The fall season brings beautifully colored leaves, wonderfully cool evenings and the ghosts and goblins of Halloween, but for me it also brings the jitters of the elections that occur the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every year in Virginia.
As one who has won many elections but has lost elections as well, the days and weeks leading up to Election Day can be nerve-racking. As well-planned as an election campaign might be, and as hard as the candidate and volunteers may have worked, outcomes are seldom certain. Last-minute attack ads or unrelated weather or news events can affect the outcome of elections.
An understandable question I often get is–why, without an opponent in this election, I would be nervous about it and would be campaigning so hard during the days and evenings leading up to it? There are several reasons.
The election season is the point in the year when the most people are paying attention to some of the issues on which I work throughout the year. It may be an old-fashioned idea, but I think campaigns are times when office-holders and office-seekers can have a dialogue about issues confronting the community and what should be done about them. Such discussions often get drowned out by all the trappings of campaigns like slogans, misleading brochures and commercials, and other distractions. My not having an opponent is not a choice of mine but should not keep me from having interaction with voters that I trust will leave all of us better informed. Not voting in the delegate race certainly is a choice voters have, but I seek votes as an affirmation of support for the work that I do.
I am also very active in political campaigns every year, whether I am on the ballot or not, because the outcomes of other campaigns are important to me. For example, this year it is critically important to me that Dr. Ralph Northam is elected Governor, Justin Fairfax is elected Lieutenant Governor, and Mark Herring is re-elected Attorney General. They share my values of supporting education, access to health care for all, common-sense gun safety laws to keep our neighbors safe, and ending discrimination in society. My efforts in the legislature can be enhanced or thwarted by those who occupy the executive branch positions.
The reality is that the outcomes of elections are determined by those who bother to vote. Presidential elections can get up to three-quarters of the voters to the polls, but state elections attract fewer than half of all voters. With the density of population in Northern Virginia, the large number of voters here can determine the statewide outcome. That is why I am working hard to help the get-out-the-vote campaigns that are now underway.
Above all, I get anxious this time of the year because I believe in democracy. Voting is one of the most critical ways we can respond to signs that some of our basic beliefs may be fraying. Let’s all participate in our democracy by voting this coming Tuesday, Nov. 7! Usual polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.