by Brandon Jarvis

All but one of Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominees participated in ‘The People’s Debate‘ Tuesday night.

The virtual event was hosted by progressive groups from across the Commonwealth and was not sanctioned by the Democratic Party of Virginia. Jennifer Carrol Foy, Jennifer McClellan, Lee Carter, and Justin Fairfax participated in the debate.

Jennifer Carroll Foy started by talking about intimately understanding the challenges that Virginians face because she has faced them personally, noting she grew up in Petersburg, one of the poorest localities in the commonwealth. “I have gone without healthcare and I have worked minimum wage jobs,” she said in her introduction. “That’s what Virginians are looking for. Virginians want a governor who has walked in their shoes.” 

“We need a new leader who will move Virginia forward and not back,” Carroll Foy continued. “And frankly, we need a leader who will show up, unlike Terry McAuliffe, who chose not to be here tonight.” 

McAuliffe was the only Democratic candidate to not participate Tuesday night. The former governor has committed to participate in the four party-sanctioned debates that will take place between April and June, however.

Senator Jennifer McClellan started by citing her family history of experiencing racism in the south and how that helped mold her into the person she is now. “I come from a family of educators, domestic workers, and laborers that grew up in the Jim Crow South,” she said in her introduction. “Too many people are being left behind because their needs, their problems, and their perspectives are being ignored. That was true before COVID, it is even more true today. It is time to bring a new perspective to the governor’s office and the experience to deliver progressive change.” 

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax talked about the importance of making this election about the people. “We never want to lose sight of the fact there are people all over the Commonwealth of Virginia in this moment who are hurting and facing significant challenges in their lives,” he said during his introduction. “There are healthcare and economic issues but it also raises many of the issues around racial injustice and the inequalities that existed throughout the entire 400-year history of our commonwealth and nation.”

Delegate Lee Carter talked about why he got into politics and how his background is not typical for a politician. “I got involved in politics because I got hurt at work several years ago and it was that experience dealing with the Worker’s Compensation Commission that made me see firsthand that the systems that are supposed to protect working people have been eroded away by corporate interests for decades,” he said in his introduction. “So I took on a fight that the Democratic Party said was impossible and won.”

“I am the only candidate in this race who has never accepted a single contribution from a fossil fuel company, Carter continued. “I am the only candidate in this race who has never accepted a single contribution from organized police or big banks like Capital One.”  

The candidates then answered questions for nearly two hours covering a wide range of topics. The debate can be viewed in full on Youtube or Facebook.

McAuliffe responded with the following statement to an inquiry about why he did not participate in Tuesday’s debate. “Since launching my campaign, I have been speaking directly with Virginians about my big, bold plans to rebuild our economy, create a more equitable Virginia, and move our Commonwealth forward. As governor, I will take bold action now to bolster our economy by accelerating the minimum wage increase to $15 by 2024, ensuring all Virginians have access to quality affordable healthcare, and raising teacher pay above the national average for the first time in Virginia history. I’m excited about the future of our Commonwealth and I look forward to continuing to engage directly with Virginians about what we will achieve together.” 

. The first party-sanctioned debate takes place on April 6 and is hosted by WTVR in Richmond.

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