Taysha DeVaughan hopes to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith in her bid for Virginia’s 9th Congressional District in the November election.
A Democrat, DeVaughan, 32, said she decided to run against Griffith, R-Salem, because she believes the area deserves better representation than what it currently has.
“We have had a couple of people that have ran this race that have not moved the needle very far,” she said.
She also wants to get people more involved with what their congressional representatives are doing.
“I do a lot of work in the community, and I just felt like this was an opportunity to really have peoples’ voices heard in a different way and let them know that their vote really matters,” she said.
DeVaughan said a perceived lack of transparency is another factor.
Before kicking off her campaign, DeVaughan was doing lobbying work, “and the frustration came from not getting the right information, or getting information that was skewed in some way based on possibly like politics and money and things like that.”
She believes increased transparency is part of changing the political process and will help ensure elected representatives care about the most vulnerable in their communities.
“The way we know that they care about that is if they are actively listening to you and providing multiple options and multiple ways of doing that,” she said.
If elected, DeVaughan, who is a proponent of listening sessions and town hall meetings, also would use television, radio, and social media to reach her constituents, with plans to increase the outreach of the office, especially in western areas like Wise County.
“I believe that in order for us to make the best decisions for our communities is to really know our communities and hear from our communities,” she said.
DeVaughan plans to use community input to gauge the committees she should seek appointments to, if elected.
“I’m already thinking of Agriculture, Energy, and Education are things that people are interested in and have concerns with,” she said.
She is also interested in ensuring a diversity of jobs is brought into the region, especially since the state is going through a transition of energy production.
“I think that it’s important that we have people who want to plan for the future and also protect the environment at the same time in our communities,” she said.
DeVaughan plans to use funding available in the recently passed infrastructure bill to help fund these goals. She will take time to make sure people know about the resources that come from the federal and state levels.
DeVaughans also is interested in ways to redistribute the country’s wealth and working towards having top earners provide the taxes for needed transitions and projects. She wants to make sure the earmarked funds are “going to the communities so that when we’re moving legislation it’s just not going from us to the state, it would make sure that it’s filtering into the communities the way it needs to,” she said.
DeVaughan said youth leaving the area in astronomical numbers is one of the biggest challenges facing the district.
“I want to address that, and I think we do that by offering a vision of what the future can look like in the 9th. For me, what I hear is the ability to go to and from work, to afford a vehicle, and to afford gas,” she said.
Bringing a diversity of well-paying jobs that provide benefits and pensions is one way she believes youth will be retained in the area.
DeVaughan believes focusing on what younger people care about like the environment, quality of water and air, and recreation, are other ways to keep younger generations from leaving.
“All of those factor in when they’re thinking about building their future,” she said.
DeVaughan said many of the items in her platform tie in together.
“When it comes to transportation, infrastructure, our healthcare, mental healthcare, and substance abuse disorders, they all are issues that we’re dealing with and are related to them not having access or quality access to the others,” she said.
DeVaughan said she believes the district excels at transitioning.
It is “positioned in a place where we are talking about eco-tourism and we’re talking about the diverse ways of energy. Wise County just put solar panels on their schools,” she said.
However, the area lacks the funding to move a lot of ideas forward.
“I think what we’re lacking is the amount of funding that could be in our areas, and not just at the capacity I would think to also make sure that we’re executing those in the right way,” she said.
Originally from OK, DeVaughan moved to the area 13 years ago with her family. A single mother to her 14-year-old son, DeVaughan lives in a multi-generational home with family members.
She received a B.A. in communications from University of Virginia (UVA)-Wise in 2018, and later began working at the Appalachian Community Fund as a Regional Organizer before being promoted to her current position of Donor Engagement Coordinator.
DeVaughan also served a year in AmeriCorps’ Environmental Education Outreach.
She is the president of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, is active in Lonesome Pine Mutual Aid, and is a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice.
In her spare time DeVaughan enjoys spending time with her son.