Can Challenger Victoria Virasingh Pull an AOC in Democratic Primary in Virginia’s 8th District?
- Daughter of an Indian father and an Ecuadorian mother, the 29-year-old Arlington native is challenging 71-year-old Democratic Party stalwart Rep. Don Beyer, a longtime fixture in Virginia politics.
Victoria Virasingh wants to shape a future that works for all, and ensure that everyone in her district gets a chance at achieving the American Dream. And to realize that, the 29-year-old daughter of an Indian father and an Ecuadorian mother, is challenging Rep. Don Beyer. She is both the first Latina and first Asian and the second woman to ever be on the ballot for this race. She is also the youngest to ever run for this position.
The state’s 8th Congressional District includes all of Arlington County, portions of Fairfax County and all of the independent cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.
“I was born and grew up right here in Arlington, the heart of Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, and as the daughter of immigrants, my family’s story is one of both struggle and opportunity,” Virasingh tells American Kahani. “My mom grew up in Ecuador and my dad was born to Punjabi Sikh refugees in Thailand. They both came to America in hopes of a better life — but every day was a struggle, a fight.”
She uses the Spanish word “luchar” to describe what it was like for her to watch her parents work minimum wage jobs and make it in America. “My parents taught me to work hard, to sacrifice and to strive for the American Dream and invest in education,” she says. Virasingh became the first person in her family to go to college, “thanks to a full ride to Stanford University.”
After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in Latin American studies, she joined the tech workforce.She was making enough money and didn’t need to worry about paying the rent or buying groceries. That’s when it hit her: she had achieved the American Dream. But with that came the realization of how hard it is for some to achieve that same dream. “The American Area has become harder and harder for us to access,” she says. “How can something be ours and not for us?”
And that’s when she decided to mount her campaign. She identifies as a progressive Democrat advocating for policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. She is running a grassroots campaign and has renounced contributions from corporate political action committees.
One of the reasons she chose to run for the U.S.Congress is because of her upbringing. Growing up she was told to “just swallow” the racism that came her way, to study hard, work hard, and “not to make a fuss.” And it’s not surprising that when she told her family her intent to run, she was met with a lot of whys. She explained that she’s running to have a voice at the table. “It’s time for us to stand up and stand out,” she says. “There’s too much at stake and it’s not just for us, but it’s for our community, and for its future.”
Virasingh’s campaign harks back to the time when progressive candidates like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and other progressive leaders splashed onto the national scene by defeating entrenched incumbents over the past few years.
What makes Virasing’s campaign special is her working-class background and her reliability factor. She is the first candidate to mount a challenge against Beyer in the primary in eight years. The Washington Post calls it “a bold move for a 29-year-old first-time candidate seeking to oust a longtime fixture in Virginia politics.” In fact, Beyer is the only congressional Democrat in Virginia who is facing a primary opponent this year.
Although the Post says Virasingh’s challenge is “a long shot,” one observer said she was “tenacious and did not seem to flinch against doubts she could take on the 71-year-old Democratic Party stalwart.”
However, Virasingh is confident of her success in the June 21 primary. Although a poetical neophyte, she is relying on her experience working for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). On her website, Virasingh writes about how Feinstein inspired her to stand out and to speak up on important issues, like the lack of representation of women in Congress.
Along with that, she’s also counting on her perspective as the daughter of immigrants who made minimum wage and her Arlington roots. Forty-eight percent of residents in the 8th District are minorities, Virasingh notes. It also boasts of a strong Asian American population with a large number of Indian Americans. Additionally, the district has the largest Latina population in any district in the state.
These factors could favor Virasingh. She has a strong faith in her policies, which came from lived experiences. She talks about minimum wage because she grew up on it. There are more affordable housing options on the agenda because she recalls being homeless, and living in a number of housing situations, before being able “to stand on our own two feet.”
There’s also the factor of representation and of being a role model. She recalls several young women, both Indian American and Latina, looking up to her for inspiration. She wants to show these young women, especially those who grew up like her, working-class, how to navigate that space. “It’s hard, because you are at a disadvantage, being a woman and a woman of color.”
This response encourages her, and “really instills in me that this is the right thing to do and that it’s the right moment.” It’s the right decision not just for her but for “the future of American politics, the future of the Democratic party. It’s about lifting a voice and inspiring a new generation,” she says, and warns: “If we don’t do something today it’s going to lead to further instability in America.”
Virasingh is motivated by a need to bring out change as well. Her’s is one of the youngest districts in Virginia – the biggest age group is between 18 and 44. “And yet in my lifetime of 30 years, we have only been represented by white men in the age group of 65 who also happen to be millionaires.
On the campaign, she sees “a strong desire for change.” She tells voters to vote for her “to build the future of the Democratic party, to invest in someone who’s going to create many openings in different communities, to speak from a perspective that’s long been absent in the Democratic party.”
In a December interview with The Jewish Insider, Virasingh said she doesn’t fit into any ideological box. That to her is the right way because in today’s polarized atmosphere, it is important “to get back to issues, especially kitchen table issues that impact every Virginian, every American.”
With this messaging, she says she has found a way of reaching a lot of people – “moderate Republicans, Independents and Democrats.” For her, that’s the way “to rebuild America, to find unity.” And if she is successful in the primary, she wants to extend the playbook she is using to other candidates and other districts.
Whether Virasingh manages to pull an AOC or not remains to be seen. But currently, as the mail-in ballots in the state open on May 6, the young Indian American and Latina is breaking barriers, inspiring and encouraging voters, and hoping to bring about change in her District and the nation.