It takes a great deal of energy to make the most of a bad situation.
In the wake of the election of our current president, and his subsequent Cabinet appointments, many have conceded that the “bad situation” box can now be checked.
It’s this political climate that moved Yorktown, VA, resident Kelly DeLucia to action. The former elite competitive athlete and current real estate agent is bringing her energy to run for the 96th House of Delegates seat in 2017. She’ll be up against Republican incumbent Delegate Brenda Pogge.
DeLucia’s political path is not without obstacles. The 96th district, composed of James City County and York County, has had Republican representation for two decades.
Prior to Delegate Pogge’s 2016 race against Independent candidate Brandon C. Waltrip, where Pogge won a total of 61.08 percent of votes, she has run unopposed since her initial election in 2007. However, Pogge only passed 23.3 percent of bills she proposed in 2016, and DeLucia sees a path of entry for a Democrat in the 96th district.
“This is a very red district, there’s no two ways about it…but there are more than enough Democrats in this district to outperform Republicans if we show up in bigger numbers,” DeLucia said in an interview with GayRVA. “That’s what works time and time again, [getting] more people to the polls. I think this year, that is a very realistic expectation…a very exuberant democratic turnout.”
DeLucia grew up in the 96th district, and has consistently stayed involved in her community, including founding AIMFourExcellence Foundation, an organization that used sports as a forum to teach children how to be better citizens. She also identifies as a lesbian and is in a same-sex marriage of seven years; the structure of DeLucia’s day-to-day life is as community-oriented and family-oriented as the best of her constituents.
“I have a very traditional family. We have a very strong marriage, we’ve been together for decade; we have two beautiful baby boys.,” said Delucia. “The great people who have gone before me have done so much great work at taking away and reducing the amount of prejudice toward gay people. I’m a direct beneficiary of those actions.”
DeLucia said her primary issues center on using state government to act as a firewall against some of Trump’s more extreme initiatives and how they could trickle down locally. This translates to improving teacher pay in order to retain quality teachers in the district and promoting environmental protection for the tidal areas of the district, which includes the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. She feels the area can be significantly effected by climate change, something Virginia Republicans have been hesitant to embrace.
And, like most candidates, she hopes to tackle transit issues.
A combination of hard results from the past and growing numbers at her interest meetings give DeLucia a feeling of growing momentum for her campaign.
“[When] I started a company ten years ago in athletics, I was apprehensive about how people might respond to me working with their children [not only] as a lesbian, but also as a female in the sports world,” said DeLucia. “In ten years, I never lost a client, I never had one negative word said about me or my company. There was this mountain of anecdotal evidence that how I live…is well received in the community.”
According to Williamsburg Daily, incumbent Delegate Pogge’s principles are cited as being “inspired by a conservative worldview and informed by the philosophies of the Founding Fathers, especially the Jeffersonian principles of small government and less intrusion in the lives of private citizens.”
Pogge’s involvement with the far-right Virginia Family Foundation (VFF), where her husband, Roger, is the Ministry Relations Coordinator, could also provide some fodder for a candidate who wishes to champion the rights of LGBTQs.
VFF has long advocated for discriminatory bills against the LGBTQ community and while Del. Pogge hasn’t been part of any committees which deal with LGBTQ issues, the few times equality-related bills have made it to the House floor, she’s voted inline with her husband’s conservative group.
According to Equality Virginia’s 2013 legislative report card, Pogge voted against workplace protections for LGBTQs and inclusive bullying policies while she supported a bill that would allow clubs in state-run universities to discriminate in membership and goal.
Pogge also voted against a judicial appointment for Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay US Air Force vet who was discharged for speaking out against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the early 90′s. Thorne-Begland has since been appointed to the Richmond judiciary, but he faced criticism from Mr. Pogge’s Family Foundation forwhat they worried would be the judge’s “political agenda.”
If the 96th district is looking for a change, DeLucia is poised to give them one when the General Election comes on Nov. 7.
“It became clear that the most effective thing to do is to get people elected who are going to do a better job,” DeLucia said. “In searching for someone to find to run in my district, I ended up being the person that I found.”
Delucia is currently running unopposed as the Democratic Challenger, GayRVA will follow her campaign as it evolves