Beverly Harrison, left, talks about her platform to Joseph and Stephanie Cheff after announcing her candidacy to challenge Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, for the House of Delegates.

WOODSTOCK – Beverly Harrison, of Woodstock, has formally declared herself a Democratic candidate against Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, in the 15th District race this year.

Her campaign will initially be working to collect signatures of registered voters to get her on the ballot.

Harrison said Saturday that her involvement in the effort to win ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the recently completed General Assembly session played a role in her decision to run. Gilbert, the House of Delegates majority leader, led a successful effort to thwart a resolution for ratification of the amendment. He was first elected to the House in 2006.

Harrison’s campaign announcement came after the conclusion of a panel discussion titled ERA: Past, Present, and Future.

“I hope you will elect me as your District 15 candidate, Harrison said. “Actually, as your District 15 House delegate. It is time for our communities, our families and our small business to come first. I will listen. I will hear you. I will get back with you. I will take your hopes and your concerns with me to Richmond, and then I will come back home to work for you.”

Harrison said she was spurred into politics after she volunteered for the Shenandoah chapter of VAratifyERA campaign.

“That certainly was instrumental in my decision to run,” she said. “Granted, I was appalled at what happened on the last day when the vote did not move forward but what I had begun to see in those months was the importance of how the legislature worked and how critical it is to have representatives who are actually representing,” Harrison said.

She said she learned that politics is complicated and obscure and unless people go to Richmond and see things happening in subcommittees, they are not going to know what happens, that bills get killed for reasons that defy logic, she said.

“So for me, on a deeply personal level, I am very concerned about the divisive politics in our nation right now, that we have gone to extremes and we need to move toward the middle, not for people to abandon what is important to them, but to find a way to work together again,” Harrison said.

Harrison said she is not just a one-issue candidate.

She has three major platforms she will be campaigning on.

• Building a sustainable local economy.

• Health care for all individuals of all income levels. Harrison said she and her family have experienced the continual drain of medical bills resulting from chronic medical conditions.

• Promoting public education with a goal of building education funding back up to pre-housing crash levels.

“All of these are fundamental, interrelated and you can’t impact one without impacting the others. Hungry children have a hard time learning, if you don’t have housing, if you are sick and if your mom has to choose between going to work and paying for your medication. There are so many choices to be made. It has to be holistic but reasonable and small steps, small-scale approach to change. I do not support grandiose sweeping change. You start in small and reasonable ways and work toward the larger change you believe in,” Harrison said.

Harrison has an undergraduate degree from George Mason University in developmental psychology related to children. She works for SPARGO in Fairfax, where she is the senior administrative specialist in the housing department, She has worked as a program director for CareGivers, where she worked with at-risk teens, incarcerated teens and college students. Hearing there stories had a big impact on her, she said and taught her to look at the person and not just behaviors.

Harrison has volunteered for numerous community service programs such as the Gifted and Talented Education (locally known as GATE) on the local advisory committee.

The 15th District covers Shenandoah and Page counties and parts of Warren and Rockingham counties.

Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com