Politics of Coffee, Not Tea


A primary objective of the Trump administration/ Republican party is to push more responsibility to the states. They do this to keep the Freedom Caucus happy and to avoid having to make hard choices. We are seeing this again and again – the latest healthcare debacle, the attack on the EPA, etc. The result of this strategy is that major policy decisions directly impacting the lives of Virginians will be made at the state level. This is why the House of Delegates race in 2017 is critical to the future of Virginia.

We need more than just a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion. We need a functional and productive legislature that represents the best interests of all Virginians.  The rural District 18 must go Blue in November. Here are some of the things I stand for:

  • Education:  keep and put our public schools and universities on top. This means keeping local school boards in charge, access to affordable college, and especially for our District, a rural internet that works for students.
  • Healthcare: ensure all Virginians have access to healthcare. This means finally expanding Medicaid and being ready for whatever form of TrumpCare arrives at our doorstep.
  • Civility & Fair Elections: move political discourse to problem solving and abandon polarization.  Politics is the problem, not policy. Gerrymandering and campaign finance laws have created a monster that leaves the majority of rural Virginians in the cold, feeling their votes don’t matter.
  • Immigration:  develop  smart, strategic and thoughtful policies that help our small businesses, our local police and legal immigrants. Immigrants are essential for our economy.
  • Women’s Issues: today’s politics are all about women’s issues. You cannot have a conversation about work, healthcare, family, education and retirement without involving and listening to women.

There couldn’t be a more critical time to put Democrats in the House of Delegates. My opponent, Michael Webert, is Republican Tea Party “yes” man. Things will only get worse for Virginians if he is allowed to stay in office.  Be sure to sign up for my Vote Shields mailing list so you can learn more about my positions and campaign. And, of course, DONATE!

Make the Blue Ridge “BLUE”

As the letter puts it, “Given the Democrats’ recent streak of statewide victories, the question has been publicly muted — can Republicans still win statewide in Virginia?”

The VA GOP is running scared! Check out today’s investigative article from the Washington Post about Rural Virginia.

If the Republican strategy is to win Virginia this year by investing in registering 200,000 voters in our rural counties, you MUST help me capture new voters and get them to vote BLUE!  Help me reach these new voters in District 18 so we can turn the tide in Virginia — Donate now!

Bringing SanityBack & Sanctuary Cities

Ten years ago, JT brought SexyBack. This November, I’m going to bring SanityBack.

People in the center, those who have thoughtful opinions and concerns, have abandoned (for good reason) the political process. The majority of us are in an untenable place.  The polarized, accentuated positions by the far right and left leave us with no room to rationally debate serious policy issues.

Politics is the problem, not policy.  Politics is too conflict-laden. Meaningful conversations only seem to happen in hushed tones in backrooms.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have randomly been pulled aside (by store clerks, aerobic instructors, wait staff, etc.) who, upon seeing my Democrat pin,  whisper encouragement and agreement, often saying “I can’t talk about it in here, but thanks for running.”

There’s no way we can develop policy if we can’t be civil to each other.  We need to bring sanity back and engage Virginians in respectful, rational, well-intended conversations. Let’s put an end to catch-phrase politics. Let’s face it; all it does is allow politicians to hit the snooze button on the real issues.

Let’s talk immigration.

If you have worries about immigration, you have to choose a side.  You can either join the side labeled as racist or the side labeled as fools. What kind of choice is that? You don’t have to be racist to be for stricter immigration rules. You don’t have to be naive to support sanctuary cities. That being said, there are racists who hate immigrants and there are naive, bleeding heart liberals. But neither should hijack the full conversation needed to generate the best solutions for Virginia and our district.



Take for example sanctuary cities, the hot button catch-phrase that continues to polarize Virginia. It is characterized as an either-or solution – be ultra-compassionate or ISIS is coming to get you (watch Lt. Governor candidate Bryce Reeves latest video). So here is my liberal (no bleeding heart) reason for my position:

I am for sanctuary cities because I support local police. Police are not immigration officers. Police enforce our laws. Sanctuary cities empower police departments to do their job the way they see fit based on the community’s needs.  If an illegal immigrant is a “bad hombre” the police can involve ICE and deport him without alienating and terrorizing the rest of the immigrant community.  That being said, I am open to other solutions because this is a complex problem.

Immigrants are essential for our economy. Immigration is an issue in District 18. Approximately 7.5% of our legal residents were born outside of the US. Most come from Mexico or Central America.* We have a strong, important immigrant community here. BTW, my dad was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and had dual citizenship as a kid. His older brother, a rare book librarian for the Library of Congress, was born in Mexico and retired there.  I say this because immigration is more complicated than people crossing a border. Today we live in a global economy and District 18 reflects these connections especially being so close to the Washington, DC metro region.

District 18 needs no hushed backroom conversations. We need honest, productive talk.  Vote for me in November and I’ll work hard for you in the statehouse. With your help we can Bring SanityBack!

*Reference:  Overview of State House District 18, Virginia, Statistical Atlas

Stop Buffering On Rural Broadband

Tristan Shields
Virginia District 18 – 2017 Rare piranha plant growing in Rixeyville garden

You know you live in the country when:

  • Your kids use up all the internet one day into the cycle (duh, the Xbox updated automatically)
  • You can’t respond to a client during a heavy rain storm
  • You are so happy you held onto that grandfathered unlimited data plan on your phone
  • You go to the library to update your laptop, iPads, smartphones
  • Your internet bills are more than your mortgage
  • Netflix finally allowing downloads changed your life


Virginia’s 2016 Broadband Demand Campaign Report clearly shows that rural Virginians rely upon technologies that are expensive, usually with data caps and have limited ability to meet future bandwidth demands.  This impacts both our ability to provide high quality education and keep and attract business and entrepreneurs.

The economy is the biggest reason why we need access to high quality, affordable broadband in District 18 and all of rural Virginia TODAY.  Neglect the internet at your peril.

To illustrate,  I want to share the story of the Serbian Crown, a well-known Northern Virginia restaurant. It was a beloved 40-year old restaurant serving cuisine that once only European kings and Russian czars dined upon. Proprietor Rene Bertagna personally greeted guests, taking his time to teach them the pleasures of chilled vodka. Bertagna brought passion to his work and joy to his customers. However, he’ll spend the rest of his life paying for ignoring the internet.

Google Maps relies on people to update local business information. Anyone with a Google+ account can submit a change to local pages. Unbeknownst to Bertagna, someone listed his business as closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Within months, the Serbian Crown suffered a 75% drop in customers. By the time one of his customers alerted him to the fact that his Google Maps listing was the culprit, Bertagna had closed the Serbian Crown.  He has spent the last two+ years suing Google (and losing).


At its best, the internet allows anyone to learn just about anything, anywhere at any time. You can turn to WebMD for personal health questions before going to the doctor, you can go to LegalZoom to decide if you need a lawyer, you can plan a fabulous vacation on the other side of the globe without using a travel agent. You can even figure out how to run for political office in Virginia :).

Modern digital technology has created a democratization of knowledge that has opened opportunities, shifted power dynamics and expanded globalization to a personal level. The result is a perfect opportunity for rural communities and businesses. This is why rural broadband for District 18 needs to be at the very top of the agenda. Put me in the Statehouse and I’ll work hard to make sure the internet works for us!

Voices Heard, Not Hijacked

Virginia District 18 – 2017

Our political discourse has been hijacked. The more divided we are, the less focused we are at making life better for Virginians. We’ve been left lonely by our legislature.

Take Medicaid for example. Last week in a special session, the Virginia State legislature broke down along party lines to continue refusing Medicaid expansion. Here’s what Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had to say: “Every taxpayer should know we have forfeited $10.4 billion … we could bring back to Virginia, at no obligation to the state, to help 400,000 Virginians get healthcare.”

This is bad business — all in the name of partisan politics. Who’s losing here? We are. In Richmond, the majority of the elected delegates govern with fingers in their ears saying to the people of Virginia “we can’t hear you … la la la.”

As individuals or even activist groups, under the Virginia constitution, we don’t have lots of options to legislatively make changes. Unlike populist traditions you see in other states like California or Colorado, Virginia does not allow citizen groups to propose statewide ballot initiatives. Only the General Assembly can put a referendum on the ballot, and it rarely chooses to do so especially during this hyper-partisan era.

If we were allowed to put issues like Medicaid, gerrymandering, minimum wage, and social issues to protect individual rights on the ballot, Virginia voters would not feel so disconnected and ignored in the political process.

Essentially, our current situation is like this:

You go to your boss to schedule your vacation. She says “sounds like fun. Let’s get it on the calendar.” You try and try but she always avoids setting a time to work out the schedule. Guess what? You’re never getting that vacation. And we’re never going to get to vote on issues that impact us the most.

This is our experience with Republican Delegate Webert. Delegate Webert votes party line, every time. Delegate Webert is representing the interests of the extreme parts of the Republican Party in Virginia, not the interests of the people in District 18.

This is why I’m running for office. When I’m Delegate, the people of District 18 come first. We need people in the Statehouse who will bring issues forward that matter to us. Put me in the Statehouse and get a seat at the table.