Recently, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to the two Democratic candidates running for the 2nd House of Delegates district (Woodbridge, Quantico, etc.) seat currently held by Del. Mark Dudenhefer (R for “retiring from the House of Delegates”) – and which Hillary Clinton won by a whopping 56%-39% (!) margin in November 2016. Needless to say, this open seat represents a super-strong pickup opportunity for Democrats. The Democratic candidates here are Josh King and Jennifer Carroll Foy. I told the candidates that I’d post their interviews in the order To see Jennifer Carroll Foy’s answers, click here. Earlier this afternoon, I received Josh King‘s responses, which you can see below. Finally, please note that the primary for this nomination will take place on June 13, so if you’re a Democrat who lives in the 2nd district, make sure you vote!
- Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 2nd House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I’m an Army vet, a Deputy Sheriff and father of three beautiful children. I’ve always committed myself to service. While I was deployed to Iraq I found out that my oldest daughter, Joscyln, was diagnosed with autism. That’s when I realized I needed to come home and serve my community locally to be closer to my daughter.
Three years ago Josclyn’s class was forced to go an entire year without a full time teacher because the public school she was assigned to couldn’t afford one. In a state with one of the best education systems in the country, there was no money for her or six other special needs children. And when I investigated, I found that time and time again resources were being sent to privileged communities while minority communities like mine had their kids put in trailers and their best teachers hired elsewhere.
It’s unacceptable. No child — especially one with special needs — should go a year without a teacher.
That’s when I decided to run for public office. I ran in 2015 against an entrenched Republican incumbent and only lost by 125 votes. Since then I’ve devoted much of my time to serving my community as the Secretary of SEIU Local Virginia 512’s Deputy Sheriffs chapter, member of the Persons with Disabilities Committee in Prince William County, member by Gubernatorial appointment of the Virginia War Memorial Board and the Peer Support Training Coordinator at the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.
- What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
The issue I am most passionate about is providing a world-class education to every child in Virginia, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or whether they have special needs. My family’s personal experience with our special needs daughter going an entire year without a full time teacher, and many similar stories that I’ve heard from friends and neighbors, have made it my mission to improve our education system.
I am also passionate about growing the economy and creating more high paying jobs here in Prince William and Stafford Counties. Residents of these communities need higher wages, which we can accomplish by ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work, raising the minimum wage, and supporting small businesses. Just as important, the jobs need to be located closer to where workers live, which cuts down on the expense of commuting and allows families to spend more time at home together.
Another issue that I’m passionate about is protecting our environment. Locally I’ve been involved in the fight to ensure the safe and clean closure of the toxic coal ash ponds at Dominion Power’s Possum Point power plant. Dominion Power has been dumping the toxic byproduct of burning coal in holding ponds just 4 miles from my front door since 1988. And, to nobody’s surprise, the ponds have leaked and some of my neighbors have found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in their wells. The situation is unacceptable. Now that the ponds are going to be closed, we need to be absolutely sure the process ensures the long-term safety of the toxic byproducts held there.
- How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
I have been described as a progressive Democrat, but personally have never found labels very helpful in my life. When I served abroad in the Army, the soldiers in my unit weren’t Democrats or Republicans, they were my brothers and sisters. When my daughter’s special needs class went a year without a full time teacher, I never cared to find out if her classmates’ families were Democrats or Republicans, I knew our children faced an injustice and I wanted to help fix it.
I have been endorsed by a number of Democratic elected leaders and progressive organizations that share my values including Congressman Gerry Connolly, State Senator George Barker, Delegate Charniele Herring, Delegate Luke Torian, Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi and SEIU.
- Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
Delegate Charniele Herring is my mentor and played a major role in convincing me to take my service and leadership in the community to a bigger platform by running for public office. Delegate Herring’s leadership in the House of Delegates and her history-breaking role as the first African American to be elected chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia has long inspired me.
As a Prince William County resident, I have strongly disagreed with many of Corey Stewart’s actions and hateful rhetoric on a number of issues.
- If you had been in the House of Delegates at the time, would you have voted for a) HB 2313, the comprehensive transportation package passed in 2013; b) repeal of Virginia’s estate tax, which is costing our state around $130 million a year in order to benefit a few hundred of the wealthiest Virginians; c) the 2011 redistricting bill HB 5001, which gerrymandered the state and helped to lock in a Republican majority in the House of Delegates for the rest of the decade; or d) the 2014 and 2015 ethics reform packages, which many (myself included) have criticized as extremely weak, possibly even a step backwards in the case of the most recent “reforms.”a) Yes, we desperately need to improve transportation options in Northern Virginia.b) No, the wealthy few need to pay their fair share for Virginia to create a world-class education for every child.
c) No, voters should pick their politician, not the other way around.
d) Yes, I would have supported the bill because it did make some incremental improvements, though I would have fought for more powerful reforms such as giving teeth to the ethics council and more clearly defining terms that opened loopholes.
- What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? Do you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” new natural gas pipelines (e.g., Mountain Valley Pipeline, Atlantic Coast Pipeline) uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
My vision for Virginia’s energy future is one where we invest in more renewable energy sources, become less dependent on foreign oil and elect leaders who believe in science. Too many Richmond politicians, and now President Trump, don’t believe in science and don’t believe in climate change. The Chesapeake Bay needs protecting, our coastal cities need solutions and everyone needs clean drinking water. I’ll fight for more investments in clean, renewable energy, will oppose any national or state effort to remove funding for the Bay and will continue holding Dominion Power accountable, like I’ve done in calling for the safe closure of the toxic coal ash ponds at the Possum Point power plant here in Prince William County.
- Should Virginia be known as more of a “business-friendly” state or more of a “worker-friendly” state and why?
I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. When workers are paid well, treated well and have opportunities to advance in their career they’re more productive, which benefits our local economy. When business, especially small businesses thrive, than they’re able to hire more workers and pay them more, which again benefits the local economy. We can benefit workers and businesses by improving our education system from pre-K to more affordable higher education, solving some of the traffic woes that plague Northern Virginia, and growing the middle class by raising the minimum wage and ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work.
- Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) non-partisan redistricting; c) allowing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity ; d) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other common sense gun measures; e) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise); f) reining in predatory lenders; g) fully restoring the rights of ex-felons; h) issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and otherwise defending their communities from xenophobic attacks; i) moving Virginia from its current hostility to organized labor towards a far more welcoming, positive place for unions and working people in general?a) Yes, we need a progressive tax system that ensures the wealthy few pay their fair share and that helps grow the middle class.
b) Yes, voters should pick their representative, not the other way around.
c) I oppose discrimination in any form, including these so-called ‘bathroom bills’.
d) As a Dad, an Army vet and a law enforcement officer I know we need common sense gun violence reforms such as universal background checks.
e) I have been concerned with some approaches in the past that rely on gas taxes and tolls, which tend to be regressive and place an unfair burden on commuters in Northern Virginia without adequate public transportation options when there are more progressive and innovate solutions available to both pay for important services and protect the environment.
f) Yes, predatory lending takes advantage of the most vulnerable among us.
g) Yes, I have long supported rights restoration.
h) Yes, I’ve always valued the diversity of the 2nd district and condemn all xenophobic attacks
i) Yes! I know from my experience as a member and leader of my union, SEIU Local Virginia 512, that giving workers a voice at their job benefits both workers and employers and has historically been a major force in growing the middle class, which we need to rebuild today.
- The 2nd House of Delegates district is a district that was won (by wide margins) by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe, etc., yet sees a major “dropoff” in Democratic voter turnout in non-presidential, non-gubernatorial years. What would you do, as delegate, to help turn that off-year Democratic “dropoff” around?
I believe that people only take time out of their busy lives to vote if they feel listened to and understood by a candidate for public office and are offered real solutions that will improve their lives. As a Delegate, I will continue serving my community and engaging with my neighbors in Prince William and Stafford counties as often as possible. I will present real solutions to voters and never waiver from my mission to gets results for people that improve their lives.
- Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – for instance, the tremendous influence of money, lobbyists and corporations (e.g., Dominion Virginia Power, car title/payday lenders) on legislation – and needs major ethics reform? More broadly, if elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” with this system or to “shake things up?” Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
I believe Richmond is broken for many reasons. Only a broken system could oversee an educational system that allows a special needs class go an entire year without a full time teacher, like my daughters class. Only a broken system could repeatedly reject Medicaid expansion that would provide healthcare to 400,000 Virginians. And only a broken system could allow minimum wage workers to work full time, even 2 or 3 jobs, and still live in poverty.
Major ethics reform is needed, along with campaign finance reform. Candidates for office should win because they have the best ideas and are willing to work the hardest, not because they receive the biggest corporate PAC checks. Legislators should support legislation because it will improve the lives of their constituents, not because they received free trips and extravagant gifts from corporate lobbyists.
- Please tell us how you would stand up to party leadership, and even to a Democratic governor, if you believed that they were wrong about an issue and/or that it would hurt the 2nd district.
I never abandoned my fellow soldiers while I was deployed in Iraq, I’ve never abandoned my community as a law enforcement officer, and I’ll never abandon my constituents as their Delegate. I will stand up to anyone and anything that comes in the way of my mission to gets results that improve the lives of my neighbors in Prince William and Stafford counties.
- What is your vision for the I-95/Route 1 corridor, in terms of transportation, economic development, environmental sustainability, etc..?
The I-95/Route 1 corridor needs a comprehensive reimagination. Prince William and Stafford counties can’t be stuck in traffic forever. We need to support the growth of small businesses in the corridor that employ people in the community with middle class jobs. We also need reliable and affordable public transportation options that connect the corridor to DC and other employment hubs in Northern Virginia. In the future, we need to embrace smart growth strategies that emphasize walkable communities and allow us to live, work and play here in our area and avoid spending two hours in traffic.