Image of rural Virginia
Photography by Davis Burroughs

While some Democrats might write off western Virginia as being too red to win, four women are trying to prove them wrong.

The four candidates gathered with supporters at a town hall meeting last Wednesday evening to discuss their platforms and strategies.

Jennifer Lewis, candidate for the 20th House of Delegates district, said that Virginia Republicans’ refusal to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is the reason she decided to run.

Lewis and the three other candidates — Jennifer Kitchen, who is running for the House’s 25th district; Christian Worth, seeking the House’s 24th district, and Annette Hyde, candidate for the 24th Senate district — all agree on several key issues.

They want to increase broadband internet access in rural Virginia, improve health care for constituents, and protect the environment. They also want to protect abortion rights, which are increasingly under fire both within Virginia and across the country.

Hyde’s run marks the first time since 2007 that Augusta County voters will have a Democratic choice for state senator. Incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) has run unopposed since then, though he faced a primary challenge in 2015 and faces another one this year.

Kitchen will run against Republican Chris Runion in November to determine who will replace retiring Del. Steve Lands (R-Weyers Cave) in a district that includes parts of Augusta, Albemarle and Rockingham counties. Kitchen, a 37-year-old activist and founder of the SAW Citizen Action Network, emphasized the impact that broadband access could have on education and economic development in rural Virginia.

Over in the 20th district, Jennifer Lewis is looking to claim the seat being vacated by Del. Richard Bell (R-Staunton), and will face off against the winner of the Republican primary on June 11. A mental health worker and community activist, Lewis is fighting for more mental health services and additional education funding. The 20th District includes Waynesboro and Staunton, and also parts of Augusta, Nelson and Highland counties.

In the 24th district, Christian Worth will square off against Del. Ronnie Campbell (R-Raphine) in a rematch of their special election battle last year. Worth has prioritized fighting for more health care services in rural Virginia and emphasized the fact that you can’t deliver a baby in the 24th district. The district includes parts of Augusta and Amherst counties, Bath and Rockbridge counties and the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington.

All four women also agree that developing alternative and renewable energy sources would be critical for Virginia and criticized Dominion Energy’s influence over the legislature.