RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As Democrats seek to gain control of the Virginia House of Delegates in Tuesday’s election, a key race hinges on a candidate whose campaign was upended by revelations she engaged in sex acts with her husband on a pornographic website.
Susanna Gibson is running against Republican businessman David Owen in one of the state’s most competitive districts after all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were redrawn to conform with the 2020 Census.
Many political scientists wrote off Gibson’s chances after The Washington Post reported in September about her participation in livestreamed sex, which included soliciting payments from viewers in exchange for specific acts.
But Gibson, a nurse practitioner, refused to withdraw from the race, and accused Republicans of dirty politics for exposing her conduct. She largely ignored the allegations and focused on abortion rights, which Democrats said could be in jeopardy if Republicans gain control of the Legislature. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seeking a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.
Donna Taylor, 54, an office manager from Henrico County, just outside Richmond, said she voted for Gibson.
“I figure if we can put up with the hundreds of years of Republican scandals, what she is doing with consenting adults and her private lifestyle does not affect my opinion of her whatsoever and her ability to do the job that she said she is going to do,” Taylor said.
Republicans sought to remind voters of Gibson’s videos. The Republican Party of Virginia sent mailers to voters that contained screenshots. The envelopes warned recipients that explicit materials were contained inside and that minors should not open the envelope.
Sonny Yeary, 59, a graphic designer from Henrico, said he voted straight Republican, including for Owen, Gibson’s opponent. Yeary said he probably would have voted for Owen anyway but that Gibson’s sex videos bothered him.
“It was the way it came out,” Yeary said. “If it had been out there already, that would have been one thing. But don’t act like Miss Wholesome and then have this come out.”
Gibson answered the GOP attacks to some extent Monday in an op-ed piece for the left-leaning website Blue Virginia, labeling her GOP attackers as “politicians who feel they have a right to know what goes on in our private lives and the power to control what we do with our bodies.”
The 57th District includes parts of Richmond’s western suburbs in Henrico and Goochland counties. The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project rated it the third most competitive of Virginia’s 100 House of Delegates districts, with only a very slight lean toward Republicans, based on recent voting patterns. Virginia voters do not register by party.
Republicans currently carry a narrow majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats hold a slight majority in the Senate. Youngkin has campaigned aggressively on behalf of Republicans in key districts, hoping that GOP control of the General Assembly will allow him to enact his legislative agenda.