2018-01-10 / Featured / News

Democratic committee elects new leaders


Sara Gaborik 
ASH DANIEL Sara Gaborik ASH DANIEL In an era of increasingly rancorous national politics, local Democrats completed a transfer of power last week with the exchange of nary an unkind word.

The Chesterfield County Democratic Committee elected a new slate of officers for 2018-19 during a Jan. 3 meeting at Falling Creek Middle School. Five of the six leadership positions were filled by members of the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County, a grassroots group that has provided a jolt of energy to the county’s Democratic establishment since its founding in November 2016. That includes the CCDC’s new chairwoman, Sara Gaborik, a local attorney who joined the committee last year following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

“I think this is a time where you don’t really have a choice but to get involved,” she said. “I stood on the sidelines too long. … And who wouldn’t want to do it with all these people supporting you?”

Gaborik’s predecessor, Elizabeth Hardin, recalled that not so long ago, Democrats in Chesterfield weren’t as eager to join the committee and volunteer their time on behalf of left-leaning candidates.

Prior to the 2016 election, the CCDC had just 48 members. Now it’s closing in on 200.

“I’m happy the committee is growing and that more people are comfortable identifying as Democrats,” Hardin said. “It has been lonely at times. I applaud the people who came out and stayed with it through the lean years.”

Hardin also saluted LWCC founder Kim Drew Wright for her efforts to get people engaged in local Democratic politics.

Wright launched the grassroots organization as an outlet for her disgust over Trump’s victory. In just 14 months, it has grown to include more than 2,000 members and people are contacting her from across the country to start chapters in their localities.

“What has happened in Chesterfield with the merging of the grassroots and the establishment is happening in a lot of places,” Wright said. “You have new, energetic people starting to check out their local Democratic committee and they want to be involved.”

It’s no coincidence, then, that over the same period, Democrats have become a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box in traditionally ruby red Chesterfield.

En route to a lopsided victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in November, Ralph Northam became the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate to win the county since 1961.

Nurse practitioner Dawn Adams upset GOP incumbent Manoli Loupassi in the 68th District, which includes part of Chesterfield, as Democrats flipped 15 seats in one night and threatened to claim a majority in the House of Delegates for the first time in nearly two decades.

Running a self-funded campaign, Jenefer Hughes also knocked off incumbent Timothy McPeters in the race for commissioner of the revenue, ending a long Republican stranglehold on countywide elected offices.

Now they’re focused on defeating U.S. Rep. Dave Brat later this year and contesting all 10 seats on the Board of Supervisors and School Board in 2019. Nine of those seats are currently occupied by Republicans.

“My win was the first step in a strategy to create balance in Chesterfield,” said Hughes, one of the earliest LWCC members. “I don’t want to call it a takeover. We just want fair representation.”

Despite the fact that the LWCC is so prominently represented on the Democratic committee’s new leadership team, Hughes also insisted members of the grassroots group didn’t set out to seize control of the committee.

“Both can work well together if people are open-minded,” Wright added. “It’s good to have both institutional knowledge and fresh energy. I think people who have been in those positions and the new people are both very motivated to keep turning Chesterfield blue.”

Hardin, who chaired the county committee for the past four years, thought about pursuing another term, but ultimately decided it was time to pass the torch to somebody else.

“It was a difficult decision,” she acknowledged. “Right up to the filing deadline, I had people asking me to run again, but my family has sacrificed a lot over the last four years because I treated it like a full-time job.

“We’ve made amazing strides. We worked hard to raise the committee’s profile in Chesterfield. We got people active and motivated and we’re leaving the committee in the best fiscal shape it’s ever been in. I’m going out with my head high.” ¦

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