by Janet Nelson
In mid-August, at a Swing Blue Alliance Zoom meeting, many of us met the three women from rural Virginia whom we are supporting in our current postcard campaign. Jade Harris (candidate for VA Senate), along with Mary Person and Esther Nizer (running for the VA House of Delegates), each shared their professional histories in their districts. As women of color living, working, and now running for office in red, conservative, male-run districts, they are willing to work in a political climate that does not always welcome them. After the meeting, I wanted to know them even better.
For almost 100 years, Virginia Democrats dominated the state Legislature. That changed in 2000. Since then, while Democrats marginally hold the Senate, the House of Delegates continues to be Republican held. As Person told us, Virginia is a purple state, fighting in each election against conservative rule.
We are often asked to support candidates because of their party affiliation, but real Democracy is made by people we never know, or hear about. In our work over these past years, we have all learned that while national elections draw the most attention, those in state houses galvanize power. This is our opportunity to look more closely at what really fuels change in our country.
The Virginia candidates are engines of change and, if elected, they will work tirelessly to champion our democracy. They deserve our support.
So, who are these women?
Jade Harris, a 2020 college graduate, is a lifelong resident of the Shenandoah Valley. Her enslaved ancestors lived just miles from her home in Glasglow, Virginia. She was a teen community volunteer, and learned early that making change meant having people trust you. She was elected to the City Council, and was her town’s first Vice Mayor. Her race in this newly defined 3rd District has brought her to the cities she will represent. As a rural woman, she has embraced talking about the “urban/rural divide” and finding common needs among residents. Drug addiction has not been limited to either demographic, and is one of her areas of focus.
Mary Person, a native of Emporia, Virginia, has been an educator for 26 years. With a BS and MA in education, Person is now principal of Bellfield Elementary School. Person was the youngest of five children, and was taught at home to contribute to her community. She was a teen member of the NAACP. She has been on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club, Chair of the Greensville Social Services Board, elected to the City Council for eight years, and Mayor of Emporia. She is running for the House of Delegates for District 83 because she wants to create jobs. On the City Council, she helped foster a relationship between the city and county to develop a facility to train a skilled workforce. That state-of-the-art facility is nearing completion.
Esther Nizer, who attended a segregated school built by Booker T. Washington, is running for the House of Delegates, District 34. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees and recently retired from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, where she continues to serve as a Board member. At the age of 64, Nizer has chosen to challenge incumbent Tony Wilt, in office since 2010. With a three-seat majority, if Nizer and Person win, with our support and that of thousands of volunteers, they increase the potential for a Democratic majority. (Of 100 seats, at least 12 are open contests.)
As always, you have energized your postcard groups, and we have sold out of postcards for Jade Harris. Thank you! Our postcards for Mary Person will soon be on the Estore.
Let’s do our big reach to Virginia, and support three women who, without a great deal of financial backing, will benefit greatly from our volunteer efforts.
Thank you, all. We have work ahead, and you are the group that will make it successful.
Let’s lean in together!
Janet Nelson and the Swing Blue mailing team
Do not stand idly by – Elie Wiesel
Activism is the antidote to despair – Joan Baez