Stafford County, Virginia—Under a dazzling purple-and-orange sunset at the Stafford County Fair last weekend, Jennifer Carroll Foy, a candidate for the state House of Delegates, strolled confidently toward a skinny young white man wearing a Confederate-flag “Don’t tread on me” T-shirt. One of the first black female graduates of the Virginia Military Institute, Carroll Foy was there to ask for his vote. The man looked stunned as she approached, while his wife seemed mildly curious. And then Carroll Foy was really there—smiling, standing tall, handing out literature, explaining why she was running to represent the good people of Virginia’s Second District.
But first she had to figure out if the couple actually lived in her district. Even explaining where her district begins and ends proved complicated, as every district in the state has been distorted by GOP gerrymandering. Virginia’s Second District, for example, pulls in only half of Stafford County; the rest is in Prince William County. The couple stared at her, confused and silent. Then the man broke the spell by saying, No, they didn’t live in her district. He looked down at the ground, while his wife, carrying a toddler, awkwardly thanked Carroll Foy.
The very fact that Carroll Foy even attempted to reach a man in a Confederate T-shirt—just 95 miles away from where white supremacists menaced counter-protesters and where one of them murdered Heather Heyer with his car two months earlier—felt like a victory of sorts. A victory for showing up in the age of Donald Trump, for standing your ground, asserting your equality—and our common humanity—whether that young man believes in it or not.
Carroll Foy is one of 26 first-time Democratic women candidates running for delegate in Virginia this year. Like New Jersey’s, the state’s off-year election is on November 7. I wrote about this amazing surge of women candidates in August. Carolyn Fiddler, a Virginia Democratic party veteran, now with Daily Kos, called it “the Trump effect”—the exhilarating rush of female candidates who said to themselves: If that fucking schlub can be president, I can run for office. Since she won her primary in June—against the local party-establishment favorite, in a recount, and by just 14 votes—Carroll Foy has been placed in the top tier of these candidates, in terms of her overall strength and capacity to win. “Even though she got a late start because of the recount, she’s done a really good job at fundraising,” Carolyn Fiddler says. In fact, she’s raised more than $300,000, and, astoundingly, 60 outside groups have helped her along the way.
“It’s been overwhelming,” she says of the national support.
“Good overwhelming, or…?” I ask.
“All good!” she laughs.
Teddy Smyth, her campaign manager, holds a weekly conference call to tell outside groups what the campaign needs (Virginia law allows coordination between campaigns and outside organizations). “We’ve made it work,” he tells me.
Catherine Vaughan of Flippable, a new group focused on flipping statehouses by backing candidates like Carroll Foy, says Smyth’s conference calls “have been a great way for the campaign to gain extra capacity by specifying what they need—campaign e-mails, design help.”