Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield) was first elected to represent the 62 district in the House of Delegates two years ago. Now she is seeking reelection after having a promising two years of passing legislation as a Republican in a chamber that is ruled by the Democratic majority.
Her district encompasses the southern parts of Chesterfield, all of Hopewell, and part of Prince George.
Before winning her House race in 2019 she served on the Chesterfield school board for eight years. “My first passion is really service involving families and children,” she said in an interview while waiting in line to pick her kids up from school Friday. “My passion and desire to serve in the community really started from my mission work within my own church.”
Coyner credits her time working with low-income families and single mothers and seeing their struggle of needing to work while also being a parent to their child as part of a reason she ran for office. “Seeing how much they loved their kids and wanted the best for them but could not be at work and be at home at the same time really led to me trying to become a voice for so many moms at the school level.”
Then after eight years working in public education, Coyner says she saw there were not enough people with public school knowledge at the state level. So she ran — and she won.
As it often is, public schools are a key platform issue for both political parties ahead of November’s elections. All 100 House seats are up for election as well as governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general this year.
Both parties differ on several aspects of public schools, but the point that the Republican Party has been hitting the hardest is opposing Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools. CRT is an academic approach that is centered around the idea that the United States was built on systemic racism. In general, CRT aims to show that racism is the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, instead of explicit and intentional prejudices.
Republicans across the country assert that CRT is being implemented into school curriculums, but school districts in Virginia deny that claim. Strong opinions on CRT has raised tensions and voices at school board meetings across Virginia.
“My heart is sad for where we are today and the battlefield it seems like it has become in public education,” Coyner said about the rhetoric about public schools this year.
Coyner said that when she joined the school board ten years ago, one of her biggest priorities was equity.
“The idea of CRT has no place in teaching for our children,” Coyner said. “But my big concern having been someone who has advocated for our young people for a very long time is that we throw out some of the great work that we have been doing along with the things that we find evidence of that perhaps we should not be doing.”
She stressed that she believes an entire school district should not be blamed for the actions of a few individuals not be following policy.
“I would just encourage folks to ensure we are not throwing all the good work out for the things we are worried about or the snippets of things we have seen that people are doing wrong,” Coyner continued.
Coyner passed a slate of bills already. All six of her bills passed during the 2021 legislative session — a big feat for a Republican in a chamber where the Democrats have a 55-45 majority. “I will continue to focus on what I believe the role of government is – which is to get out of the way for the average citizen, let you live your life and stay out of adding red tape to your life and helping those who are most vulnerable,” Coyner said.
Moving forward, Coyner says she wants to work on legislation to improve pay for teachers, reduce high-stakes testing in public schools, advocate for individuals with disabilities, keep supporting veterans, and provide help for individuals battling addiction. “I’m going to keep bringing those things to the forefront.”
Her opponent is Jasmine Gore, the current mayor of Hopewell. Coyner did not want to discuss how she is different from Gore, she just wants to stay focused the work that she is doing and let the people decide for themselves. “I think it is really important to talk about what I am doing for the community and let voters see the contrast for themselves,” Coyner said.
Listen to Coyner’s entire interview with Virginia Scope below:
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