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Some Virginia Democrats say live-streamed sex acts distract from real election issues

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — More Virginia Democrats on Tuesday launched controversy surrounding a legislative candidate who live-streamed herself performing sex acts to distract from issues in this election. fall, while not fully defending the continuation of his campaign.

Neither the state party nor the House Democratic caucus have publicly called on Susanna Gibson to end her campaign after it was revealed last week that she had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in exchange for performing specific sex acts.

But neither group has publicly said what support — financial or otherwise — Gibson can hope for moving forward.

“Our goal is and always has been to flip the House and retake the majority. MAGA Republicans continue to try to distract us while working to implement their plan to ban abortion and roll back the rights and freedoms of all Virginians,” said Amy Friedman, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus, in a statement to the Associated Press.

House Democratic Leader Don Scott said in a brief interview Tuesday, “Winning back the majority is all I’m focused on so we can make sure we protect women’s reproductive freedom.” »

Of the. Dan Helmer, campaign chairman for House Democrats, said Monday that his thoughts were with Gibson’s family, while noting that she was running against an opponent who supports additional restrictions on abortion.

All seats in the General Assembly, currently politically divided, with the House of Delegates controlled by Republicans and the Senate controlled by Democrats, will be decided in the November election. Both parties see a possible path to full control, and the suburban Richmond seat, where Gibson, a nurse practitioner, is competing with retired homebuilder David Owen, is seen as a crucial battleground .

Virginia Democrats, including Gibson, have made protecting abortion access a major campaign priority. Many Republican candidates in competitive districts, including Owen, have coalesced around Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ban abortion after 15 weeks, with certain exceptions. Most abortions occur before this deadline, according to federal data.

Virginia, an outlier in the South because of its relatively permissive access, currently allows abortion in the first and second trimesters. The procedure can only be performed during the third trimester if several doctors certify that continuing the pregnancy is likely to “substantially and irremediably” alter the mental or physical health of the woman or lead to her death.

Gibson’s campaign did not respond to an interview request or a detailed list of questions from the AP on Tuesday. Gibson previously denounced the release of the videos as a violation of the law and of his privacy. She has given no indication when her campaign will end, saying she will not be intimidated or silenced.

On Tuesday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a commentary by Gibson discussing prescription drug prices and his work in health care. She did not mention the controversy.

While the caucus and some of its leaders spoke, many other Virginia Democrats declined to comment, insisted on anonymity to discuss their frustrations or deliberations on the issue, or did not respond to media requests. The state party also maintained its silence on Tuesday, with spokesperson Liam Watson declining to comment.

Among those elected, Democratic Senator Louise Lucas stood out for her early, clear and vocal support for Gibson.

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who previously supported Gibson, did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry about a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, featuring Spanberger and Gibson, which appeared to have been removed.

Clean Virginia, an energy policy advocacy group that is a major donor to most Democratic candidates, “does not comment on this story,” said spokesperson Cassady Craighill. Clean Virginia gave Gibson $175,000 in August, according to campaign finance records, which also show Gibson finished the last reporting period with more than $460,000 in cash, about $220,000 more than ‘Owen.

Citing what he called Gibson’s “remarkable” fundraising, longtime political analyst Bob Holsworth said he thought it was entirely possible that Democrats would “eventually come back” and help Gibson to campaign and raise funds.

“My big question is, does she still have the volunteers in the organization that are going to generate enthusiasm and participation?,” Holsworth said.

Most Republican elected officials have also kept their distance from the subject, even if the state party expressed himself, throwing Gibson’s behavior is disqualifying.

In a post on social media Days after the news broke, the Virginia Republican Party accused Democrats of “celebrating a candidate who pretends to be a porn star,” adding, “They are the party of moral decadence.”

Aaron Evans, Owen’s campaign spokesman, said Tuesday that Gibson’s campaign was misrepresenting Owen’s position on abortion.

“The Gibson campaign is wasting thousands of dollars lying about David’s commitment to choice during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and his support for exceptions in cases of rape, incest and maternal health. The fact that they are lying about David reinforces that his common-sense, consensus-based position resonates with voters in favor of winning in November,” Evans said in a written statement.


Associated Press reporter Denise Lavoie in Glen Allen, Virginia, contributed to this report.