Home 2018 Elections Special Election SD33: Candidate Interview #1 Charlotte McConnell

Special Election SD33: Candidate Interview #1 Charlotte McConnell

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Cindy: What life experiences led you to being in politics, and why are you here?

Charlotte: The work I do right now is I’m a hospice volunteer and end-of-life doula and I do a training to end the sexual abuse of children, so I really gravitate towards difficult conversations and I really genuinely want to help people. I’m a people person, I like talking with people and figuring out what do you need, how can we help you and did you know that this is this in our community–just like connecting people with resources. I was on the doors tonight, and a woman was like “oh, well we just moved here a year and a half ago,” and I said “well, have you joined the Loudoun County NAACP? Because they meet the third Monday of every month, and if you want I drive right by here, I could pick you up and we could go to the meeting,” because she’s an older woman and they don’t always like to drive at night. Having lost both of my parents to cancer and and my brother who passed away last year, I feel like I’ve had these difficult moments in my life where it was a challenge that I didn’t curl up into a ball. I rise to challenges and I’m tenacious, and you can see that because I am going to the Loudoun County school board meeting the second Tuesday of every month to talk about adding gender identity and sexual orientation to employee non-discrimination policy so I think that we need more people who are honest and have integrity and really are focused on their values. Right now I feel like there’s a clock ticking especially when it comes to environmental issues and climate change and campaign finance reform is something that I feel like we really need now if we’re going to move towards renewable energy at the rate that is necessary to avoid serious global warming.

Cindy: When did you first decide to run, and why?

Charlotte: I decided to run for office two years ago when Trump was elected because I thought hey, if he can get elected, so can I. I’m definitely a person that tells it like it is but I actually have some intelligence about me, and I also have had to work in my life for a lot of things, and he’s been handed everything in his life and I’m not impressed by a man who if he is given millions of dollars can make those millions turn into more money and also file for bankruptcy numerous times. I didn’t have any experience. I voted, of course, I phone-banked for Hillary, but really I wasn’t involved. I didn’t know about the Loudoun Democrats. I sought them out after Trump was elected, so I don’t remember ever being canvassed before–I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but when you’re raising small children it is easy to focus just on that and I really wanted to have a positive impact on my community. so I’m really running for office because I want to do something to make our community better and I want to change the way we’re doing politics the way we’re doing campaigns.

Cindy: Why do you think a state Senate seat is the right position for you, as opposed to a city council or school board?

Charlotte: The district has 43 precincts in Loudoun County, and I’ve been showing up all over Loudoun County for the past few years, whether it’s the NAACP or the League of Women Voters, and I’ve had conversations with people say “Charlotte I’m so excited for you to run for office. I just hope I can vote for you.” I have been doing a lot of work at the school board and when it comes to the school board, I care about a number of those issues but the scope is so limited and I’ve got so many issues and really voter engagement is a huge part of that, getting people to come out and vote.

Cindy: What issues are you with the most passionate about and hope to write legislation about?

Charlotte: The lack of affordable housing is a big concern for me in Loudoun County and there’s been a lot of talk about Amazon coming, and if that happens it’s going to get even worse, and we have a lot of teachers and emergency service providers who can’t even afford to live in the community that they serve, and I feel like this is detrimental to their family as well as our community. People are driving to West Virginia because they don’t want to be house poor, but they’re working in Loudoun and it’s causing traffic, it’s causing pollution, and it’s taking time away from their family. Of course campaign finance reform, ending off-year elections, and automatic voter registration. I would also like to see the end of cash bail. I do want to decriminalize marijuana; I think that it does need to become federally legal but it is unfortunate that there is something that is recreationally legal in states like Colorado or Oregon or California that you can get thrown in jail for here so we we do need to be taking these these steps. I absolutely want to pass the ERA, I would like to see a constitutional amendment to remove the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, we need to add gender identity and sexual orientation to housing discrimination policy and public employment policy, and Virginia really needs to move back to the one gun a month law and we need to have universal background checks. I would like to see Virginia doing as much as we possibly can to protect our citizens and move towards renewable energy at a higher rate and reduce plastic waste.

Cindy: What committee would you hope to be assigned to?

Charlotte: That’s interesting, I haven’t really thought about that. There’s an elections committee, right?  I think that, because I know it takes a long time for a constitutional amendment and because I do want automatic voter registration, I think that that would be on the top of my list. I guess I need to think on that a bit more.  

Cindy: Which current state senator do you think is closest to your political ideology?

Charlotte: It’s interesting, I must admit that I know House of Delegates members more than Senate members and I know that I should be researching my potential co-workers, but I have had a lot to do since July when I started this campaign. I think really for a representative in Virginia, Delegate Sam Rasoul is probably my biggest inspiration; he’s someone that I see who is standing up and being extremely progressive. And I do like the work that Chap Peterson is doing; he’s done some things around campaign finance that I really appreciate. I love all of the new delegates we elected last year.

Cindy: How should the 2021 redistricting be done, and do you think that redistricting reform is going to pass this year?

Charlotte: Yes, I think we are redistricting reform will pass this year, because we are going to fight tooth and nail for it like they did Medicaid expansion. We need to have fair, impartial redistricting, so we need a committee that’s doing it instead of the legislators picking their voters. We’re really lucky in Virginia to have One Virginia 2021 working on this issue and I had a screening of Gerryrigged this spring of 2017, and Brian Cannon came out and spoke and that event probably had the largest turnout out of any of the events I held in Loudoun County. I do think that we need it and we’re gonna get it.

Cindy: In your opinion should Virginia build the ACP and the MVP?

Charlotte: Absolutely not. We should not be investing in fossil fuel infrastructure that’s going to end up being a stranded asset, when we have pipelines that are currently working at like under fifty percent capacity. The terrain itself, number one, it’s extremely problematic, and we’re seeing what all of the soil erosion problems are doing to our water tables, and we’re talking about communities that are still on well water, and they aren’t going to have clean safe water, and it is imperative that we are ensuring everyone in Virginia has access to clean water. No, we do not need them, they are not going to bring jobs, we could have more jobs with solar energy.

Cindy: Is there a role for legislators to use their bully pulpit in opposition to the pipelines?

Charlotte: I think that there is.The legislators can educate people on the issue. So having an opportunity to advocate for an issue when there is a ticking clock. But these are also people who have the ear of Governor Northam, they know other people, who issue permits. So being able to talk with those people about why we cannot have this pipeline is necessary. These are people who have connections and influence that I do believe they can use it to prevent these pipelines from from progressing.

Cindy: What are some unique features and opportunities and challenges of the 33rd Senate District?

Charlotte: As I mentioned earlier, it’s got 43 precincts in Loudoun and then eight precincts in Fairfax County. It is a very diverse district so in Oak Grove you’re going to see a lot of people from Southeast Asia, and there is also diversity across income, so in Leesburg and Sterling you have a lot of pockets of people living below the poverty line, and in in Loudoun we are dealing with about 2,000 homeless youths, and this is an issue that I think a lot of people aren’t even realizing is a problem in Loudoun. I live in Sterling, but I love Western Loudoun–I like being able to go out to the farms there with my kids or doing the farm tours that Loudoun organizes in the spring and the fall, it is really wonderful, and we need to make sure that we’re protecting our rural western part because it’s important to preserve farmland because when you lose farmland you never get it back. I think that there are opportunities in Loudoun to provide more food that’s grown locally to people who live in Loudoun. But we are having the Rockwool plant that’s being built on the West Virginia border that causes pollution to come across our lovely farm land and our breweries and our wineries that are in Western Loudoun and we do need to fight against that so that we can protect the farmland, but it’s also big revenue not just for Loudoun but for the the Commonwealth of Virginia. Loudoun also has a very large undocumented population, and I’m very concerned about how how they’re dealing with the current administration, and I’ve heard a lot of them talking about the need for driver’s licenses and that is something that I would support. One of the other challenges in Loudoun is just making it a more accepting environment for everyone–we have a lot of history in Loudoun, and not all of it is good. We have the Belmont slaves burial grounds which pastor Michelle has been working to preserve and there is a lot of history in Loudoun that we do need to work harder on preservation and making sure that those burial sites are being maintained that we are recognizing our history completely and not leaving out enslaved people who were forced to work and buried without the respect that they deserve.

Cindy: Do you think the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney should eliminate the use of cash bail?

Charlotte: If you don’t have any money and you’re maybe robbing a grocery store to get money, you can’t afford to bail yourself out. But a lot of people end up losing their jobs because they can’t bail themselves out, and I Ido think that cash bail doesn’t deter. They say “oh well, people aren’t going to run because of cash bail.” I don’t believe that is true, so yes we must end cash bail.

Cindy: Are there any solutions to the commutes and tolls in your district?

Charlotte: I think that researching how we can buy back the Greenway which runs through Loudoun–that’s a whole road that’s owned by an Australian company so that we can really get that back in hand. We are going to have to work on our infrastructure and we need to have better public transportation–the metro coming out our way I think is going to help somewhat. I’m going to say something that’s going to be extremely unpopular, but people number one they need to obey the speed limit, number two they need to be off their phones. I live in a neighborhood that’s 25 miles an hour and people come flying down on the street there’s like no respect for speed limits. I also see a lot of distracted drivers, and I think if we can do something about distracted driving there will be less car accidents which often hang up traffic. I would like to see more like carpooling options and I think with technology it’s getting much easier to organize you know like this slug lines like that was a really interesting thing when we first moved to Virginia and we lived in Woodbridge like learning about the slug line was was definitely it was interesting and unique to the area.

Cindy: Is there anything else that you wanted to bring up that I haven’t asked and that you think is important for people to know about your race?

Charlotte: I’m very proud that I have taken the Activate Virginia pledge refusing Dominion money and corporate PAC money because I do believe we need to be the change we want to see in the world and I want to represent the people, and not corporate donors. I’m very excited for this opportunity to run for office and of course check out my website and vote for me on November 17.