We’ll definitely be watching – and live blogging – the Virginia Democratic governor debate tonight from 7 to 8 pm. How about you? Check it out on WTVR in Central Virginia, WSET in Southwest Virginia, WTKR in Hampton Roads or WJLA in Northern Virginia…or on the DPVA website or here at Blue Virginia (we’ll post video and live blog it here). What are you looking to find out in this debate? With early voting set to start on April 23, have you already decided who you’re supporting (former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Lee Carter), or are you leaning in particular direction at this point?
UPDATE 7:58 pm: Fairfax says we can find common ground with Republicans on creating economic opportunity; mentions passage of Medicaid expansion. Carroll Foy says graduating from VMI taught her how to work with anyone, whether they have a D, R or I by their name. But “I will never negotiate my values as a Democrat.” McClellan says she has more government experience than all of the other candidate combined; has had over 300 bills passed, the majority of those while in the minority, by finding common ground with Republicans, by focusing on the problem, by brining stakeholders together. Had a bill on which both Planned Parenthood and the Family Foundation support it. McAuliffe says he dealt with an extreme right-wing legislature, that he vetoed 120 extreme bills. Says he’ll work with Republicans, but is going to move ahead regardless. Says we need to raise teacher pay above national average. Carter says his biggest legislative successes have been bipartisan, such as banning strip searching of children, limiting insulin co-pays, etc. He didn’t fall into trap of wanting bipartisanship for its own sake, but chooses issues that are overwhelming popular with the people.
UPDATE 7:50 pm: On law enforcement, Carter says he stands apart from the rest of the Democratic Party, says too many Dems tried to strike a bargain with police and increasing the police budget. Says we have to rethink what policing means in Virginia; there are a lot of things that make no sense to have a man with a gun doing. McAuliffe says we need to make sure everyone is treated equally. Says the murder of George Floyd is unconscionable, that it happens too often. Need to invest more in police training, have to invest in communities, need accountability/transparency/body cameras. McClellan says she felt the same trauma when she saw George Floyd being murdered as her parents felt when they saw Emmett Till being murdered. Need comprehensive criminal justice reform. Racial justice is about more than criminal justice reform; it is about every system we have. Carroll Foy says as mother of two Black sons, she knows that one day she’ll have to have “the talk” with them about how there are two criminal justice systems in this country. Talks about overpolicing, disinvestment and the war on drugs. Says politicians of the past have failed to move us forward on this issue, need a bold/progressive governor. Fairfax says murder of George Floyd recalls a history in which African Americans are presumed guilty, given no due process, have their lives taken away in an instant. Says he was falsely accused in 2019; everyone on the stage called for his resignation. Says McAuliffe treated him like George Floyd and Emmett Till. As Cindy Cunningham tweeted, “Wow, didn’t think @FairfaxJustin would go there.”
UPDATE 7:44 pm: On Parole Board, Fairfax says we see people playing politics with this very serious issue, lobbing cheap political talking points, and Virginians are rejecting that. He’d make sure there’s transparency. Carroll Foy says she supports third-party, independent investigation. Says she believes in parole and restorative justice. Poverty is immoral, unjust, violent. McClellan says we need third-party, independent investigation, make sure Parole Board is following requirements it’s supposed to and have the resources it needs. Says McAuliffe didn’t put in place more money for the Parole Board. Says she will reinstate discretionary parole, get rid of mandatory minimums. McAuliffe says he’s about people getting parole, that he leaned in hard, that we have a racist criminal justice system, that he restored more rights to ex-felons than any other governor…also leaned in on pardons, to help people and lift them up. Carter says he supports independent investigation of Parole Board, supports parole. Also says the executive branch is resistant to oversight, and little appetite within General Assembly to create more oversight over executive branch agencies. People need to know what government is doing in their name.
UPDATE 7:38 pm – On gun violence, Carter says he’s the “subject-matter expert on firearms” as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Says we shouldn’t fall into the trap of disarming people and taking away people’s right to self defense, but that we need to get at the root cause of gun violence, which is “despair,” by putting economic power directly into the hands of working people. McAuliffe says this is a serious issue, says he’d get rid of assault weapons, get rid of high-capacity magazines, get rid of “ghost guns”…”we need to lean in.” Says one of his toughest days as governor was talking to the Parkers after their daughter was murdered on live TV. Proud of his F rating from the NRA. McClellan says she’s been proud to address gun violence, helped pass numerous bills, but we could have gone further. AG Herring was on the right track with regard to concealed-carry permits, but Gov. McAuliffe “made a deal” that gave that way. Need to address domestic violence, because it’s not just mass shootings. Carroll Foy says she was born and raised “right here in Petersburg,” which has one of the highest rates of gun violence in Virginia. “When I tell you that gun violence is personal to me, I mean it.” Says McAuliffe “did a backroom deal with the NRA” on concealed weapons. McAuliffe says it was a bipartisan bill that Sen. McClellan helped him on, that it was the toughest domestic violence bill in America. Praises Kathleen Murphy as a leader on this issue, says she was his strongest advisor on this. Fairfax says McAuliffe is getting to talk as long as he wants, while everyone else is cut off. On gun violence, says he was just at the funeral of Donovan Lynch, says there’s an inverse relationship between high rates of gun violence and low rates of opportunity in communities.
UPDATE 7:30 pm – Fairfax says on marijuana legalization, equity has to be central, because communities of color have been hit hardest by narcotics/drug laws. Tomorrow marijuana legalization may come down to a tie-breaking vote in the State Senate. Carroll Foy says has fought for fairness and justice in the courthouse, including Black and Brown people arrested for simple possession of marijuana for personal use…this is about racial justice and uplifting communities. McClellan says we need to redress harms done by prohibition, legalize marijuana in an equitable way, including people of color being able to participate in this new market…economic justice is essential. Says she led the charge on marijuana legalization and will be proud to vote for it tomorrow. McAuliffe agrees that marijuana legalization needs to be equitable and fair for everyone. Also need to end discriminatory lending practices, get better access to capital for Black and Brown people. Also need to lean in on civil rights issue, says he restored the rights of thousands of Virginians’ right to vote. We need to lean in on all of these equity issues. Carter says he’s been on the tip of the spear for legalizing cannabis in Virginia, even when some of the other candidates on the stage asked him why he was doing that in an election year. Need ownership in the Black community, also create a fund for reperations for Black and indigenous Virginians…references genocide of Native Americans, Jim Crow, the Trans Atlantic slave trade, etc.
UPDATE 7:23 pm – Carter says he is right there with the 100s of 1000s of Virginians waiting for an answer from the Virginia Employment Commission. Need to restructure economy after this crisis; fundamentally rethink what economic development means. McAuliffe says COVID has been economically devastating, particularly to Black and Brown communities. Need to move up $15/hour minimum wage to 2024, lift workers up, be “big and bold.” McClellan says we need to rebuild safety net, that before COVID, the economy was leaving too many Virginians behind, and that can’t continue in the future. It’s not just about luring companies to Virginians, it’s about stabilizing and growing Virginia companies, including women and minority-owned companies. Carroll Foy says she’s personally had to make tough economic decisions, that we need a governor who understands the challenges Virginia families face, says she doesn’t have to empathize because she understands. Fairfax says the VEC can and must do better, that we need to “fix our roof when the sun is shining”…massive investments in the infrastructure that allows people to have higher-paying jobs, etc.
UPDATE 7:17 pm – Question on vaccine hesitancy. Fairfax says it’s important to lead by example, which he says he’s done. To defeat the pandemic, people need to get vaccinated. So far, 1/3 of Virginians have gotten at least one dose. Carroll Foy understands African-Americans’ distrust of the government, going back to Jim Crow, redlining, etc., BUT ‘let me be clear,” she will use her position as governor to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. “We can do this, but only if we do it together.” McClellan – We need to clearly communicate to every community about the vaccine – its safety, where to get it, etc.; mobilize volunteer workforce to help people sign up and make sure they’re getting vaccinated. McAuliffe – We’re not going to be safe until everybody has a vaccine; need to reach out to religious leaders, etc. We have to lean in to make sure everyone understands this is a health crisis, about keeping communities safe; the state needs to lead on this. Carter – Important everyone get vaccine when they’re eligible. People should get vaccinated because we’re all interdependent, which COVID has really exemplified. Every single new infection is an opportunity for a new mutation. So get the vaccine as soon as you’re helpful, for yourself, for your family, for your neighbors, etc.
UPDATE 7:11 pm – Carter says he hopes COVID will be in the rearview mirror by January 2022. Says he sued Dept. of Elections to guarantee COVID-safe way for candidates to get their names on the ballot. Doesn’t think schools should open prematurely. McAuliffe says the most important thing is to keep our citizens safe, fix our healthcare system, need to cover every single Virginian, go after pharmaceutical companies. “The first thing I would do is call Joe Biden and ask for a Section 1332 waiver” to make sure everyone in Virginia has health care coverage. McClellan says we need to close the coverage gap, that we allowed our healthcare safety net to atrophy and need to rebuild it. Carroll Foy says she put forth a post-COVID-economy plan, pledges to get “shots in arms and people in jobs” as governor. Fairfax says he’s worked hand in hand with Gov. Northam during the COVID crisis to keep our communities safe, claims he cast “tie-breaking votes to expand Medicaid.”
UPDATE 7:07 pm – Why are you the best/most qualified candidate? LG Fairfax – Because people are facing extraordinary challenges right now and are looking for someone to fight for them. Says he has done that and will continue to do that. Carroll Foy – Says she was born/raised in Petersburg, with one of the highest poverty rates in Virginia. Virginians deserve a governor who has walked in their shoes and will fight for them. “Now is our time to move Virginia forward and not back.” McClellan – References parents growing up under Jim Crow, how that motivated her to make government a force for progressive change, something she’s done since 2006 in the General Assembly…a Black woman working to undo the inequity that Harry Byrd put in place. Lists some of her accomplishments, says she will leave no Virginia behind. McAuliffe – References the COVID crisis, thanks Gov. Northam’s “great stewardship” during this crisis, says it’s time we go “big” and “be bold,” not “tinker around the edges,” but “lead the country” taking us out of the COVID crisis. “I will take Virginia to the next level.” Carter – “Virginia is divided,” but not between Ds and Rs or urban vs. rural, but between the “haves and the have nots.” Government has responded to those with political connections and wealth, and that has to change. Says he’s not a typical politician, is someone who has “walked the walk,” not taking money from special interests…will move Virginia to a place “where wealth is common.”
UPDATE 7 pm – The debate is at Virginia State University and is socially distanced. There are no opening or closing statements.