Democrats respond to Republican lawmaker's attacks at NRA town hall
By Davis Burroughs
July 5, 2019

When Del. Margaret B. Ransone (R-99) told an audience of gun rights supporters, “they want our state,” she had no idea that “they” would get a chance to respond.

But they — the Democrats — did.

“I am not trying to take away anyone’s state,” Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) said in a text. “I am trying to return my state to the position of national leadership it occupied for the first 50 years of our country,” he wrote.

Ransone delivered her remarks at an NRA town hall in Fredericksburg last week. Though the event was closed to the press, a voice recording obtained and first reported by The Washington Post exposed a grim dialogue on the perceived threat of a Democratic takeover from Ransone and some of her Republican colleagues.

“When folks come here and they want to come to our state, they need to come as citizens of our country and citizens of this commonwealth — not to change the people that we are,” she said.

Del. Debra Rodman (D-73), said that she is not trying to change people; she is trying to empower them.

“I ran for office because I wanted to bring we the people’s voices to our government. Isn’t that what Virginia has always been about?” Rodman said in an email.

Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-86), took issue with Ransone’s claim of ownership of Virginia. “When Del. Ransone refers to our Commonwealth like it’s her own private property by claiming it is ‘their [Republican]’ Virginia, I think that Del. Ransone thinks that she can continue to go about the Republican ways of holding Virginians hostage using the Democracy-suppression tactics of the past,” he said.

Democrats like Samirah have long accused state Republicans of gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing political voting lines for partisan gain. Critics who say gerrymandering has largely benefitted state Republicans frequently point to the 2017 House of Delegate elections, when Democrats won the popular vote by over 9 percentage points, but still fell short of winning the majority in the chamber.

A federal court struck down that gerrymandered House electoral map last year, ruling Republicans had packed too many black voters in the same districts, thereby diminishing their voting power. The three-judge panel appointed a special master to draw a fair replacement map.

Republicans appealed the decision, but The Supreme Court dismissed their challenge in June, affirming the new electoral lines that could level the playing field for Democrats in the 2019 General Assembly elections. All 140 seats in the House and Senate are on the ballot this November.

A record number of Democratic candidates are running in both the state House and Senate elections this year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

“The message to Del. Ransone should be clear by now,” Samirah said. “If she and her colleagues want to continue to do a horrible job on reducing healthcare costs, refusing to allow the developing of a technically-advanced Virginian economy that addresses the existential threats facing our planet, and advancing equity for all, then they will be voted out of the majority in November.”

The NRA hosted two other town halls this month across the state in Virginia Beach and on the eastern shore, each featuring Republican lawmakers and candidates like Sen. Bill DeSteph (8), Sen. Bryce Reeves (17) and Del. Rob Bloxom (100). The gun-lobby said the meetings were organized to prepare for the forthcoming special session of the General Assembly on July, 9, which will focus on gun legislation. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the special session to address the Commonwealth’s gun laws after the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31 — the deadliest single case of gun violence in the state since The Columbine.

“Republican legislators are rolling out the welcome mat for the gun lobby while Virginia Beach still mourns the 12 lives lost. It’s shameful,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a national group that works to elect Democrats to state legislatures.

In response to the town halls, the DLCC announced it is targeting DeSteph, Reeves and three other Republicans it sees as vulnerable on gun control in a series of digital ads.

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