In less than two weeks, on Tuesday, June 8, Virginia voters will go to the polls and choose one of five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
The five candidates participated in a candidate’s forum Thursday to address topics ranging from education and the economy to COVID-19 vaccines and police reform.
The one-hour forum televised on NBC-4 featured former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, state Del. Lee J. Carter and former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Roy.
Fairfax, McClellan and Roy seek to become the state’s second Black governor elected in Virginia since Douglas Wilder in 1990. If either Carroll Roy or McClellan win in the Nov. 2 general election, they would become the state’s first Black woman elected to the Commonwealth’s top position.
“I came to the General Assembly as a 32-year-old Black woman from the most Democratic district in the state [and] operating in a body that was mostly white Republican men over 50 … and bringing perspectives that were not represented in the General Assembly,” said McClellan, 47, a state senator since 2017 who served 11 years in the House of Delegates from 2006.
In terms of police reform, McClellan and Carroll Roy said they would end qualified immunity, a U.S. Supreme Court doctrine to ensure officers aren’t held liable unless another officer has been found guilty in a similar situation.
Carroll Roy, 39, a former state delegate from 2018-20 now working as a court-appointed attorney, said law enforcement agencies must be held more accountable for police wrongdoings such as the controversial traffic stop by Windsor Police against U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, who’s Black and Latino. Authorities released body camera footage of the incident last month.
As for body cameras, she said, “I can tell you, the cameras are not on.”
All five candidates support paid sick leave and paid family leave for Virginia workers.
Carroll Roy would also incorporate a prescription drug affordability board, which the neighboring state of Maryland approved two years ago to recommend ways to make drugs more affordable.
Some of the most intense dialogue came from Carter, 36, elected in 2017 as a delegate.
Carter, a self-proclaimed socialist, criticized McAuliffe when he said he would bring companies such as Amazon and Nestle Corp. to reignite the state’s economy.
“I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to give millions of dollars of our public money to massive corporations like Amazon and Nestle,” Carter said. “When the Amazon H2Q was announced, the rent in my building went up 18% in a month before a single shovel hit the ground. Before a single person was hired. It made people’s lives worse and we had to pay for the privilege.”
Polls in the state show McAuliffe ahead in the Democratic race.
Some of his responses to questions focused ahead on the general election for voters not to select Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, a 54-year-old businessman and former executive of the Carlyle Group who received the GOP nomination last week.
“Glenn Youngkin opposed Medicaid expansion. He said it was wrong,” McAuliffe, 64, said. “For 500,000 Virginians who had health care because of Medicaid expansion, Glenn Youngkin is against it.”
Fairfax, 42, said he believes his time as second-in-command helped the state bring health insurance for Virginians and the state being the first in the south to legalize marijuana.
He said he’s served as “part of the most progressive administration in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Something that has resonated with millions of voters around the Commonwealth.”