Kellen Squire, an emergency department nurse, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the redrawn 55th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The district is new, having been approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia late last year. The 55th District now includes a large swath of Albemarle County, plus parts of Nelson County, Louisa County and a small portion of Fluvanna County in the Town of Scottsville.
The district now includes much of what was the former 58th District, which has been represented by long-time incumbent Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle. He has not announced if he will run for the 55th District seat.
In fact, it’s not completely clear whether the new districts will be up for election this year or in 2023 due to a pending federal lawsuit.
Squire, who filed his paperwork to run in March, held off announcing his campaign until Friday, the first day of National Nurses week. He said he used the intervening time to organize local, regional, and statewide support that will be needed to take on a “challenge of this magnitude.”
Although this will be Squire’s first time running in the 55th District, he previously ran as a Democrat against Bell in 2017 in what was then the 58th District. Although Bell ultimately won that election, Squire said he is confident there is a path to victory in the new district and new reality.
“The 55th District is an amalgamation of multiple old districts, that’s how gerrymandered our Central Virginia community was for the last decade,” he said. “These communities were split up on purpose to dilute their voices and make sure what they wanted was never accounted for. The new map gives me the ability to really bring a voice to Richmond for the people here.”
As an emergency department nurse, Squire said he has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last two years, coming face to face with the reality of the disease. He said the pandemic and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s response to it was a major factor in his decision to run.
“The last two years in the ER have been hell, definitely the hardest of my professional career, and after all I had been through I was skeptical about wanting to get back into politics,” he said. “But the straw that broke the camel’s back was [Gov. Youngkin’s] decision to end the mask mandate. The way he did it felt like he was spitting in the face of the community and all the sacrifices we made to keep people safe.”
Squire said that as COVID-19 cases rose and medical workers were stretched thin in the Shenandoah and Southwest Virginia regions, they looked to the Charlottesville and Albemarle County metropolitan area for help. By lifting mask mandates, Squire said he believes Youngkin disrespected the efforts of medical workers.
As an emergency department nurse, Squire said he gets a ground level view of “every policy failure on a local, state, regional and national level.”
“We’re sort of the catch, the safety net. If you don’t know what to do you go to the emergency department and in that way we’re kind of the great filter for health and mental health and other community problems,” he said. “I’ve spent the last 11 years in the emergency department dealing with that every single day and it gives me a privileged view into people’s lives. I get to see what exactly is broken and how.”
Squire said that advocating for access to high-quality, affordable healthcare will be a major facet of his campaign. The people of Central Virginia have been lucky in the sense that they have access to some of the best medical facilities in the nation, he said, but on a systemic level medical workers are hurting and leaving in droves.
Over the course of Friday, Squire plans to drive through the entire district, meeting with voters in Louisa County, Zion’s Crossroads, Scottsville, Hollymead, Afton and ending with a small rally in Crozet in the evening.
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Donna Price also announced this week that she is running as a Democrat for the 55th District seat.