What drives Joshua Cole in his campaign for the Virginia House

photo via Cole for VA

By Carolyn Fiddler

October 12, 2023

In Fredericksburg-area House District 65, former Democratic Del. Joshua Cole is looking to return to the legislature after serving from 2019 until 2021, when he lost the seat by less than a 1,000 votes in a difficult off-year election.

Cole faces Republican Lee Peters, a captain in the local sheriff’s office. Peters was endorsed in his primary by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and like Youngkin, Peters supports banning abortion (despite the fact that his campaign website makes no mention of the issue). Cole, on the other hand, reliably cast votes protecting reproductive freedoms during his tenure in the legislature.

HD-65 went for Biden 55-43 in 2020 and Youngkin 51-48 in 2021.

Dogwood recently asked Cole about what’s on his mind in the waning weeks of the election and what motivates him on and off the campaign trail.

What’s your closing pitch to voters as to why they should vote for you?

I was born and raised in the region I’m running to represent. I’m the son of a single mother, I’m a pastor, I’m a father, and I’m a community leader. I was honored to serve this region in the General Assembly for two years, in which I fought to lower the costs of prescription drugs, make community college free, allow minors to have their hearing aids covered by insurance, and to support our law enforcement, educators, small business owners, and our working-class community. I took on the drug companies and huge corporations and delivered real results for everyday families.

My opponent was hand-picked to be the ’yes man’ for the Republicans in Richmond to enact an abortion ban in Virginia, to lie and mislead voters in our region, and to stand idly by as the Republicans dump money into our region to BUY this race.

Make no mistake: MAGA Republicans are targeting this race because its outcome will determine the future of abortion rights in Virginia. My opponent has said he supports criminalizing abortion, and if elected, he would be the deciding vote to do so. MAGA extremists are pushing complete and total ban on abortions, including in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.

As the only pro-choice candidate in the race, I will be a staunch advocate for protecting women’s right to choose, because these decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor, not legislators. Our fundamental rights and freedoms are on the line, and as your delegate my job first and foremost is to protect them.

What’s been your favorite part of running for office this year? Least favorite?

My favorite part of running for office has been going door to door, meeting my neighbors and learning about what they want to see out of our government.

I’ve talked to mothers who are worried their daughters will have fewer freedoms than they did. I’ve talked to teachers who have to pay for supplies for their classrooms, while they are barely making enough money to get by. I’ve talked to people preparing for retirement who are worried they won’t have the care and resources they need to do so with dignity. I’ve talked to high schoolers who fear stepping into the classroom because of the gun violence epidemic.

And I’ve heard from just about everyone that the traffic on I-95 drives them crazy.

After every conversation, I feel more and more resolve to go to Richmond and fight every day for a Commonwealth that puts working families first.

My least favorite part of running for office this year has been encountering the negativity coming from MAGA extremists. Since the election of Donald Trump, and the insurrection on January 6th, our politics have gotten more and more extreme—and, to regular people, insufferable. Government should be about making life better for working people. I’m running for Delegate to bring us back to that.

What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?

One thing most people wouldn’t know about me is that I’m a huge Star Wars and Marvel fan. I’m such a big fan that I even hosted a Star Wars trivia night on May the 4th, and we usually do one every year! And yes, there were costumes.

If you could change one thing about Virginia, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about Virginia, I would make sure no child ever went hungry or without a roof over their head.

I’m not your typical politician – I’ve experienced homelessness firsthand, and when I was a Delegate, I was the poorest legislator in Richmond. To me, struggling to get by isn’t conceptual. But when I was in the General Assembly, that perspective was sorely missing.

To me, it’s unconscionable that in the richest country in the history of the world, there are children who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, or where they’ll sleep at night. I will always fight to build a Commonwealth where our most vulnerable are taken care of, and where no one has to live in fear.

What’s your favorite thing to do or place to go in Virginia when you need a break from the campaign trail?

My favorite thing to do to get away from the craziness of the campaign trail is to spend time with my wife and two kids. Being a husband and father is the most important thing to me in the world. Non-stop campaigning makes the time I get to spend with the people I love the most all the more special. Spending time with my kids is also an incredible reminder for me of how important it is that we leave the next generation a Commonwealth where they’ll have a real chance of success. My family is my inspiration to fight for a better future for all of us.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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