Jul 27, 2014

LGBT Democrats Represented at the Rural Retreat

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The Rural Caucus of the DPVA was reorganized in 2013 to address the needs of rural voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rural localities make up 90% of Virginia, and the Rural Caucus seeks to identify and address issues of importance in these areas. It also seeks to identify and elect strong Democratic candidates on all levels. The Rural Caucus held a retreat and training in Lynchburg, VA on Friday -Sunday, July 11 – 13. Maggie Sacra, chair of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, was honored to be included as part of two panels for this training on Saturday and Don Davenport, Outreach Chair, and Chuck Unger, Secretary, were present to greet the attendees and tell them about the work of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Cindy Bray, Treasurer, was also present to provide expertise on LGBT elders and youth. The LGBT Democrats of Virginia and Small Business Caucus were the only two caucuses that tabled during the event and were featured front and center when participants signed in.

Let’s face it; there are differences between rural and urban areas. It is more difficult to reach individual voters in areas where the populace is spread out and strategies to reach out are different. The Rural Caucus of the DPVA recognized that there are differences and also that there is a need for training in these areas. The Retreat included 3 different tracks: Candidates, Managers and Party Leaders/Grassroots tracks.

Keynote speakers included Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of the Administration Nancy Rodrigues and Doris Crouse-Mays of the AFL/CIO and Democratic National Committee. Vee Frye, the Rural Caucus Chair, was a force of nature in organizing the retreat and the Democratic Committee in Lynchburg were gracious hosts.

The Candidate Track included training on all aspects of being a candidate including decision-making on becoming a candidate, all aspects of campaigning and fundraising, as well as crafting and getting your message out. The Candidate Track also included information about getting the political lay of the land and campaign tactics. The Management/Staff Track included sessions on campaign planning and organization, knowing election laws, finding voters, developing and managing a budget, and campaign tactics from the management perspective. The final track for grassroots and party leaders included leadership training, creating a “democratic” community and making the most of our resources including our volunteers. Other sessions included media training, organizing the various constituencies, public policy issues, and best practices. The Rural Caucus invited the various constituency groups including the LGBT Democrats of Virginia to come and talk to the participants about reaching out to the individuals in these groups in the rural areas.

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam who was the key note speaker at the luncheon on Saturday rallied the groups for the upcoming election cycle and talked about the need to expand Medicaid in Virginia. As a medical doctor, Northam is in a unique position to talk about the need for this expansion and for all Virginians to have insurance. He also talked about the need for quality healthcare throughout Virginia and how the lack of insurance and not expanding Medicaid is not only costing the state millions of dollars, but also threatens the future of hospitals in rural areas. Access to quality education is also vital to all Virginians, including rural areas. Northam emphasized how the upcoming special elections and regular election were important for all Virginians. Right now the state legislature is dominated by Republicans who are blocking Medicaid expansion. These elections are essential to regaining control of the Senate and helping Governor McAuliffe. He also reminded us that EVERY VOTE IS IMPORTANT. Several elections have been decided by only a few votes, so get out and vote, and encourage your family and friends to vote.

This Rural Caucus plans to make this retreat an annual event. The LGBT Democrats of Virginia recognizes that there are LGBT people in every county and city in Virginia, and rural outreach is important. We look forward to continue to work with the Rural Caucus to elect representatives that will best serve our collected needs. If you want to find out more information about the Rural Caucus and the recent Rural Retreat check out the Rural Caucus webpage at: http://www.vademocrats.org/rural-caucus.