In this week’s newsletter, I discuss Tuesday’s election results, reflect on my participation in the Early Childhood Policy Academy in Cambridge, provide an update on recent work with the Virginia Housing Commission, share a community engagement from this past week, and honor Veterans Day. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
Tuesday’s elections in Virginia were certainly intense. Not only are the results consequential for Virginians but also for the entire country, helping to decide which party gains the majority in the House of Representatives (this year, neither of Virginia’s two Senators were facing reelection). Long before November 8, pundits had declared that Virginia would be a bellwether for the nation, a sign of whether or not the ideologies of the far right had taken root in “purple” Virginia. The results indicated that Virginia’s voters remain moderate on most issues. Greater than the divides of party, the differences among rural, suburban, and urban voters seem most apparent. The concerns around abortion access and the threats of national- and state-driven abortion bans also most certainly played a role in most of the elections across the state.
On Election Day, I visited polling locations in Richmond City and Chesterfield County, to thank our dedicated poll workers and volunteers, our Election Officers, and most especially our voters. I saw many families bringing their children with them to vote, introducing our youngest citizens to the most essential responsibility that comes with citizenship. It was a gorgeous blue day in Virginia, as the autumn sunlight bounced off of golden trees.
Here in Central Virginia, we had three Congressional races that were hotly contested, especially because of the new district lines. I thank Josh Throneburg and Herb Jones for their hard work throughout the campaign season as they challenged incumbents in CD5 and CD1 (respectively). Both ran on positive messages of representing all Virginians, ensuring protections for Social Security and Medicare, and protecting women’s healthcare decisions. I am delighted that Congressman Donald McEachin returns to office to continue his representation of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. Over the past three years, my office has worked closely with his to respond to the needs of our shared constituents and constituencies.
Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors is adding a new face and voice to its table. I congratulate Mark Miller who won his election to represent the Midlothian District on the Board. A longtime resident of Midlothian and a mental health counselor, Mark brings a much-needed perspective to issues and concerns facing the district and county. Mark’s victory comes in the Special Election held to fill the seat recently vacated by Leslie Hayley.
I extend congratulations to all of the returning members of the Democratic Caucus of the Virginia delegation to the House of Representatives. Each member is an incredible public servant who continues to fight on behalf of Virginians. Their return to office ensures that Virginia will be well-represented on issues important to the Commonwealth: protections for our aging populations, women and minority communities, infrastructure improvements, support for Virginia’s large number of military members and their families, education, and so much more. I thank each of them for their continued service to Virginians.
Early Childhood Policy Academy
Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I attended The Hunt Institute’s Early Childhood Policy Academy – a convening of legislators, scholars, and subject area experts from across the nation – in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among the several outstanding presentations and discussions with which we engaged, the presentations by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child were among the most meaningful for me.
Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child has been on the forefront of research on the ways in which early childhood experiences and brain development shape and influence education outcomes, learning, and healthy social and emotional growth. This research demonstrates how absolutely vital those very first months of life are for healthy development as the brains of the youngest babies and toddlers establish essential neural connections for language acquisition, cognitive functions, emotional bonding with nurturing adults, and so much more. This brief video provides a glimpse at the critical need for supportive and responsive engagement with the tiniest of babies.
This research and other efforts in early childhood around the country highlight the critical need to ensure that infants and toddlers, 0-3, are given opportunities to thrive, grow, and learn in the complex ways that the human brain is designed to do. Focusing on early childhood helps us to ensure that children get the very best start in education and the chance to develop socially and emotionally.
As a legislative member of the Virginia Housing Commission, I serve on the Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Transitions Workgroup. The workgroup met again on Wednesday morning to continue the conversations around the housing crisis that has had tragic impacts on so many Virginians.
During yesterday’s meeting, we received a presentation from the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy on ways to address affordable housing needs through innovative partnerships, adjustments to zoning codes, expanded opportunities for faith organizations, and better integration of public and private efforts.
Another presentation highlighted how housing resources can be better supported through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) funds. CDFIs is a term that encompasses a variety of financial or lending organizations: community banks, credit unions, financing agencies providing microloans, and so forth. CDFIs primarily support opportunities for microbusinesses, startups, and minority communities. Expanding the flexibility of CDFIs to better support housing resources is another possible policy consideration for the workgroup.
The final presentation provided an overview of mobile, modular, and manufactured homes in Virginia. The manufactured homes industry has been dramatically transformed by the high quality, comparatively low cost, and flexible options that are now available. Reevaluating the financing structures and tax policies of manufactured housing is one of the policy considerations that the workgroup has the opportunity to explore.
Last night, I attended the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond’s Grand Event at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. The evening’s program highlighted powerful presentations that brought together laughter, reflection, spiritual contemplation, and social responsibility. The date of last night’s gathering – November 9 – coincided with the solemn anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass.” On November 9, 1938, the Nazi political party in Germany began its series of violent assaults against the German Jewish community. Synagogues were desecrated and burned; similarly, Jewish-owned businesses and homes were attacked and destroyed. Many members of the Jewish community were killed. The name Kristallnacht refers to the literal shards of broken glass left on the streets following these horrific attacks. The tragic events of Kristallnacht were the beginning of the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe.
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Tragically, Virginia’s recent history shows that we are still vulnerable to the social pathologies that led to the Holocaust. In August, 2017, many of us watched in horror as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and on the historic Grounds of the University of Virginia witnessed a violent gathering of white supremacists and self-declared Nazis carrying swastikas and chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Those days in August are a dark chapter in Virginia’s history, and we must confront the rise of anti-semitism and all other efforts to demonize vulnerable communities. Hate mongering is a destructive and demoralizing path, and its vicious rhetoric can ignite acts that sow the seeds of terrible violence.
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Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and we will honor the brave individuals who have served our country, both domestically and abroad. I will be attending the 66th Annual Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial in the morning. The event is free, and the public is invited to join the event.
In the afternoon, I will participate in the Chesterfield County Veterans Day Ceremony, sponsored by the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia (CHSV). Wreaths will be placed along the Veterans Memorial Wall in front of the historic courthouse.
Veterans Day reminds us to reflect on the dedication, sacrifices, and contributions of our service members and their loved ones, and to recommit ourselves to strengthening support systems and resources for service members and their families.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: