Juli Briskman, the cyclist who flashed her middle finger at President Trump’s motorcade — and lost her job at a government contracting firm as a result — is parlaying an act of resistance into a run for local office in Northern Virginia.
The county reliably votes for Democrats at the state and federal level, but Republicans maintain control of the board, 6 to 3, and Republicans have represented the county in Congress for nearly 40 years.
Democrats hope voter hostility toward Trump, combined with a recent population boom and demographic changes, will help them oust Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in November and turn the Board of Supervisors blue in 2019 county elections.
Briskman said she didn’t consider seeking public office until last October, when she was forced out of her government contracting job for, as she sees it, exercising her First Amendment rights.
“We have a right to peacefully protest and criticize and express dissent toward our government,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“I’ve gotten some feedback that folks say you should respect the president. Even if you don’t like what they’re doing, you shouldn’t show this sort of disdain. And I simply disagree, and I think the Constitution grants me that privilege.”
Would she do it again? “Probably,” she said.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Loudoun County with 55 percent of the vote in 2016, and the following year Ralph Northam (D) expanded her margin, winning 59 percent of the vote in Loudoun on his way to becoming governor.
But it remains to be seen if and how national politics will influence local elections in 2019.
Volpe, who has been on the board since 2012, said that although she supports the president, she hopes the campaign will focus on local issues.
“Right now, I’m focused on doing the job that my constituents elected me to do: improving our transportation, making our community safer, creating jobs, being fiscally responsible,” she said. “Needless to say, I’ll focus on the race at the appropriate time.”
Briskman said she would run on funding the county’s growing schools adequately, curtailing unchecked development and increased transparency in local government.
She declined to name specific items she would work to change, but said she opposed Volpe’s successful call to cut taxes last year because the move cost the district about $14 million.
Volpe defended the tax cut.
“I felt it was important because not only do we have working families who are struggling,” she said, “but we also have a senior population living on a fixed income and it’s important to try to find that balance.”
Briskman, a divorced mom of two teenagers, has lived in Loudoun County for nearly 20 years and has been active in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and co-founded a local running club.
She has a journalism degree from Ohio State University, an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a social media certificate from Georgetown University.
Early in her career, Briskman was a reporter for the Winchester Star, and she went on to work in communications and public relations, including stints at embassies in Kazakhstan and Latvia.
Briskman was asked to leave her government contracting job or face termination after an Agence France-Presse photo of her raising her middle finger at Trump’s motorcade went viral.
She sued and won her severance claim, but her wrongful-termination lawsuit was dismissed. Rather than appeal, she decided to seek public office.
Trump often returns to Briskman’s section of Loudoun to visit Trump National Golf Club. Each time, she and a band of Democrats stage impromptu protests outside the resort with signs and baby Trump balloons. Middle fingers stay down.
“If he’s coming to my neighborhood,” she said, “I think he should see some resistance.”