Virginia Delegate Alex Askew gives interviews like a seasoned politician. “When I get re-elected,” the 36 year-old Democrat from Virginia beach asserts, “one of my main focuses will be on making sure we increase teacher pay, and fully fund our educational system.”
The son of a former educator, Askew describes his first term as “historic.” “We have made historic gains, particularly when it comes to African American issues. We passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, the first in the south. We passed Breonna’s Law which bans no knock warrants and we've also made historic funding to our HBCUs and Virginia,” Askew notes.
The incumbent for the Virginia House of Delegates 85th District is in a fight to retain the seat he was elected to just two years ago. In 2019, he narrowly won his race with 51.6 percent of the vote. This year is shaping up to be a similar face-off. All eyes are currently on Virginia because, while the sensationalism around this year’s political matchups are unlikely to reach the levels of 2020, political analysts and party leaders believe the state’s November 2 outcomes will be a barometer reading for the current political climate.
Askew has been here before, but this time he says things feel different. “Having a record to run on, having the ability to talk about what I’ve accomplished in the General Assembly. Being able to discuss the historic gains of the past two years, that’s different,” Askew contends. During his time in Virginia’s House, the Democratic-led body made it a felony to call emergency services based on race, increased the minimum wage, secured $5 million to create a joint School of Public Health between Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University, as well as focused on improving Virginia’s educational system for both students and staff.
Something else that’s different about Askew’s re-election bid: Donald Trump is no longer in office. The former president was a driving force for getting many people out to the polls last year. In 2021, candidates are doing their best to remind constituents that it's still imperative that they participate in the electoral process. “It’s important that we have a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature,” Askew reminds constituents when he meets them at their door. “We need to continue our work to increase teacher pay, making sure our kids remain in school safely, that our economy bounces back from this horrible pandemic.”
Though Trump is no longer in office, the bigoted campaign tactics he implored still remain. Earlier this month Askew was the subject of what many deemed to be a racist attack. His face was shown on the front of a matchbox, surrounded by flames. Another mailer showed him as a puppet with rope around his waist and hands. Both draw on America’s well-known past of lynchings.
“To be honest with you, I am disappointed,” the former campaign organizer admits. “I run on my record, what I've accomplished and what I'm going to continue to do. I think it shows where the GOP is that they don't have a plan to bring Virginia back from this pandemic, to make sure our kids are safe in school. It shows that the GOP is not ready for to be in leadership.”
Dirty campaign tactics, aside, the Hampton University grad is feeling the support. Volunteers have been knocking on doors daily in an effort to secure his win. And he’s enforcing the on-the-ground effort with mailers highlighting the work Democrats have been able to accomplish during his tenure. “What we’ve delivered to the people of Virginia has moved us forward as a state,” Askew says. “It’s important that we’re able to continue that work.”