Social media posts seem to have taken on added importance for political candidates. This was signified by a couple of local state Senate candidates who were criticized last week for controversial posts.
Sen. Amanda Chase, a Republican from Senate District 11, and independent Waylin K. Ross, who is challenging Democrat Joe Morrissey in Senate District 16, made posts on Facebook that resulted in criticism.
Chase’s July 3 comments involved women using guns to protect themselves from rape – which came in response to the Richmond City Council passing an ordinance July 1 that would ban guns on city property and parks (the action doesn’t take effect without enabling legislation from the General Assembly) – while Ross posted two photos, including one of him smoking what some believe is a marijuana blunt.
On her “Senator Amanda Chase” Facebook page, Chase responded to a comment by Brenda Clancy in which Clancy asked, “Please tell me what is wrong with wanting to restrict guns in public parks.”
Chase replied, “Because it’s important for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves in of all places a public park. The one near me is back deep in the woods with a trail winding through it.”
Nancy Swanson Morin replied, “What’s so scary about the woods? If you’re afraid to go hiking in your own backyard without a gun, perhaps you need some help. Sounds like paranoia to me. I don’t want a bunch of paranoid moms carrying weapons when I’m on a casual stroll through my neighborhood.”
Chase replied, “It’s those who are naive and unprepared that end [up] raped. Sorry. But I’m not going to be a statistic.”
The campaign of Chase’s Democrat opponent, Amanda Pohl, released a statement on July 3 calling on Chase to apologize.
“Amanda Chase made an atrocious declaration, traumatizing for those who have been affected by sexual violence,” Pohl said. “Sexual assault survivors have long been told that they are to blame for rapists’ crimes, and Senator Chase continues to perpetuate this narrative … Survivors are not ‘naive and unprepared’ because they were raped, and these statements continue to demonstrate that Senator Chase’s extreme ideas are out of touch with the views of her constituents. As someone who works in advocacy, I know we can prevent sexual assault by funding primary prevention and ending rape culture. Victim-blaming and shaming contribute to rape culture and harm survivors. Virginians deserve better.”
Chase responded later that day by posting a video on her Facebook page.
Chase told the Village News on July 5 that people were twisting her words out of context. Chase said she was victimized when she was younger than 18. “I know what it’s like to feel helpless, embarrassed and shamed,” she said. “We have to be alert and cognizant of our surroundings at all times. 800 numbers are great after an incident, but I’m talking about being proactive as a woman.”
On June 26, Ross posted a photo on the “Waylin Klifford Ross” Facebook page of him smoking.
Justin Amir-Adil Pugh commented on the post: “This dude smoking a blunt before the interview. I love it.” Ross reacted to Pugh’s comment with a laughing emoji.
On July 5, Ross was asked if he was smoking marijuana in the photo. He replied, “No comment,” but said the photo “was meant to arouse that suspicion.”
Ross also posted a photo June 28 (see Page 1) with the word DOPE underneath. The DOPE photo is next to a photo of former President Barack Obama and his HOPE campaign slogan.
Last week, Ross said DOPE is an acronym for DNA of Petersburg Excellence, an organization he said he founded “to help uplift the community and strengthen the economic and political class.”
Ross said he favors the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and is trying to “break the stigma” attached to smoking it.
Ross was criticized July 2 for the smoking photo on the “Fighting Joe Morrisey” radio show on 100.5 FM, WJFN. Even though Morrissey said he also supports legalization and decriminalizing marijuana use, he felt it was inappropriate for a state Senate candidate to be intentionally photographed smoking weed. Ross said the picture was taken by Anthony “Ace” Johnson during a photo shoot.
Recreational use of marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized by 23 states, according to NORML, an organization that seeks to reform marijuana laws. Virginia is not one of those states.
In regard to Morrissey, he has had some Facebook-related issues too.
Morrissey, who defeated state Sen. Rosalyn Dance in the June 11 Democratic Party primary, recently faced a hearing because he posted two videos on Facebook which said that he paid for them, but did not say that he authorized them. The Virginia Board of Elections on June 24 fined Morrissey $600 for the infractions. Morrissey called the board’s decision specious and said he would appeal it to Richmond Circuit Court.
Ross posted on Facebook on July 1 that he is running as an independent candidate representing the Readjusters Party, which existed between 1879 and 1885, according to encyclopediavirginia.org. The party was founded by William Mahone of Petersburg, who had been a Confederate general, created what became the Norfolk and Western Railway, and helped found Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, which later became VSU.
Mahone’s Readjusters Party formed a coalition of blacks and poor whites.