By Hyacinth Fiorenzo
A thousand-watt smile outshined the tears of gratitude streaming down Bridgette Craighead’s face as she was greeted by about 30 supporters during a campaign swing through the area Monday.
The Rocky Mount native, who announced her bid to run for Virginia Democratic Delegate earlier this year, said that she was worried about how she would be received in the more remote corners of the 9th District.
Although the district encompasses most of Franklin County, Patrick County and parts of Henry County, the Meet the Candidate event in Stuart was among the last stops along Craighead’s campaign trail.
Craighead’s trepidation about the visit lies in not only realizing that she is a woman of color and a powerhouse BLM activist campaigning in a district that is close to 90-percent white, but also in knowing that Stuart is the backyard of her opponent, Republican Wren Williams.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I prayed on it. I have been pleasantly surprised and humbled.”
Supporters cheered as Craighead made her appearance at the packed picnic shelter in DeHart Park. Refreshments and campaign material lined the back table. The soulful sounds of Lynn Foddrell and Doug Turner on their guitars hyped the crowd and set the tone for the evening.
Children giggled as Craighead took a turn dancing with local Dudley Clark, both of them smiling from ear to ear.
“These are good people,’ Craighead said. “They deserve someone who is going to work hard to represent them.”
Representing the underrepresented is precisely what Craighead has committed to do.
“That commitment to the people is what drives me and why I’m running,” said Craighead. “I don’t have a typical candidate story. I grew up in government assisted housing in Rocky Mount, V.A. I’ve had a tough life, but I turned my pain into passion and decided to be what I needed as a child.
She candidly addressed questions and concerns from the residents of Patrick County ranging from police brutality and hot topic issues like Critical Race Theory, to the importance of local hospitals and improved access to health care.
“I don’t care about your gender, your race, or your political affiliation,” said Craighead. “I just want to get things done.”
Janet Demiray, chairman of the Patrick County Democratic Committee, cited a New York Times Health Survey that ranked Patrick County extremely low in access to quality healthcare compared to the rest of Virginia.
With 69,000 people across the state living outside of a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital, this proves especially difficult for citizens of Patrick County, which is the only county within the district without its own hospital.
Several attendees expressed personal complications due to lack of local health services. One gentleman spoke of how he is uninsured and how he fears getting sick or needing medical services resulting in having to travel 30-45 minutes to the closest hospital.
“You shouldn’t have to live like that,” Craighead responded. “No one should have to live like that. You all deserve a hospital.”
An impassioned Craighead, who is also a small business owner and entrepreneur, also noted that “wages and incomes have failed to keep up with the cost of basic needs – from health care, to housing, to education, to childcare – and that’s before a mismanaged pandemic devastated local families and small businesses. We’ve tried the status quo for years and years and where has it gotten us? We can do better, and I think it’s time we try something new.”
Craighead’s primary priorities for the people of Virginia are outlined prominently in her campaign:
- Invest in community and economic development to boost small businesses;
- Improve access to quality, affordable health care and mental health resources;
- Fully fund public school budgets, Universal Pre-K, and vocational training programs;
- Close the broadband and transportation gaps;
- Tackle the affordability crisis by reining in the skyrocketing cost of housing;
- Reimagine public safety via commonsense reforms.
“More than ever, our community deserves accountable leadership with the courage and conviction to make our voices heard,” said Craighead. “Together we can build a stronger, fairer economy that invests in our people, promotes shared prosperity, and empowers everyone to achieve their God-given potential.
“I find value in this place and in the community. The people of this community should not have to struggle,” Craighead said. “As delegate I will be responsive, accessible, and accountable. Being a voice that will go over and beyond to break barriers that hold us back from progression.”