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Beyer’s Women’s Forum Underscores Decisive Issue in November’s Election

The crowd at last Saturday’s “Breaking Through, Women Work for Change” conference. (Photo: Dylan Homoya)

By Nicholas F. Benton and Dylan Homoya 

The front-page headline in Wednesday’s New York Times read, “‘Horseface,’ ’Lowlife,’ ‘Fat, Ugly’: How President Demeans Women.”

By referring to porn actress Stormy Daniels as “Horseface” in a tweet on Tuesday, the article began, President Trump “was adding her to a long list of women he has attacked by demeaning their looks, mocking their bodily functions or comparing them to animals.”

That’s not to mention his confessions of groping and sexually assaulting women in the famous “Access Hollywood” tape.

More than any other factor, some recognize, the woman factor could be the single most decisive component in the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm elections, when every U.S. House of Representatives seat and a third of the U.S. Senate seats, among others, will be on ballots across the nation.

Keenly aware of this, U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., whose 8th District of Virginia includes the City of Falls Church, hosted a rousing “Breaking Through, Women Work for Change” conference in Arlington last weekend, his fourth annual event. Beyer was joined by keynote speakers State Del. Danica Roem and 12-year-old Naomi Wadler, the organizer of youth protests following the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting earlier this year.

The only two races on the ballot in the City of Falls Church in next month’s election, both considered lopsided in favor of the incumbents — the U.S. Senate race pitting incumbent Tim Kaine against Republican challenger Cory Stewart and the 8th District House race pitting incumbent Beyer against Republican challenger Thomas Oh — involve only males.

But a central focus on the elections in this region has been on the adjacent 10th District House race where Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Wexton is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock. The insurgent Wexton campaign is hailing its endorsement by the Washington Post, that had previously backed Comstock, this week.

Another nearby example is the race in the 7th District in Virginia just north of Richmond, where Trump-aligned Republican incumbent David Brat is facing a very stiff challenge from Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operations officer.

But it doesn’t stop there, it’s the same all across the U.S., and data released by the Federal Election Commission and the Virginia Public Access Project this week shows that Democrats in Virginia are outpacing their Republican counterparts in the fundraising race by wide margins.

Weston, for example, raised $2.6 million to $1.2 million for Comstock in the third quarter, and has a $1.5 to $1 million dollar edge in cash on hand.

Similarly, Spanberger outraised Brat by $3.6 million to $1 million in the quarter, and has an edge of $1.6 million to $1.3 million in cash on hand.

In other races where women running as Democrats are challenging male Republicans, in the third quarter Democrat Elaine Luria outraised Republican Scott Taylor by $1.8 million to $676,770 in the 2nd District and Leslie Cockburn outraised Denver Riggleman, $1.1 million to $695,122 in the 5th District.

At his conference last Saturday, Rep. Beyer underscored that President Trump “supports a legislative agenda that strips women of necessary freedoms.”

Del. Roem, who represents the 13th District west of here, said that despite her considerable skills and experience as a journalist and electoral upset of long-standing Republican incumbent Bob Marshall last year to become the first transgender woman in the state legislature, “Most of my opposition tried to use my gender as a means to disqualify me.”

“I was well qualified because of my background. Because of my job as a reporter covering my lifelong home community, I knew I was qualified for the job. And yet, what did all of the attacks against me center on last year? Where did everything come back to? My gender,” she said.
The enthusiastic women in the audience could relate.

Wadler then spoke, saying, “Do not come here today thinking you’ve made a difference because you have not, and neither have I. We must leave here today and put our actions into words. We must do the work, whether it is registering voters or working the polls. There is so much to get done and every voice in this room is an important part of making a change in the world for women.”

Beyer then awarded Wadler the Clara Mortenson Beyer Award “presented to women who make a positive difference for women’s empowerment” and named after Beyer’s grandmother, who is credited with helping the nation’s first female cabinet secretary Frances Perkins win an appointment in the Franklin Roosevelt administration.

A panel discussion then focused on the Equal Rights Amendment and included journalist Megan Beyer, literacy advocate and daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, Lynda Robb, 2nd District State Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, and D.C. ERA Coalition director Bettina Hager.

It was noted that Virginia could become the 38th and last state needed to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after an effort of over 40 years.