COURTHOUSE – Democrat Tom Brock said he will continue to seek the Democratic nomination to represent the 21st Virginia House District despite calls for him to quit after offensive social media posts made in the past came to light in recent weeks.
In a recent interview with The Independent News, Brock said he remains committed to fighting for equality and progressive ideals. He said the posts, for which he has apologized, do not represent who he is today and a recent example was taken out of context.
“I feel like it shows a profound lack of character to quit under trying circumstances, even when they seem insurmountable,” Brock said. Though he has conversations about dropping out of the race, he said he also had discussions with other Democrats who have encouraged him to continue despite pressure from state elected officials.
On Tuesday, May 16, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus renewed its call for Brock to drop out, and it endorsed the campaign of Kelly Fowler, his opponent in the primary, due to Brock’s “racist” and “misogynistic” statements.
The caucus’statement was attributed to Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano, D-57th District, and state Del. Charniele Herring, D-46th District, chairperson of the caucus.
“Tom Brock’s racist jokes are appalling,” they said in the statement. “His history of derogatory statements about women and people of color are not consistent with the values of our party.”
Most recently, Brock came under fire for 2011 posts between he and his son that involved racially offensive jokes. This followed earlier media reports about other social media posts from his past that were criticized as misogynistic and led to calls for him to quit.
Brock told The Independent News that the most recently revealed posts, which were first reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, were taken out of context.
Regarding a 2011 exchange of jokes that used racial stereotypes, Brock said the comments related to a conversation he had with his son years earier. His son had repeated the jokes, and Brock explained to him why they were wrong.
“He told me these jokes when he was 12, and I had a long conversation about how they were inappropriate,” Brock said in an interview. “I will say definitively that I do not make racist jokes, and it’s really unfortunate my character is being assassinated in such a way.”
Brock, a systems administrator in the healthcare field, founded the political action committee Progressive House VA to field candidates in General Assembly races and harness grassroots efforts, he said during an interview earlier this year.
“As many of you know, I have not led a perfect life and my social media history reflects that imperfection,” he wrote in a Facebook post this past month. “I have apologized for the crude and insensitive posts I made in the past, and I sincerely apologize again to all who are seeing these for the first time and are offended.”
Brock wrote that becoming involved in politics, including the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., was transformative in his life. He wrote that he has worked to become more inclusive and to work for equality.
“We’re just happy to be endorsed by the caucus,” said Ty Williams, Fowler’s campaign manager, during a telephone interview. “We’re honored.”
Williams declined to discuss Brock’s statements in detail.
“That’s between Tom and his supporters,” Williams said.
In an earlier email statement to journalist Patrick Wilson of The Times-Dispatch, Williams wrote that Brock’s posts “sound more like something Donald Trump would say than a candidate in a Democratic primary.”
Brock temporarily took down his campaign Facebook page due to what he said were abusive comments, but it returned, and he released a statement dated Thursday, May 18.
“During the past 12 to 14 weeks, accusations about my character and fitness to serve have been circulated around the district and the state, on many platforms, among them, blogs, Facebook, the news media,” it read in part. “The principle accusations have centered on misogyny and racism, in relation to years old Facebook postings which were presented without context. I have previously addressed the accusations of misogyny.
“The recent accusations of racism brought the harsh spotlight and censure of the Democratic House Caucus to my campaign, criticism which would be appropriate and deserved if these accusations were true. However, they are not.”
He and Fowler on Tuesday, June 13, seek their party’s nomination to run for the seat held by state Del. Ron Villanueva, R-21st District. Villanueva, who formerly served on the Virginia Beach City Council, faces a Republican primary by Bill Haley, who last ran, unsuccessfully, in a primary for the 14th Senate District seat held by state Sen. John Cosgrove.
The district includes parts of Chesapeake, but roughly nine out of every 10 voters live in Virginia Beach. In recent elections, Villanueva defeated a Democratic challenger, though district voters have gone for Democrats in some statewide and federal elections, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Brock’s name appears at the top of primary ballots that are printed in advance and absentee voting already is underway, Virginia Beach Registrar Donna Patterson said in an interview last month.
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