Democratic Delegate Tries To Rebuild Relationship With Rural Virginians

Oct 9, 2017

Democrats know they have an image problem among rural Americans.  The only Democratic Delegate west of Charlottesville is trying to flip the script.

Democrat Sam Rasoul, who represents parts of Roanoke and Roanoke Valley in the House of Delegates, is trying to change the perception that Democrats are the party of coastal city dwellers.

“It’s clear that over the past decade or so the Democratic brand has taken a hit in rural Virginia while the number of super Republican precincts have sharply increased,” he says. “We’ve stopped building those relationships that are so critical and the best way to rebuild those relationships is by going into these communities and helping folks one person at a time.”

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, speaks during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

His pilot program “Democratic Promise” is a phone bank that reaches out to rural voters, regardless of party affiliation, not for votes but to see if they need help with government services like those for veterans, seniors or help filing paperwork or grant applications. A community worker or social worker helps to case manage the issue.

“Nobody talks about campaigns, elections, candidates,” he says. “It’s all focused on how we can help people rebuild that trust.”    

The pilot will run for six months to a year targeting a half dozen or so localities, the first of which were Tazewell and Floyd. The initiative has been officially adopted by the Rural Caucus and the Democratic Party of Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.