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Analysis: Donations flood competitive races in election home stretch

Candidates for Senate Districts 10, 12 and 13 claimed over $1.5 million in fundraising in just 11 days, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The six candidates in these races continued to receive cash and in-kind — non-monetary — contributions of $1,000 or more each after Oct. 24, when the last fundraising report was filed. In the homestretch of the General Assembly election, candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

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By M. Quesada

Into the home stretch of the General Assembly election, candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Candidates for Senate Districts 10, 12 and 13 claimed over $1.5 million in fundraising in just 11 days, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The six candidates in these races continued to receive cash and in-kind — non-monetary — contributions of $1,000 or more each after Oct. 24, when the last fundraising report was filed. By law, General Assembly candidates must report last-minute donations over $1,000 by close of business each day up to the election.

Early donations allow campaigns to plan their strategy ahead, but donations closer to Election Day are also helpful, according to Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

“There are a lot of campaigns that are very well funded this cycle; there has been a lot of money put into these campaigns from both parties, typically when you compare to four years ago,” he said. “Probably, campaigns may have spent more money than they had raised already, hoping that they would get last minute donations.”

Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun, vying for the open seat in Senate District 13, raised the most among the six candidates after the October filing period. From Oct. 25 through Monday he received $465,978. His biggest benefactor was the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated three different times, for a sum of $410,000.

Republican candidate, Geary Higgins raised $436,499 in the final push. His biggest contribution came from incumbent Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg. Norment donated four different times to help Higgins raise $195,000 in cash.

The last push for District 13 elevated Bell’s fundraising to $2.5 million total, from July to Sunday. In the same time frame, Higgins raised over $1.5 million. He didn’t break the $2 million mark for 2019 fundraising, though he came close in the homestretch.

In the race for District 12, Democratic challenger, Debra Rodman, received $285,684 since Oct. 25. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus donated $100,000 to her campaign on Oct. 28 and $10,000 four days later. She received over $50,000 from Planned Parenthood Virginia, once in cash and twice through in-kind contributions.

Incumbent Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, received $116,521, less than half of what her challenger raised in the same time frame. The Republican State Leadership Committee donated $25,000 to her campaign, her largest influx in the final period, followed by a $20,000 donation from Dominion on Monday. Her only in-kind contribution came from The Cannabis Business Association of Virginia Board for over $1,500 on Oct. 29.

After the last push, Rodman totalled $2.6 million since July. Dunnavant collected $1.8 million in the same period, though she raised over $2 million total for all of 2019.

Incumbent Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, raised $105,000 from Oct. 25 through Sunday. Sturtevant received cash contributions only. Some of his biggest contributors included Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Dominion Energy. Both donated $20,000 on Oct. 28 and Nov. 2, respectively.

In the same time frame, opponent Ghazala Hashmi received $186,419. NextGen Climate Action and Everytown for Gun Safety made multiple in-kind contributions, but her biggest influx came in cash from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated $100,000 on Oct. 28 and $10,000 more four days later.

These contributions helped her collect $2.2 million in collections since July. In the same period, Sturtevant managed to raise $1.7 million, though he raised over $2 million total in 2019.

Del. Cheryl Turpin, D-Virginia Beach raised over $2 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 in her bid for Senate District 7. Turpin accumulated $308,148 since Oct. 25, for a total of $2.3 million raised in 2019. Her Republican opponent, Jennifer Kiggans raised over $1.3 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 and received $110,500 in her final push, for a total of almost $1.5 million.

With all 140 General Assembly seats up for re-election Tuesday, and Republicans holding both chambers by a slim majority, Democrats have dug in to win. The Democratic Party has made Districts 10, 12 and 13 priority pick-ups, Farnsworth said.

“Democratic and Republican donors are putting a lot of money in those two races because of how competitive they are,” he said. “With the narrow Republican majority, Republicans can’t afford to lose anything they currently hold.”

Farnsworth said the most competitive elections are in the suburbs and with so much on the line, donors for both parties are weighing in this cycle. “It could be a pivotal year for the future of Virginia politics,” he said.

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Senate advances bill allowing transgender people to change birth certificate

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.

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By Rodney Robinson

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.

Senate Bill 657 would allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect a change of sex, without the requirement of surgery. The individual seeking a new birth certificate also may list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change.

“I just think it’s important to try to make life easier for people without being discriminated [against] or bullied,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “Allowing an individual who is transgender to change their birth certificate without having to go through the full surgery allows them to live the life that they are due to have.”

The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a specific standard approach for an individual’s transition. Treatment could include any of the following: counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.

A similar process is required to obtain a passport after a change of sex, according to the State Department.

Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health vital records department, Boysko said.

Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents in situations like leasing apartments, opening a bank account or applying for jobs.

This is the third year that Boysko has introduced the bill. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee in previous years, but Boysko believes the bill has a better chance of becoming law this year.

“I believe that we have a more open and accepting General Assembly then we’ve had in the past, where people are more comfortable working with the LGBTQ community and have expressed more of an interest in addressing some of these long-overdue changes,” Boysko said.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality, said the organization is “really pleased that this bill is moving through.”

“This bill is really important for the transgender community,” Lamneck said. “Right now many transgendered people do not have identity documents … this is really problematic when people apply for jobs or try to open a bank account.”

There are 22 other states in America that have adopted legislation similar to this, including the District of Columbia, Boysko said. The senator said that “it’s time for Virginia to move forward and be the 23rd state.”

The Senate also passed Tuesday Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, along with bill outlawing conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age.

The bills now advance to the House, where they must pass before heading to the governor’s desk.

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Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic Opens

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From the Valentine:

Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic, a new exhibition opening on January 23, will feature oral histories and black-and-white photographic portraits, focusing on the personal stories of those affected by HIV/AIDS in Richmond.

Richmond’s rate of HIV infection, currently ranked 19thnationally, is exacerbated by high concentrations of poverty, lack of sex education in public schools and the continuing opioid epidemic. Despite years of medical and social progress, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS persist today.

While Americans on average have a one-in-99 chance of contracting HIV over the course of their lifetime, the odds for a gay black man are one in two. Black women have a rate of HIV infection 17.6 times that of white women. In fact, in Richmond, women make up a quarter of new HIV diagnoses.

Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera, both professors at the University of Richmond, collected 30 oral histories in an effort to put faces to these surprising statistics.

“The process has transformed our understanding not only of the epidemic, but more broadly of the way people can turn what one assumes to be a life-destroying event into an opportunity for making change,” said Herrera.“Many of the people we met lived lives charged with purpose—including, most urgently, to prevent others from becoming infected with the virus.”

“Most people outside of the public health community think that HIV is a disease that primarily affects gay, white men. We learned how far from the reality that is,” Browder continued. “The people represented in the exhibition include great-grandmothers, undocumented immigrants, college professors, church deacons and transgendered people. They include public health officials, HIV educators, medical providers, activists, and those who have lost loved ones to HIV.”

Local photographer Michael Simon produced the black-and-white portraits that communicate share the trials and triumphs of each person featured in Voices.

Rodney Lofton, August 2018 – Photographed by Michael Simon for the Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic

“These stories and these portraits are important to all of us,” said Simon. “These people are members of our community. They are friends and family and we need to remember that we are all in this fight together.”

 

“Featuring the powerful oral histories collected by Laura and Patricia and Michael’s phenomenal photography, we hope this exhibition contributes to an important ongoing discussion about the true impact of HIV/AIDS on the Richmond community,” Valentine Director Bill Martin said. 

 

In coordination with the exhibition opening, Nationz Foundation, a local non-profit providing education, information and programming related to HIV, will be conducting free on-site HIV testing noon to 4 p. m. on Thursday, January 23 at the Valentine.

 

“Nationz Foundation is excited to partner with the Valentine Museum during the Voices exhibit!” said Nationz Foundation Executive Director Zakia McKensey. “It is extremely important to get tested. Knowing your status is one sure way to prevent the spread of the infection. We will be on site providing Rapid HIV testing for free, so please stop by and get your results in 60 seconds.”

 

Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic will be on display through May 25, 2020.

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ReRunner Clothing Drive at Quirk

A chance to help others and declutter your closet all this week at Quirk.

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The good folks at Quirk Hotel (201 W Broad Street) are hosting a clothing drive this week.

From Jan. 20-26, people can drop off their gently used clothing and shoes to the Quirk hotel lobby, and they will get 10% discount at Maple & Pine and ReRunner. As an added bonus tonight Wednesday, January 22nd, from 4-6 pm there will be a Happy Hour at Quirk for people to drop off clothes, mingle and a portion of drinks will go to benefit Goodwill.

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