Gov. McAulliffe and supportersClose to 500 people gathered on the lawn behind the Pleasant Grove House on a cool, sunny fall Saturday (Sept. 30) to support Democratic candidates for the upcoming Nov. 7 election.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and other Virginia politicians urged the crowd to cast votes for local and statewide Democrats. Local candidates used the opportunity to ask for the crowd’s support.

Attendees at the Justice Jamboree and Crab Fest cracked fresh crabs, munched corn on the cob, and cheered as speaker after speaker drove home the pro-Democrat message.

“Virginia is the first state that gets to have an election in the Trump era,” said former Congressman Tom Perriello (D), who carried Fluvanna but lost the state in the June 13 governor primary. “Donald Trump’s election was a seismic step backwards for the ideas of justice and liberty for all.” Touching on the Aug. 12 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, he said, “We have an opportunity… We need to send a very strong signal on Nov. 7 that this is not Virginia.”

Justin Fairfax (D), candidate for lieutenant governor, said his running mate and gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam (D) released a program called G3 that could benefit Fluvanna residents. G3, which stands for get skilled, get a job and give back, would allow students to obtain two free years of community college.


“The student who then finishes a degree gets to do a year of service to the Commonwealth, either through public service or by going to an area where there’s a specific need for the skillset that they’ve developed. And then by doing that, they’ve paid for their college education,” Fairfax said. “Fluvanna students would definitely be able to participate.”

Pam Northam, wife of Ralph Northam, spoke on the importance of preschool education and of keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean.

Kellen Squire (D) is running against Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) to represent the 58th District in the General Assembly. Bell, who represents much of Fluvanna, hasn’t had a challenger since 2009.

“The best thing I want to offer Fluvanna County is stability in the Board of Supervisors by not passing unfunded mandates, then coming back here and bragging about all the stuff I passed and not having to raise taxes, and counting on the Board of Supervisors to do it for me,” said Squire. “That leaves counties like Fluvanna…in a huge lurch and leaves property owners to make up the difference, and that’s just unacceptable. I have a big, big beef with unfunded mandates. Either you pay for it or don’t pass it.”

Francis Stevens (D) is challenging Del. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan), who represents the other portion of Fluvanna in the 65th District and who last ran a contested race in 2013. Stevens explained what he intends to do for Fluvanna residents by sharing a personal story.

“I had a heart attack about a year and a half ago,” Stevens said. “I got thinking how lucky I am to have health insurance. What about those who don’t? Who do they turn to? Certainly not the Republicans. For the past four years they have denied Medicaid expansion to those who qualify for the health bill and that really bothers me. I think we need people who will think about those who are least fortunate and take care of their needs.”

Tony O’Brien, Rivanna District supervisor, asked his audience to reflect on the state of the county when he was elected four years ago – a state that he said was filled with budget pressures caused by the housing crash and the construction of several new public buildings, including the new high school, then exacerbated by a 2012 budget vote that slashed the expected tax rate.

“Today we have restored the majority of the funding for our schools and non-profit partners and added back in needed teaching and counseling positions,” O’Brien said, adding that the county has completed the E-911 radio system, cut the business tax rate, and is building a water system to Zion Crossroads. “It may come as no surprise that my opponent likes all of what has been accomplished but seems to believe our budget can magically be cut and retain the same results.”

Shirley Stewart, candidate for the Rivanna District seat on the School Board being vacated by Carol Carr, focused on her career in education. “As an experienced educator with more than 30 years as a teacher and principal, I understand the challenges that public schools face and the difficult balance between providing students with a high quality education and being fiscally responsible,” she said.

“I am experienced at building bridges within a community and understand the importance of listening to varying points of view,” Stewart continued. “I believe my knowledge and experience will be a benefit to the Fluvanna community.”

Linda Staiger was originally certified to run for the Columbia District seat on the School Board being vacated by Camilla Washington, but is now running as a write-in candidate due to a mistake in filing a form. “Let me tell you, this is not the first time that I have had to run uphill against odds,” she told the crowd. “I was in the first class of women at Virginia Tech, the first class of women at the University of Virginia, and I became an orthopedic surgeon when there were less than 1 percent women” doing so.

“When the ballot doesn’t give you a good choice, you write in,” she continued. “You write in love. You write in dedication. You write in support of your community. You’re going to write in Linda Staiger on your ballot.”

Four groups joined forces to put on the event and draw the many high-profile Virginia politicians to Pleasant Grove: the Fluvanna Democratic Committee, Forward Fluvanna, Lefty Lunch Ladies and Va Blue.

Helen Schoene, co-chair of the Fluvanna Democrats and a main organizer of the event, said she felt “absolutely fabulous” about the event and praised the many attendees who made the afternoon a success.

Saturday’s event supported the following candidates:

  • Ralph Northam for governor, running against Ed Gillespie;
  • Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor, running against Jill Vogel;
  • Mark Herring, incumbent for attorney general, running against John Adams;
  • Kellen Squire for 58th District delegate, running against incumbent Rob Bell;
  • Francis Stevens for 65th District delegate, running against incumbent Lee Ware;
  • Tony O’Brien, incumbent Rivanna District supervisor, running against Darryl Byers;
  • Shirley Stewart for Rivanna District School Board representative, running against Tyler Pieron; and
  • Linda Staiger for Columbia District School Board representative, running a write-in campaign against Andrew Pullen.