Nonprofit donates nearly $300,000 to 12 female candidates of color

By Imani Thaniel

Capital News Service

PETERSBURG, Va. — An advocacy group this week endorsed a dozen Democratic female candidates of color and donated a total of nearly $300,000 to their campaigns. 

The group Care in Action advocates for U.S. domestic workers, defined as people who work in other people’s homes. The nonprofit declined to share the specific amount each candidate received but said the money was distributed based on need.

“We are here to make a change right now, not in 10 years,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, Care in Action’s executive director. 

The group endorsed and donated to the following candidates: 

  • Jennifer McClellan, Richmond, facing Independent challenger Mark Lewis for the 9th District Senate seat.

  • Mamie Locke, Hampton, running uncontested for the 2nd District Senate seat.

  • Ghazala Hashmi, challenging incumbent Glen Sturtevant, R-Midlothian, for the 10th District Senate seat.

  • Lashrecse Aird, Petersburg, facing Independent challenger Larry Haake for the 63rd District House seat.

  • Hala Ayala, Prince William, facing Republican challenger Rich Anderson for the 51st District House seat.

  • Jennifer Carrol Foy, Prince William, facing Republican challenger Heather Mitchell for the 2nd District House seat.

  • Kelly Convirs-Fowler, Virginia Beach, facing Republican challenger Shannon Kane for the 21st District House seat.

  • Elizabeth Guzman, Prince William, facing Republican challenger D.J. Jordan for the 31st District House seat.

  • Marcia Price, Newport News, running uncontested for the 95th District House seat.

  • Kathy Tran, Fairfax, facing Republican challenger Steve Adragna for the 42nd District House seat.

  • Sheila Bynum-Coleman, challenging incumbent Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, for the 66th District House seat.

  • Darlene Lewis, challenging incumbent Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke, for the 8th District House seat.

Eight of the candidates receiving donations gathered Wednesday in Aird’s Petersburg campaign office to advocate for domestic workers and their families, and for their constituents. Care in Action said a majority of domestic workers in the U.S. are women of color who don’t make a living wage. These workers often are immigrants who lack access to health care or paid time off.

The group also spoke about encouraging more diversity in Virginia politics.

 Although women are the majority of Virginia’s population, they have yet to wrest control from an overwhelmingly male General Assembly. Currently, 37 women fill 140 of the state legislature seats; 27 in the House, 10 in the Senate. The 2017 House elections brought a previously unparalleled number of female candidates into office; among them the first Latina representatives, the first lesbian, the first transgender woman and the first Asian American woman. 

“We believe in the power and leadership of women of color to lead the way on these values and beliefs, especially black women,” said Alicia Garza, senior adviser at Care in Action and co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

McClellan, who has served in the General Assembly since 2006, said that if re-elected, she wants to focus on legislation to advance the needs of domestic workers and families.

“I want to work with them so they know their voices are heard,” McClellan said. 

She also said that often candidates focus on elections “and it becomes easy to just move on.”

Other candidates agreed that they want to improve the communities they serve. Aird said she’s interested in fighting for anything “directly aligned” to the community. 

“Making sure institutions of education in this area have access to financial aid and resources is one of the No. 1 things so that those who are concentrated in poverty can afford going to school,” she said. 

Aird also said she wants to bring more business to Petersburg. She wants to drive more money and resources to the city. Petersburg has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 5.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8% in August — one of the lowest in the nation. 

More than two dozen people attended the event, including a handful of students from Virginia State University. Erika Neal, student body president at VSU, said interacting with African American legislators at the event encouraged her to continue following her dreams of becoming governor of Virginia.  

“Watching all these beautiful women of color come together and fight for the same cause is more than satisfying,” Neal said. “Their inspiration is why I want to be a black woman leader in politics.”