of people who worked so hard for her, will always be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I got to know Debra’s heart during that campaign. The party did not back her campaign; they didn’t think she could win. It was grassroots, boots-on-the-ground, heart & grit that sealed that victory. And she’s done so much good since her 2017 election, including patroning the body-safety education bill during her first year in the House.

This week, there was an article about Debra considering entering the 12th district Senate race. To a lot of people, this seemed to come out of left field and they responded viscerally. It pained me to see this negativity thrown at my friend. I love her & her family. And I know some of the tremendous personal, financial & health sacrifices she and her family have made for her to run for office. There is no denying that she works tirelessly to represent the people of the 73rd. And even on her worst day, she loves everything about being a public servant. She is meant to do this. And if she decides to run for Senate or re-election in the House, I know she will be doing so for the right reasons.

With this in mind, I feel it’s important to say that I’m standing behind my endorsement for Veena. I’m staying this path because I believe in Veena. Veena has a strong grasp and deep understanding of issues including public education, reproductive rights, healthcare, gun violence prevention, etc. Veena’s quiet fortitude and moral compass are what center her. I know she will lead the 12th district towards a path of progress & equality.

I’m sharing this so I can move forward with what this is all about for me – working to get good people in office & reaching out to people to vote. Because one thing is for certain, we need to stay united to defeat Dunnavant. And having a robust primary (including, Marques Jones – another incredible candidate), will yield the most battle-tested and ready candidate to take on Dunnavant. And, it goes without saying, that I’ll work hard to get the primary winner over the finish line in November.

Virginians demonstrated the will for progress in 2017 by voting for Democrats in unprecedented numbers, let’s keep working to elect and re-elect people who share those same beliefs. Let’s flip the house and senate this November.

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