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 I received them, and the first one I received back was from Jennifer Carroll Foy – thanks! See her responses 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!
1. 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 have dedicated my life to public service. As a public defender, I represent some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens including children, the indigent and the mentally ill.
I am also an educator. I have taught at Virginia State University. I am currently an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
My experience as a foster parent has helped me appreciate public service work and what it means to give back and the profound difference one person can make.
I also have experience advocating and fighting for women’s equality. As one of the first female graduates from the all-male college Virginia Military Institute, I have fought for women’s equality in access to education and now I will fight for equality in pay and access to healthcare.
All of my life experiences have contributed to my ability to advocate, lead, and find solutions that will create real sustainable change.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
Strengthening Education by reducing classroom sizes and increasing teacher pay is premium because it will have a direct impact on the economy and will help raise families out of poverty. If we have an educated, well prepared workforce, our district is more attractive to businesses and we are able to keep our unemployment numbers low.
Protecting women’s rights is also paramount. I will vigorously protect women’s rights and access to health care. I will also work just as hard for women’s equality in pay. Advocacy on this issue is at an all-time high because there is a concerted effort to reverse much of the progress made regarding women’s rights.
Improving the economy and job growth is an important focus for my campaign. In order to achieve the American dream, everyday working people have to be able to afford to put food on the table. I will work towards incentives for small businesses, focus on economic development along the Route 1 corridor, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, improving our infrastructure that will create more jobs, and ensuring higher education maintains its affordability so we can create an educated and prepared work force.
3. 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 would describe myself as progressive. I believe that strengthening the middle class will strengthen the economy and improve the economic inequality that plagues our communities. I believe in many of social safety nets that are necessary to help working families. I also believe that we need to get the money from corporations out of politics and create a grassroots coalition. My ideals improving the lives of the indigent and working class is evidenced by my work as a public defender, as a foster parent for eight years, and as an organizer for many progressives.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
State Senators Jennifer McClellan and Scott Surovell have represented their constituents well by advocating to protect civil liberties, improve economic opportunity for working families, and promoting initiatives that promote public safety.
I am on the opposite side of Bob Marshall’s agenda. He attempts to advance regressive politics.
5. 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.”
5a) Yes, but with some reservations to the funding mechanisms used- but overall our district needs transportation solutions and I would have supported for that reason.
5b) No, I would not have voted for estate tax repeal, I believe the estate tax is a progressive tax that should not have been repealed.
5c) No, and I’m still perplexed on why so many Democrats did support that bill.
5d) I would like to see tougher ethics laws, and I believe the “ethics reform” packages were a missed opportunity for real reform.
6. 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?
I consider myself a strong environmentalist and believe that global climate change is one of the biggest threats facing all of humanity. To address it in our area, I would like to see a strong renewable energy standard that mandates a large increase in Virginia’s use of renewable energy. I do not support pipelines, fracking, coal plants or offshore drilling. Here in the 2nd district we have an ongoing issue at Possum Point because of a coal plant that has since shut down and continues to pollute the local water supply because of a lack of safe storage for the coal waste that was left behind.
7. Should Virginia be known as more of a “business-friendly” state or more of a “worker-friendly” state and why?
Virginia should be known as both. If we increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, our state will be more desirable to working families. Businesses succeed with a well-trained and well-educated work force. I believe that a greater share of the state budget should be directed towards not only our public colleges, universities and community colleges, but also towards vocational schools for those who decide that a 2 or 4-year degree is not their best path towards entering our diverse and robust workforce and finding professional and personal success.
8. 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?
9. 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?
There will always be some dropoff, but the largest amount of voter dropoff occurs among young professionals who are still transient and not tied into their local communities. I even missed an election in the chaos after a move so I understand how it can happen. I believe the best way to ensure the maximum number of voters participate is to have candidates that motivate them to the polls. In the 2nd district, many of our young working families will be more likely to participate when they see a candidate like myself who is one of them.
10. 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?
Yes, Richmond is broken, but in 2017 we have a historic opportunity to change that. The Presidency of Donald Trump gives us the political environment for major gains for progressive Democrats that could change the face of Virginia’s government. A new Democratic House would “shake things up” in so many ways. I do support more ethics reform and campaign finance reform as well as repealing our so-called “right to work” law to empower people and not the powerful.
11. 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.
Of course I would stand up to a Democratic Governor if they were wrong on an issue, and in fact I did already in this campaign when the McAuliffe administration announced a plan to close down our early voting center in eastern Prince William County. You can read the column I wrote on that subject here.
12. What is your vision for the I-95/Route 1 corridor, in terms of transportation, economic development, environmental sustainability, etc..?
The Route 1 corridor is historic but faces many challenges today. Those problems are greater than any one locality and the state must step in to help local governments. The car title lending industry has occupied the area with its predatory practices and needs to be driven from the state with tough regulations. Our schools face populations of many at-risk children who deserve fair funding formulas from the Commonwealth that address the need in those schools. I also support extending Metro down throughout the entire corridor. Local governments will need to play a leading role but they deserve a state government that is helping- not causing the economic chaos that plagues our area today.