By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, April 28 — Last week Page County Democrats honored a local resident who has spent “much of his life mentoring others” throughout the region. Whether its spiritually, through pastoring his “ER” church, or emotionally, through the many programs offered at “The Rec”, Audre King has offered his soft-spoken guidance and youthful wisdom to a wide range of people and situations.
“Ours is not the struggle of one day,” King said, borrowing from the late Sen. John Lewis. “It’s not one judicial appointment, or one presidential term…every generation must struggle…struggle for humanity.”
The 2006 graduate of Luray High School told the dozens gathered at Brenwood Lake Weddings just outside of Stanley that it’s not just “change” that is needed.
“I believe the direction is not just change,” King said. “It is to call people to grow with us by transcending the past.”
“Grow With Us” was the theme of the annual Democratic dinner for local party faithfuls last Thursday. King was the featured guest and received special recognition for his role as the Executive Director of Living Legacy Luray. Through the non-profit organization’s board of directors, King helps coordinates the operation of the West Luray Recreation Center, which offers such programs as Mental Health Mondays, Mentoring Tuesday, after school tutoring, internet access, fitness and other programs. The group is also in the planning stages of building the Andrew Jackson School Memorial Park behind “The Rec”.
King, a political science and business marketing graduate of Ferrum College, has done numerous things to help local youth since he purchased the former school building along West Main Street several years ago. He has honored the history of the “blacks only” school by continuing to fight for civil rights and understanding in his hometown of Luray. While many of his acts are out in the public for all to see, some of his good deeds have gone on behind the scenes — like when he acted as a mediator between police and protestors and helped prevent racial tensions from boiling over, once in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder two years ago, and again after the fatal police shooting of a West Luray resident who held two people hostage at a convenience store less than a year ago.
Through their applause and presentation of a plaque, local Democrats acknowledged the contributions of King to the community, both in recent years and in the years to come.
Prior to the introduction of other speakers at the political event, local Democratic chair Skip Halpern thanked those who had made the event possible and then rallied those in attendance to be enthusiastic and pro-active about the party.
“People have been grumbling…’Where are the Democrats?'” Halpern said, noting one new couple to the area only found out about the local committee after reading it on their Adopt-A-Highway sign. “We need to build trust in rural communities, where the Republicans demonize us and out maneuver us. Let’s not allow the critics to define us. It’s time for us to define ourselves.”
Halpern challenged fellow Democrats to lead by example and get involved in their community — just like the first political speaker, Alex White, who is launching a campaign for the Luray Council as he prepares to enter his final year at Harvard University in the fall. By having the opportunity to take classes remotely during the pandemic, White found time to volunteer at Page One’s food bank as an assistant manager and serve on Page County’s Economic Development Authority.
“Never forget where you came from…that’s what really formed the things that I’ve tried to do,” White told the audience. “Getting involved locally is what matters the most…I think it presents the opportunity to do great things for our community.”
White, who is currently unopposed, says he offers a “young voice to take a fresh look at things.”
Jennifer McClellan, a representative of the greater Richmond area in the Virginia Senate, told the roomful of Democrats that while they may be the minority in Page County, their votes can make a difference in statewide races.
“It starts here. It starts with a grassroots effort,” McClellan said. “You all can make a difference in statewide elections…last election we learned that the hard way didn’t we?”
The state senator criticized the Republicans in Richmond for “using the Loudoun County school system as a political football” and stating that her counterparts in the General Assembly “don’t care about their full constituency. They just care about their base.”
“Democracy is not a state, it’s an action that requires every generation to do their part,” McClellan said, also borrowing from the late Sen. John Lewis. “I’ll be damned to have my kids fight the same fight I fought because I didn’t do all I could.”
Following a standing ovation for McClellan, 6th Congressional District hopeful Jennifer Lewis tore into her Republican opponent Ben Cline.
“This man continuously votes against the interests of the people in this room,” Lewis said. “Even though he looks like the nice guy next door, don’t be fooled…I for one, would love to know where he was on Jan. 6.”
Lewis touted the 40.2 percent of the vote she received in her last bid against Cline, noting that the GOP drew below 60 percent of the vote in the 6th congressional district for the first time in many years. However, she noted disappointment in that only 50 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Lewis plans to face off with Cline again, if he emerges from the GOP primary on June 21.
Sandra Schaberl, secretary of the Page County Democratic Committee, served as emcee all evening and closed out the annual dinner with a call to fellow Democrats to “get the word out.”
“Tonight has been a night of inspiration…thank you for stepping up tonight, but we have to step up nearly every day,” Schaberl said. “Let’s get busy, let’s get active…to help our community, to help our state, and to help our nation.”
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