Richmond, VA — With early voting in the Democratic primary under way, DPVA Chair Susan Swecker penned an op-ed in the Roanoke Times today contrasting the two parties' approaches to primary elections this year. Virginia Republicans have decided to nominate candidates at a chaotic unassembled convention, allowing party insiders to choose the GOP's candidates. The convention process has drawn allegations of rigging, excluded Virginians, and attracted a group of extreme far-right candidates competing to out-Trump each other. With more Virginians than ever voting early in the Democratic primary, the difference between the parties couldn't be clearer.
See the full op-ed below:
Roanoke Times: Swecker: Early voting is starting, but only one party is letting Virginians vote
By DPVA Chair Susan Swecker
If there’s one thing Virginians can always count on, it’s another election coming right around the corner. With the start of early voting today, hundreds of thousands of Virginians will soon be casting their ballots to choose candidates in races for the House of Delegates, attorney general, lieutenant governor, and governor’s offices. In an unprecedented sign of how strong the Democratic Party has become in Virginia, we’re running a record number of candidates at every level. 97 out of 100 House of Delegates districts have a Democratic candidate, beating our record of 92 in 2019. And 15 Democrats are running for statewide office, up from 6 in 2017. In other words, enthusiasm is high, and we are organized for the months ahead.
But the shenanigans on the other side of the aisle tell a different story. Voters may notice that they’re unable to request a Republican ballot in this year’s statewide primaries. In fact, there are no Republican primary elections for statewide offices. Instead of letting voters choose their nominees, Republicans are holding a convention where only registered and approved party insiders will be able to vote.
Over 350,000 Republicans voted in the GOP primary in 2017, but just a small fraction of that will choose their statewide nominees this year. And while anyone can easily register to vote in the Democratic primary, registration for the Republican convention has been a byzantine process rife with corruption and cheating. For all their talk of “election integrity,” Virginia Republicans’ own process has drawn allegations of rigging and fraud.
For the Virginians voting in the Democratic primary, our party is offering an abundance of strong choices. While our candidates bring a wide range of views to the field, every Democrat running for office is focused on moving Virginia forward and building on the progress we’ve made over the last few years. Democrats are proposing exciting new plans to lower health care costs for Virginians, build our economy back stronger from the pandemic, reform our criminal justice system, invest in education, tackle climate change, and more. They’re running to represent all Virginians, and their messages are focused on policies they’ve championed to help working Virginians. Meanwhile, “health care” is completely absent from Republican gubernatorial candidates’ platforms.
Republican candidates are running campaigns that cater to the miniscule slice of hardcore party activists they need to win at their convention. Their races are contests to see who can do the best Donald Trump imitation, and who can take the most extreme positions that put them out of touch with everyday Virginians. The GOP gubernatorial candidates have attacked the American Rescue Plan - which helped speed up vaccinations in Virginia and delivered direct relief to working families and small businesses - with one calling it “absolutely insane.” And they’ve run more ads about stopping “cancel culture” than stopping COVID-19. It’s clear why they haven’t held a single public debate - their views are too extreme for our commonwealth. If they were any more to the far right they would be in the Atlantic Ocean.
Virginians have already seen the benefits of Democratic leadership. In fact, the early voting period that starts today is thanks to Democratic efforts to expand voting rights. With Democrats in charge, we have made historic investments in education, raised the minimum wage, expanded affordable health care to over 500,000 Virginians, passed landmark legislation to protect civil rights, and more. Democrats believe in democracy. We believe that voters - not a select group of party insiders - should be the ones choosing the leaders that will represent them. And we believe giving voters the chance to make their voices heard results in more effective leadership and better policies.
It’s a shame that only one party is letting voters have a say in this year’s primary elections. Our political system is stronger when more people - whether they’re Democrats, Independents, or Republicans - participate. Making sure our government works for the people is a core Democratic value, and I encourage Virginians to make their voices heard by voting in the June 8 primaries. As we move closer to Election Day, I can be confident that no matter who our Democratic nominees are, they’ll be ready to win because they have the support of Virginia voters.