Virginia women take action ahead of midterms

Following Donald Trump's election in 2016, a group of liberal women in a traditionally conservative area in Virgina came together to work for change. CNN's Bill Weir reports.

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 3:29 AM
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 3:45 AM

There is a lesbian lawyer, a Canadian-born dentist of Pakistani descent and a white Christian married to a Muslim. There are first-time Democrats in designer blouses and grandmothers in hand-knit blue wave hats (pussy ears are so 2017) and a soccer mom in chemotherapy at the helm.

Together, this improvised persisterhood is known as The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County and Beyond.

They are another sign of this year of the political woman, when record numbers of female candidates are standing for election. They are a sign of the need to be heard and to achieve results for women on the left, who took to the streets in protest after Donald Trump's inauguration.

Their anger is being stoked by the rancorous Supreme Court nomination hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as accusations from decades ago mount against him.

But instead of the feelings of helplessness and confusion that reigned two years ago after Trump beat Hillary Clinton, they know now what to do.

From 1 to 4,000

The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County and Beyond are what concentrated, motivated female anger looks like in person.

They are almost 4,000 strong, enough to flip a red county blue.

And they started with one woman, a lot of wine and Facebook.

"I was drunk and angry!" Kim Drew Wright laughs.

Two autumns back, the aspiring writer and mother of three met one other Hillary supporter in her leafy-and-heavily-Republican suburb of Richmond.

They bought sparklers for the kids to light with each state won by Clinton but after the party turned into a drunken wake, she grabbed the markers, spelled out some profane thoughts on the new President and duct taped them to the Clinton/Kaine sign in her yard.

"I thought, 'Let the neighbors read it for four years," she laughs. But a few days later she pulled it down, opened Facebook and turned her sadness into action.

"I put a call out on social media for like-minded women to join me, and I thought it would be a small group of women, close to home," she says. "But the requests flooded in. Our first meeting in November 2016 had like 90 people, and some of them drove over an hour to get there."

She added "and Beyond" to the title when L.W.C.C. membership crossed 3,000 and women were carpooling from counties away to meet.

Rallying around a first-timer

JFK was in the White House the last time Chesterfield County voted Democrat for governor, but last year when a doctor named Ralph Northam won the county by hundreds of votes, the women saw it as validation.

They are now rallied around Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative and one of the many female first-timers on the midterm ballots around America. She would have to unseat Rep. Dave Brat, a man who rode a wave of male, Republican anger into power in 2014, upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the process.

But in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, from the exurbs of Washington DC in the north to the outskirts of Richmond, Brat has seen what the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County and Beyond can do.

CNN Key Races: Virginia-07 moved to a toss-up

"Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go," Brat told a meeting of conservative groups in January 2017, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"They come up -- 'When is your next town hall?' And believe me, it's not to give positive input."

"That was us," said Kristi Glass over coffee with a few dozen new friends. They were strangers on election night 2016 and political novices who, at best, took the time to vote.

They are together weekly now, or daily. Studying civics, making calls, writing cards, knocking on doors, running for local office.

Taking stock, taking action

But life does not pause for politics. Just as the L.W.C.C. began to explode, Wright's daughter fell ill and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "When I was on the 'red devil' I could barely move," she says, describing the worst round of chemotherapy. But she's up and in her wig on the street most days. The "drunken anger" has become focused action.

"You know when you get ill, you think about what's really important to you. And you take stock, you know?" Wright said.

"I could have very easily said you know politics don't matter. But the fact is they do matter."

But are there enough people like Wright in Virginia and beyond to really count? Will there really be a blue wave? "Oh it's coming." she says. "It's here."

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly identify that the dentist mentioned was born in Canada.

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