Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Who's The Bad Guy Here?

As readers will recall, control of the Virginia Assembly is on the line this November. Both chambers are pretty closely divided, with the state Senate 22 D, 18 R, and the House of Delegates 51 R, 46 D and 3 vacancies (which were occupied by Democrats before becoming vacant). If the Democrats hold at least one chamber, then Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) will have great difficulty implementing his agenda. If the Republicans take both, then Youngkin will have a glide path to reinventing Virginia as he sees fit, and possibly to a presidential bid in 2028 (or 2024). So, politics-watchers are keeping a close eye on things, and every seat matters.

One of the swingiest seats is SD-57, which is in the suburbs of Richmond. In 2021, the district voted for Youngkin by 3 points, but in the 2022 midterms, it voted for Democratic House candidates by 1 point. So, it can go either way. Running for the Republicans is businessman David Owen, while the Democrat in the race is nurse practitioner Susanna Gibson. And yesterday, The Washington Post broke the news that Gibson and her husband have performed live sex acts (together) on the adult site Chaturbate.

As you can see from the headline, the first question that occurred to us is "Who's the bad guy here?" Let's run down the contenders:

  1. Gibson: Actually, we are pretty sure she is NOT the bad guy. She certainly did not do anything illegal. Was her behavior immoral? Undoubtedly, that will be the conclusion of some voters, but we're not even sure that applies here, as her partner was not only a consenting adult, it was her husband. The Bible (in Exodus), for those who consult that particular work on such matters, very clearly instructs that "Thou shalt not commit adultery." It does not, as far as we can tell, command that "Thou shalt not engage in sexy webcamming."

  2. The Republicans: It was Republican operatives who brought the story to the Post's attention. That's pretty clearly slut-shaming, and it might be illegal. Gibson and her counsel are taking the position that, in making the videos into a political weapon, the Republican operatives violated Virginia's revenge porn law. We hardly have the expertise to evaluate the legal merits of that claim. As to the ethics, the whole thing is kind of icky, but politics is often not pretty, and Gibson surely knew those videos would be uncovered eventually.

  3. The Washington Post: Again, we're pretty sure Gibson is not the bad guy here, whereas with the Republicans that question could go either way. As to the Post, we feel quite confident in saying that the staffers involved with this story should be ashamed of themselves. They knew full well they were being tipped off by a Republican operative, and thus were being used as a political weapon. The breathless, salacious tone of the story, accompanied by a fair bit of not-so-subtle moralizing, feels more like something out of the 1950s than the 2020s. Adding to our disdain is the self-congratulatory observation that the paper "typically does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes to protect their privacy," but in this case it was so easy to identify Gibson that they put that policy aside.

Undoubtedly, the people who run the Virginia Democratic Party would prefer not to have a candidate with this particular liability. It's still the South, after all. However, the primaries are over, Gibson is the nominee, and she has made clear that she's not stepping aside. "They are trying to silence me because they want to silence you, and I won't let that happen," she said in a statement. "My opponent and his allies know that the people of this district are on our side on the issues, so they're stooping to the worst gutter politics. There's too much at stake in this election and I'll never stop fighting for our community." She could have noted that the best-known slogan about Virginia is: "Virginia is for Lovers," but she didn't.

It will be interesting to see how the voting turns out. Maybe Gibson will be crushed, as swingy voters decide that she's damaged goods. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that younger and/or women voters will be impressed by her sex-positive views and her unflinchingly taking ownership of the videos. Visits to the site will probably soar, but we don't know if they publish statistics. (Z)

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