A Democratic Virginia legislative candidate whose race was rattled by the revelation that she and her husband livestreamed themselves having sex moved forward with her campaign Tuesday and drew some early support in the high-stakes contest.
Susanna Gibson, a nurse practitioner with two children, is running against a Republican businessman in one of a handful of highly competitive races that could determine the balance of power in the General Assembly. The race in a suburban district outside Richmond has attracted large amounts of spending and interest for an off-year legislative race.
Gibson has been gaining support as an abortion rights candidate in a state that is an increasingly rare abortion access point in the South, where many states have passed new restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
On Monday, after The Washington Post and The Associated Press reported that Gibson had livestreamed videos on Chaturbate — a legal website where viewers can watch live webcam performances featuring nudity and sexual activity — Gibson was mocked on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
But state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, a leading Democratic lawmaker in Virginia, quickly came to her defense, calling on voters to “make this the biggest fundraising day of (Gibson's) campaign.” Many women voters retweeted Lucas with a link to donate to Gibson's campaign.
“Anybody who looks at this knows it's a hit job,” said Amanda Linton, a 45-year-old defense contractor who donated $25 to Gibson's campaign after reading about the videos. Linton said she plans to donate another $100 to Gibson's campaign even though she can't vote for her because she lives outside her district.
“It's just nobody's business. She didn’t break any laws by doing this. She had sex with her husband. I mean, my God," Linton said.
Lucas said she assumes the videos were leaked by a Republican in an attempt to embarrass Gibson and hurt her campaign.
“They’re looking for anything they can find on any candidate that they think might sway the voters," Lucas said. “It all has to do with who is going to get control of the Senate and who is going to get control of the House. It's all about control."
Democrats now hold the Senate by a four-vote margin, and Republicans control the House of Delegates by the same margin, with four seats vacant. Both parties are waging intense legislative battles as Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin — a rising star in the GOP — tries to bolster his conservative agenda with full control of state government.
Emily's List, an advocacy group for Democratic female candidates, also defended Gibson.
“Susanna originally ran for office because of the overturning of Roe and she’s been very outspoken on standing up for reproductive rights. People are coming out in support of Susanna because they know that Republicans are coming after her because she was standing up for them," said spokesperson Lauren Chou.
Still, some observers of Virginia politics said it seems unlikely Gibson will entirely avoid backlash,
Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said that even in a more open-minded era for personal indiscretions, it’s highly unlikely Gibson will win.
“Donald Trump has defined downward what is acceptable in public life, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of conduct that Democrats will be able to sell in a suburban Richmond district," Farnsworth said.
Mark Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, said the sex videos are a huge distraction from Gibson's campaign.
“Explaining sex tapes rather than talking policy is an enormous lost opportunity,” he said.
But Monica Hutchinson, a legislative coordinator for a youth justice organization, said she supported Gibson before the videos surfaced and she will continue to support her.
“Honestly, I don't see why she can't survive this. She didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t break any laws," Hutchinson said, and Gibson's "sex life has nothing to do with her policy agenda.”
Gibson has denounced the exposure and sharing of the videos as a violation of her privacy and “the worst gutter politics.”
Barakat contributed to this report from Falls Church, Virginia.