With the ERA Hanging in the Balance, Virginia Women Are Taking Charge

Virginia’s Network NoVA is putting together its 3rd annual Women’s Summit to ensure that VA women flip the House of Delegates in 2019.

The next time someone tries to laugh off the January 21, 2017 Women’s March as just an ineffective, self-indulgent demonstration by pink pussy-hatted women, just share Network NoVA’s story with them.

Because that’s the day when politics in Virginia – and other “red” states – began shifting toward the Democrats. And toward powerful women.

How 2017 got things going

It may not have been noticeable that January day, but it sure was eleven months later, when, as the Washington Post put it, a Democratic wave “wiped out the Republican majority in the state House of Delegates, throwing control of the chamber in play for the first time since 2000…Democrats snared at least 15 seats in an upset that stunned members of both parties and arrived with national implications.”

When a tied election was decided by a coin toss, the GOP managed to hold on by a thread to its control of the Virginia House of Delegates, while seeing its 66-34 majority whittled to just 51-49. But the underlying lesson was clear: when Democrats fight, Democrats win.

And, declared Katherine White, a member of Network NoVA and an organizer of its annual Women’s Summit, it all happened because Virginia women got organized and pushed the state’s Democratic Party to think bigger.

Following the Women’s March, White said, “we built a strong coalition…a group of women who are educated, career professionals and people who’d worked on campaigns before. We decided to build a new way to work on electoral politics.”

“All these women had stepped up to run,” even in purple and red Delegate districts, White added. “But there was no one to help them.” The state’s Democratic Party “had no ground game [in red districts]…the local infrastructure was weak.”

The tactic? Women in Virginia’s safely blue districts would “adopt a candidate” and “help them…with canvassing, door-knocking, texting…we knew we could leave our blue area and help with their ground game.”

“The party was looking at eight races to support. We said: ‘No. We’re focusing on all of them.’”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Organizing to win

To gear up for its 2017 electoral crusade, Network NoVA hosted its first annual Women’s Summit that June. The event successfully organized several hundred women across the state. “We took a lot of power back,” White said.

In June 2018, the second Women’s Summit attracted more than 800 Virginians, “and we flipped three U.S. House seats out of that energy” – turning a 7-4 GOP edge in the state’s delegation into 7-4 Democratic representation in Congress.

With its 2019 Women’s Summit – set for June 28-30 at the Hilton McLean in Tyson’s Corner, Va. – Network NoVA is working to take back even more power from the GOP in 2019 and 2020 elections, by fostering relationships with a growing number of issue organizations and the state’s Democratic Party.

Among the long list of speakers set to address conference sessions are former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia CD2 Congresswoman Elaine Luria, CD7 Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, CD8 Congressman Don Beyer, CD10 Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, Center for American Progress CEO Neera Tanden, Feminist Majority President Ellie Smeal, Nuns on the Bus’ Sister Simone Campbell, BADASS attorney Susan Burke, House Democratic Caucus Campaigns Director Megan Hondl, and a number of local and state Virginia Democratic officials.

The event, White explained, is structured to help Virginia grassroots activists meet 2019 candidates, learn from inspiring leaders; build fellowship; become energized by like-minded activists; learn about effective political leadership, political change, community engagement and political acumen; and prepare for 2020’s epic battle of the ballot box.

Summit sponsors include The Women Effect Action Fund, WinVA, Human Rights Campaign, Emily’s List, CROWDPAC, Nextgen Virginia, Run Everywhere, Postcards for Virginia and We Rise Together, as well as a number of the state’s elected Democratic Congress members and State Delegates. Those sponsorships, along with booth and event sponsorships, are helping to keep admission fees affordable for attendees, White said.

White and her fellow event organizers are an all-volunteer force. “No one is paid, and we work like hell…we just want to rally the grassroots into action and help Virginia Democrats win in 2019 and 2020.”

To sign up for the Network NoVA Women’s Summit, visit the website at https://networknova.org.

For a current event program, visit https://networknova.org/ws2019-program/

For a current speakers’ list, visit https://networknova.org/ws2019-speakers/

Blogger Marcy Miroff Rothenberg writes most often on politics and women’s issues. Her new book – Ms. Nice Guy Lost – Here’s How Women Can Win– offers a comprehensive summary of the attacks waged on American women’s rights and opportunities by Trump and the GOP since 2016 – and a to-do list for fighting back. It’s available from store.bookbaby.com and at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Goodreads.com.


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