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Democratic Candidates Make Final Pitch Before Primary

By Marrett Ceo

With Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and a spate of state delegate primaries being held next Tuesday, candidates got one final word on the debate stage.

For the fourth and final time in front of a limited audience, the five candidates for Virginia governor squared off at Christopher Newport University in Newport News.

Those candidates are Jennifer Carrol Foy, a Petersburg native who formerly served in the House of Delegates, representing part of Prince William County; Del. Lee Carter of Manassas represents the 50th district in the House of Delegates; Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who was elected in 2017 after having served as an Assistant US Attorney early in his career; Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who served from 2014-2018 and was a businessman before that, as well as a former Democratic National Committee chairman and State Senator Jennifer McClellan has represented Richmond constituents in both Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate since 2006.  

McClellan’s goals, if elected, would be to rebuild the Virginia economy by raising the minimum wage and creating a small business loan for long-term effects of the pandemic, create universal child care, and expand affordable reproductive and mental health care.  She stressed funding education when asked by Alan about what she would do with the expected $500 million budget surplus.  

Quentin Kidd, the director of the Watson Center for Public Policy at CNU, stated that frontrunner McAuliffe couldn’t afford any mistakes as other candidates looked to cut into his lead. “Both Carroll Foy and McClellan would have to go after him,” was what Kidd predicted.  

The two did just that when they took jabs at the former governor almost in succession after he had mentioned Virginia’s Republican nominee Glen Youngkin and Donald Trump several times. Foy argued that McAuliffe and Youngkin at the top of the ticket would just be “two wealthy out of touch millionaire politicians, who don’t understand the challenges Virginians face.” Carter argued that the campaign should be more focused on a more inward direction for the Commonwealth, rather than being “opposed to the other guys, we have to fight for something. ”

With upwards of nearly $10 million raised, McAuliffe is the clear man to beat in the race. Following the former governor, Foy comes distant at $3,693, 838.  McCLellan isn’t far behind at $1,700,030, followed by Fairfax at $300,391. Carter comes in last with $138,702. This is even less than Lt. Gov. hopeful Xavier Warren’s near $159,000.

With three African Americans on the stage, including Fairfax who is only the second to hold statewide office, timely questions were asked about the recent racial injustice, one week after the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, as well as the tasing of US Army Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, in Windsor.

Fairfax was in favor of universal body cameras on police officers, making sure they are turned on consistently, in addition to ‘bias training.’

McClellan highlighted her actions as a legislator and proposed more options for investigations to take place to curb similar incidents, such as referring them immediately to citizen review panels or the AG’s office.  

Foy also sounded off on independent investigations.  Carter stressed a possible special session to address police reform.

McAuliffe also stressed the issue of training and brought up his administration’s efforts to restore rights of convicted felons.  

Another factor that McAuliffe was able to put out at the debate, which other candidates lacked some, was figures.

When asked about the poor conditions and lack of 85 million masks, gloves and gowns never replaced at the end of the swine flu outbreak, he commended his successor Northam, as  66 percent of Virginia’s population has had at least one dose to fight Covid-19.

McAuliffe was also questioned about outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam, who has endorsed his predecessor, if he “stifled an important debate as to whether the establishment wing of the party needs to give way to the progressive movement.”

The former governor responded he “doesn’t pay attention to labels,” and cited his administration’s accomplishments — on job creation as well as  income and business growth.

Before a Covid-limited audience of no more than 50 people in the audience on May 25, all six of Virginia’s Democratic hopefuls for Lieutenant Governor had their first and only debate.

The lieutenant governor’s race usually doesn’t garner much attention in Virginia, since it’s usually a ceremonial position that is used as a stepping stone to becoming governor. That was the path Gov. Ralph Northam took when he served as Lt. Gov. in 2013 and went on to become governor four years later. Current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is trying to replicate that formula with his own gubernatorial aspirations in this year’s election cycle.  

Three candidates now serve in the House of Delegates, Dels. Sam Rasoul and Mark Levine are both running for re-election in addition to seeking statewide office while Del. Hala Ayala isn’t seeking re-election. Another candidate, Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan has served since 2016 and sits on a number of boards and commissions. 

The two other candidates, Xavier Warren, a former NFL agent, and Sean Perryman, a former Fairfax NAACP president, spoke of personal achievements rather than elected policy they have helped sponsor.  

McClellan said high speed internet for all Virginians was her top issue. Job growth and small businesses were the focus of Warren’s campaign. And Perryman zeroed in on equity as his primary cause.

Perryman also took a different approach on the issue of handling police reform. While Warren and Ayala both support all police officers in Virginia wearing body cameras, Perryman said he would fight to change the so-called qualified immunity protections for law enforcement so individual officers could be sued over their actions.  

Levine, who represents Alexandria, addressed his actions on policy in a lot of his responses, particularly of the importance of addressing gun violence.

“Virginians are nervous, because it’s too easy for dangerous people to get guns,” said Del. Mark Levine.

Campaign finance reform and fundraising came up in the debate as well, with Virginia having one of the most relaxed campaign finance systems in the country.

The first question seemed to be aimed specifically at Rasoul’s strong lead at over $1.3 million which had some large donations from Muslim advocacy groups, according to data from The Washington Post.  Moderators also asked Rasoul to address the issue of his faith representing Virginians if he was elected.  Candidates as well as the Democratic Party Chair took to social media to show their disdain for the question after the debate, given that no other candidates were asked about their faith or had their fundraising numbers questioned.  

The winner of the primary on June 8 will face Republican candidate for governor Glen Youngkin and former Del. Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor in this fall’s statewide election.