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Capitol Police investigating racist voicemail left for Del. Roslyn Tyler

Building with columns in front
Crixell Matthews
The Virginia State Capitol. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Content Warning: This story quotes racist language.

The Virginia Division of Capitol Police are investigating a racist voicemail left at the Emporia offices of Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex) the weekend before she lost her seat in the Nov. 2 elections.

In a two-and-a-half minute rant, the male caller called Black people “apes”; described Democrats as a “bunch of racists”; predicted Republicans would abolish Critical Race Theory as well as the celebration of Juneteenth; proposed a new “slave day” holiday involving white men holding Black men in chains.

Del. Tyler called the message “disturbing” and “sad” and said her office had reported it to Capitol Police. She said it had been left shortly before the election by an anonymous number. It was posted to Twitter on Oct. 31 by a local Democratic campaign coordinator.

“I thought we had come a lot farther than this in the United States,” said Tyler, who has represented the district since 2006. “I guess it was an intimidation factor to discontinue what I do in my district.”

Joseph Macenka, a spokesman for Capitol Police, declined to comment on what he said was an active investigation.

Republican Otto Wachsmann, a pharmacist, defeated Tyler by about five points in the election. In an email, the small business owner said the message is “absolutely appalling and should never be tolerated.” 

Da’Quan Marcell Love, executive director of the Virginia NAACP, said the message re-affirmed his view that Virginia retains its ties to the old Confederacy.

“There are racists across this commonwealth,” Love said. “And while we can change laws and statutes, unfortunately, we can't legislate people's minds and their hearts.”

Four of the seven Democratic lawmakers who lost their seats on Nov. 2 are members of the Black caucus (though one of the four, Del. Alex Askew, is asking for a recount). Republican Winsome Sears’ victory in the lieutenant governor’s race will make her the first Black woman to hold statewide office.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.