Image via Keith Warther
Image via Keith Warther

​​While her opponent was dressing up like a clown, defending the Jan. 6 rioters, and torching signs with a flamethrower, Del. Nancy Guy was “doing her damn job.”

If any race this election season has re-circulated the stench left by the Jan. 6 insurrection, it would be a House of Delegates race in Virginia Beach.

On one side is Del. Nancy Guy, the incumbent Democrat in the 83rd House District. Sitting in her car taking a break from door-to-door canvassing, she talked about the joy she gets from meeting constituents face-to-face to discuss their concerns, take selfies with them, and hand out yard signs. “It’s my favorite thing I get to do,” she told Dogwood. 

On the other side, Republican challenger Tim Anderson is—literally—burning Nancy Guy signs with a flamethrower.

No joke. The gun-shop-owning Republican posted a video of himself using a flamethrower to torch a sign on which he inscribed Guy’s “radical liberal agenda.” 

RELATED: The Details You Need for Voting on Election Day in Virginia

“Anyone who uses a flamethrower and thinks it is an appropriate political prop is sending a certain message normalizing political violence,” Guy said. That’s a problem in America, she argued, referencing the Jan. 6 insurrection, another issue on which she and Anderson could not be more opposed. (Anderson, a criminal defense lawyer, represented one of the Jan. 6 rioters, Joshua Bustle, who pleaded guilty to unlawful entry into the capitol building.)

Anderson is tacking to the right of Trump, whose brand of politics brought Guy, first elected to the Virginia Beach School Board in 1996, back into government for the first time in nearly two decades. “I really truly believe that our Republic is at risk from certain elements in our society,” she said.

She returned to the fold in 2019, besting incumbent Del. Chris Stolle by a handful of votes. 

In her first term, Guy passed bills to strengthen childcare support, provide local financing for clean energy, and to remediate the opioid epidemic. She’s also championed legislation to facilitate the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and to strengthen the level of public schools’ preparedness to respond to future outbreaks. Her work has also earned her the support of business groups—the Hampton Roads Chamber, Hampton Roads Roundtable, and Virginia Beach Hospitality PAC—that usually, Guy said, funnel money into Republican box interests. But she keeps it humble: “You lose perspective so fast when you think you’re more important than the job you were elected to do,” she said.

Her opponent rarely remarks on her flagship legislation or support from the business community, instead focusing on Guy’s record on guns (she supports the Second Amendment but believes America has too many guns) and defunding the police (Guy voted for an 8.5% pay raise for state police). 

READ MORE: The Women Running (for) Virginia: Candi King

Guy said that Anderson also likes to poke fun at her balloon bill, which repealed a provision that excluded the release of fewer than 50 helium balloons into the atmosphere from being subject to litter laws. If anything was comical, it was Anderson’s response–a video of himself dressing up like a clown to mock the legislation. 

To Guy and the residents of Virginia Beach, however, it’s no laughing matter. Guy said helium balloons are a “pernicious” form of litter, the most common type of trash found on Virginia’s remote beaches, and responsible for countless deaths to marine life like dolphins and sea turtles. Guy did not push the bill, now law, due to a vendetta against kids with balloons (the law does not apply to people younger than 16). Rather, “it’s about listening to your community, it’s about doing what the people you represent want done, it’s about working across the aisle to make sure it gets done and being affectionate.”

And while Guy has been “doing her damn job,” as she put it, Anderson has gone out of his way to undercut Democrats any way he can. He’s filed lawsuits against state Sen. Mamie Locke, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Gov. Ralph Northam. Separately, he tried to recall the Majority Leader and Sen. Louise Loucas (who later sued him for defamation).

This election is bigger than balloons and petty lawsuits, however. Beyond Trumpism versus Guy’s style of pragmatism, “what’s at stake for my constituents is having a dedicated public servant who is only focused on representing them and doing the best for them,” she said.

Virginia’s election takes place Nov. 2.