The second and final debate in the Virginia governor’s race went on for about 10 minutes when a woman began shouting at the audience.
“I worked very hard to stay on the ballot. I must stand on stage!” he shouted, as Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin stood awkwardly and NBC News moderator Chuck Todd eventually called for safety and went on a commercial break.
For Princess Blanding, disrupting the debate was in a day’s work. Blanding, a black activist and educator known for her staunch advocacy for racial justice and police reforms, is making a long-winded third-party bid for governor. He is determined to make his presence felt in the race, despite the structural constraints of the two-party system.
When the debate sponsor told her that she could sit in the audience but would not be allowed to participate – citing a long tradition of only inviting major-party candidates – Blanding said she felt as though she Was being told, “Yeah, you can come and get on the bus like everyone else… but you’re gonna sit in the back of the bus.”
“I came, I sat, I clapped and played along, and when the time was right, I heard my voice,” she said.
Blanding, 39, doesn’t have to be on stage to make a mark. Polls show the race between McAuliffe and Youngkin is tight, with Democrats worried that the blanding could snatch away enough votes to help Youngkin win.
Blanding says she’s not worried about Democrats: “I’m their worst nightmare, but guess what? I’m my ancestor’s wildest dream,” she said.
Blanding’s activism came to light in 2018 after her brother, a 24-year-old high school biology teacher named Marcus-David Peters, was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer. Peters was experiencing a mental health crisis and fled naked and unarmed in crowded traffic. Before the officer shot him, he ran towards an officer, threatening to kill him.
Blanding says the officer – who said on his police radio that he was dealing with a “mentally unstable” person – should not have used lethal force. She led a protest march and pressed for criminal charges against the officer, but prosecutors found the shooting was justified.
Blanding pushed for legislation to set up an alert system to send mental health providers along with the police to help stabilize people in the event of a crisis. She was a leading voice in the protest movement and calls for police reforms following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
But neither the “Marcus Alert” law, which was named after his brother, nor the reforms were enough to bland. She said it was then that she decided to start the new Liberation Party and run for governor as a third party candidate.
“It was a continuing failure of the two-party system, particularly the Democratic Party,” Blanding said in an interview with the Associated Press.
She is against Democratic lawmakers who she says passed weak reforms after Floyd’s killing and rejected a bill that would have eliminated qualified immunity, a legal principle that protects police from most lawsuits. which stems from the work done in the line of duty.
Phil Vilayato, a community organizer and activist with the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, says Blanding’s style is “passionate, sometimes dramatic.”
“He’s driven by a strong desire for justice for those who have been denied justice historically and in the present. That’s his strength; people see it. He’s the real thing,” Vilayato said.
Running for political office was not something one had imagined for oneself. Raised in New York, New York by an aunt, Blanding was one of 16 siblings and wanted to become a pediatrician growing up.
During college, they had their first child. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she worked three jobs as a substitute teacher, an experience that would lead her to a career in education. She taught middle-school science and later became an assistant principal.
Blanding, now a single mother of three daughters aged 20, 13 and 5, works as a science teacher at a middle school in Alexandria, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from her home in Middlesex County on Virginia’s Central Peninsula. Is. Her round-trip journey through Metro Washington traffic congestion in northern Virginia often takes about eight hours a day, but she said the driving and long days are worth it so she can earn a living wage to support her family. can.
Blanding contrasts his life experiences with those of his opponents, McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, and Youngkin, a former top executive of a private equity firm.
“I am watching and listening to these two privileged millionaires learn how to address issues that are felt in our most marginalized communities, and they cannot relate,” Blanding said. “You’re not here. You don’t know what it’s like.”
Blanding has raised a small fraction of its opponents, about $30,200, compared to about $44.5 million by McAuliffe and $42.3 million by Youngkin. But it appears to have built up a loyal following among college students and those who participated in last year’s racial justice protest in Richmond.
She said she has taken a three-month leave of absence from her teaching job to focus on the campaign, knock on doors and attend festivals, outdoor markets and other events. Its viewership varies from around 30 to 75 people.
Lawrence West Jr., founder of the Richmond chapter of Black Lives Matter, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Blanding is able to garner 5% of the vote.
“I see him as the leader of the new age America is moving forward,” West said.
“She’s someone who says like, ‘Look, this isn’t about Democrats, this isn’t about Republicans… Let’s try to build some equity, let’s try to create some diversity, let’s try to build people. Try to include.” She really believes that, and she really stands behind it,” he said.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Virginia