The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

She famously flipped off the president. Now Juli Briskman is running for office.

Juli Briskman, who is running for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, chats with Saira Sufi, center, Sufi’s daughter Leena Rasheed, 12, and son Zakaria Rasheed, 8, while campaigning in Sterling, Va. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

“Oh! You’re THAT woman!” the voters exclaim, and show her their middle finger.

Then, realizing what they just did, they quickly open their hand and wave it in apology.

“Yes,” says Juli Briskman, after that awkward moment on the doorstep has passed. “But I’m here to talk about full funding for our schools, supporting women in the workforce, an interconnected system of trails and parks in our county.”

Yup. THAT woman, the cyclist who went viral after being photographed giving the bird to President Trump’s motorcade — then got fired for it — is on her neighbors’ doorsteps in Loudoun County, where she is running for the Board of Supervisors.

She is one of the most recognizable of the hacked off, fed up and fired up wave of female candidates sweeping local and state elections ever since America put a braggadocious man accused by at least 16 women of sexual misconduct into the White House.

Briskman wasn’t totally sure she should run for public office. But after a lot of thinking and some time door-knocking for other candidates, she realized she had to do it. She wanted to turn that infamous gesture into something. Anything. To resist. To persist.

She flipped off President Trump and got fired from her government contracting job

“I had to think: ‘Do I really want to expose my family to this?’ ” said Briskman, who is hard to keep up with, in her purple running shoes on a steamy Wednesday night.

She was lionized by many for capturing their feelings about the Trump presidency. What followed, after I wrote about who she was and how she’d been fired by her employer, was #Briskman2020, memes galore and lots of prime time.

It resonated because she wasn’t an activist, a protester, a radical or a meddler. She was just a mom going to swim meets, racing to meetings for her contracting job, getting her workout in and tiring of the hatred and division swirling around her.

She got love for it, but also a lot of hate.

I know it. I got my share of it every time I wrote about her.

She never backed down.

Even when Internet trolls commented on her body in cycling pants — the body that gave birth to two children and completes ultramarathons. Even after the Trump supporters called her rude, and much worse. Even after she was threatened. Even after her company, Akima, did little when an older, male supervisor posted vulgar and partisan comments on his social media page but fired Briskman for exercising her First Amendment right to flip off a motorcade on her day off.

She sued the company and didn’t get her job back — not that she wanted it — but she did get the severance pay it tried to skip out on. She got job offers aplenty and was quickly hired by another company.

She flipped off the president, then sued the company who fired her for it

Now what?

As the poster woman for the resistance, what could a 52-year-old, single, suburban mom of two teenagers do to fight a presidency with which she wholeheartedly disagrees?

“It’s not like I can run against him,” she said. “But I can run.”

The current occupant of that seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), who campaigned for Trump at a 2016 rally.

There it is — her reason.

But should she run as middle-finger woman?

“Yeah, we had to think about how to deal with that,” her campaign manager, Mike Mullins, told me as we tried to keep up with the candidate.

She wasn’t going to run on one gesture. For folks who may agree with her politics but not her action, she didn’t want it to distract from the local issues.

So they came up with a solution. Among the buttons she has pinned to her shirt (“When we vote, we win!” etc.) is an orange bicycle. If people ask about it, she tells them she’s a cyclist. Usually, that’s enough to jog their memories and open the conversation, if they want to talk about it.

Otherwise, it’s all about schools, traffic, infrastructure and first responders.

Her Northern Virginia neighborhood looks like quintessential, cookie-cutter suburbia. Perfect hedges. Colored mulch. Power-washed facades. Petunia baskets. American flags.

On a night of knocking on at least a dozen doors, the faces behind them were anything but cookie cutter.

Julio, Viktor, Saira, Wamiq, Hari.

“They keep telling me, ‘Go back where you came from.’ I’m Asian,” said one woman, who was nervous about giving her name, but gave Briskman an earful about the way she feels in today’s America. “But my son? He was born here. He’s 20. And they also tell him: ‘Go back where you came from.’ ”

Is it too soon for Democrats to co-opt “Make America Great Again”? On blue hats?

This is the wealthiest county in America. It’s also a place where nearly a quarter of all residents were born outside of the United States. And where, in the past 20 years, the population has shifted from 85 percent white to 62 percent white.

“Oh, yes. I will vote for you,” said Hari Moosani, 46, who has lived in Loudoun County for 22 years. “Change is good, and we need a change here.”

“I’m with you,” said Saira Sufi, 40, who opened her cherry-red door when Briskman knocked. “I know who she is,” she told me, as I stood behind Briskman.

We met the cashier she knows from Food Lion, her kids’ former babysitter and folks who never saw the picture, didn’t care about the middle finger, but liked what she had to say about change.

It’s time for that.

Twitter: @petulad

Read more Petula Dvorak:

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