(Aug 30, 2017) Catherine Read interviews Julie Jakopic, Chair of Virginia’s List, a political action committee (PAC) whose mission is to support progressive pro-choice women candidates running for office in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The organization was originally formed in 2015 as Women Leaders of Virginia. During that election cycle, women candidates running for the House of Delegates received financial support for their general election campaigns in the very first year of the organization’s fundraising efforts.
In early 2017, the organization rebranded as Virginia’s List. They followed the branding model of other very successful organizations such as EMILY’s List, Annie’s List of Texas and Lillian’s List of North Carolina. They also committed to helping women fund primary races when they are running against one or more men in their own party. This is very much the core mission of EMILY’s List which is actually an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast (EMILY). The women who serve on the Virginia’s List Board (which includes host Catherine Read) are from various parts of Virginia and many have been candidates themselves. One of the founders of Virginia’s List, Amy Laufer of Charlottesville, is currently a Charlottesville City School Board Member and also a candidate for Charlottesville City Council.
In 2015, Julie Jakopic was a candidate in a five candidate Democratic primary for the 45th District House seat. Running in a field that included herself and four men, she came in third with 23.3 percent of the vote. Understanding that women were being defeated at the primary stage, Virginia’s List doubled down on funding the primary campaigns of many of the Democratic women running for office in 2017. There is an unprecedented 43 Democratic women running for a seat in the 100 person Virginia House of Delegates. Many were in primary contests and some of those races included more than one woman running for the nomination.
There is a process Virginia’s List has created for vetting candidates for endorsement and funding that includes a Candidate Questionnaire (CQ) and a number of other factors including their fundraising, doors knocked and the voting history of the districts in which they are running. The public has access to some of this candidate information through the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP.org) which posts information about money raised and voting history of the district.
Virginia’s List works collaboratively with a number of other organizations including Emerge Virginia, which recruits and trains progressive women candidates interested in running for office. Each of these organizations is a crucial part of fielding successful women candidates. Virginia has a low percentage of women in our legislature, less than 20%, and we’ve never had a woman Governor, Lt. Governor or U.S. Senator. Only one woman has ever served in a statewide office, Mary Sue Terry, who was Attorney General for two terms from 1985 to 1993 and who co-founded one of the earliest women’s political candidate organizations in Virginia, The Farm Team.
Women bring a different lived experience and perspective to many of the issues being addressed through public policy making – paid leave, child care regulation, campus sexual assault, violence against women, disability benefits, payday lending, public assistance for children and families, medicaid expansion, education policy – and much more. Men continue to predominate in every branch of government in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia’s List is committed to putting more women into elected office who are representative of the people who actually live in our communities.