Almost immediately after I decided to run for the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia GOP went after my kids.
I can't say I was surprised by that. Not even close. The rural district I'm running in is the bluest district they hold; it may well be the battleground race of the cycle. I was expecting the worst from the Virginia GOP- and I got it. So, going after my kids? Doesn't surprise me.
That the Governor decided to hire the guy who bullied my LGBTQ kid to an advisory panel on LGBTQ issues? Well... that one did take me a little aback.
I've aluded to what happened on several occasions, but never more than that publicly. I haven't wanted to expose my kids and family to the new reality of politics any more than I have to. I had several journalists contact me immediately after it happened, offering to write about it- but I demurred to each of them. Which, I know, is sort-of the point of those kinds of attacks. If I make a bunch of noise about it, it only makes those attacks go farther, get more attention. If I don't say anything, they can get away with doing it again and again.
I won't post any of the screenshots or links to what happened here; they are easy enough to find. Instead, I'll just give the Cliff Notes version. The gentleman in the story cited above- who is the President of the Richmond, Virginia chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans- took umbrage towards my Tweets on the realities of what the pandemic did to emergency services providers. So he found pictures of my family and kids, posted them publicly on his Twitter feed, and encouraged his followers to come up with the best insults they could think of, offering a few of his own. Amazingly, he saw nothing wrong with mocking the physical appearance of my five-year old, and being incredibly vile towards my 14-year old.
Again, let’s discuss the dichotomy of someone being appointed to a gubernatorial board on LGBTQ issues electronically bullying an LGBTQ teenager, knowing full well that more than 50% of LGTBQ youth in middle and high school reported being bullied in the past year, with a full three fold increase in the incidence of suicidal ideation and attempts for those same kids.
That's why I sat down with my 14-year old to talk with her about what had happened. She is very technologically savvy, and I knew that especially going into high school, she or someone she knows would be able to find out what had happened... and I wanted her to hear about it from me, instead of them. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do- she has been through so much the past few years, more than I ever had to deal with growing up when I was her age. And now she was being viciously attacked solely because I was running for office.
She took it with more aplomb than I did, that's for sure. In fact, her only response was righteous fury at the fact anyone would dare to attack her little brother. "He's FIVE! FIVE!" She insisted that she never Googles anything related to me, my campaign, or her- and that if she ever did, she wouldn't be bothered. "They can come after me if they leave my brother alone," she told me.
But that didn't make me feel better. Not even close. Because no kid anywhere should have to be lauded for stoic concern for their siblings over themselves, or for "not being bothered" by people attacking her because of who her dad is. These are just not issues she should have to be dealing with.
Which, of course, is exactly why she and her siblings were the targets of that attack.
Normally, though, at the very least, these sorts of attacks are laundered through "overzealous staffers". And that's how too many of the people I mentioned this incident to over the past couple months waved it off as. "He wasn't working for the Youngkin campaign when he said that, they wouldn't have told him to do that, it's despicable but what can you do about it, you should be flattered because it means they know you're the frontrunner, you just have to ignore it or they'll do it again," etc, etc. I know how the game is played. The opposing candidates keep their mouths shut or, if they absolutely have to comment, make a perfunctory statement about how they don't condone that kind of behavior, blah blah blah.
Or so I thought. Apparently I was wrong: nowadays, that kind of behavior warrants a promotion. I suppose I was being naive to think otherwise. That’s exactly the kind of person that the Governor has shown himself to be.
And, on that note, let's be clear: the Governor, and his team, knew exactly what they were getting here. Oh, trust me- I know they're incompetent, trying to run our state government as a business. But even they aren't so incompetent they wouldn't award someone with a gubernatorial appointment without at least a cursory glance at that person's social media history.
Nope. Seems to me it was a reward, plain and simple... and a message to anyone else watching: "Attack anyone the Governor sees as his enemy, and we'll make sure you're well taken care of."
It'll get worse, I'm sure of it. Imagine the threat of being beaten by an unapologetic progressive in a 100% rural district that they've held for the last few decades when you only control the House of Delegates by the barest margins.
But I'm going to make this promise: I will never, ever go after anyone's kids or family. Ever. If anyone associated with me came within a mile of doing that, they’d be out of a job and out of politics so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them. I refuse to run a negative race for any reason. I'm happy to call out BS unapologetically, but I don't need to go negative, ever. Even if I wanted to, it’s clear I could never win a race to the bottom- these people have that down to a science.
I'm running to represent the people of the 55th District here in central Virginia. To make their lives better. To help them provide for their families. Help protect them when things go wrong. To honor the sacrifices they made to keep those of us in emergency services afloat during the worst of the pandemic.
I’m just going to keep proving who I am- and let Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia GOP keep proving who they are.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse from Barboursville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 55th District, serving Albemarle, Louisa, Nelson, and Fluvanna counties.