The following interview with former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy is by Kellen Squire, cross posted from Daily Kos. For more interviews by Kellen, see here for AG Mark Herring, here for Del. Lee Carter, and here for State Sen. Jennifer McClellan…
KELLEN SQUIRE: What is the most consequential legislation that you worked on during your time in the House, and how will it inform your priorities as governor?
JENNIFER CARROLL FOY: From fighting to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, to expanding broadband access for rural communities, to cleaning up toxic coal ash, I’m proud of the work I did in the General Assembly passing legislation to ensure a more equitable Virginia.
But what I am proudest of is championing the fight to pass Medicaid expansion to more than 500,000 Virginians. I remember sitting at my kitchen table with my aunt after my grandmother who raised me had a stroke, rendering her a quadrapelegic and facing the impossible choice of paying for the medication keeping her alive or for the mortgage on the house keeping a roof over our head. No family should ever have to face that kind of choice, and Medicaid expansion has meant that so many of our most vulnerable Virginians—those who are underpaid, veterans, people battling addictions, people with disabilities —now have a fighting chance.
This victory means that much more when you think about the world we live in now with COVID-19. That’s why one of the first plans I introduced as candidate for governor was my healthcare plan, which will build on the progress I made in the legislature and bring affordable, quality health care to even more Virignians. I’m proud to have kept my promise to my constituents to expand Medicaid, and it was an honor to work with Governor Northam, who succeeded in his effort even with a Republican-controlled legislature when others had failed. As governor, I’ll keep fighting to expand access and reduce costs because health care is a right, not a privilege just for those who can afford it
KS: What’s the most important event in the past 10 years that impacts Virginia—whether here in Virginia, nationally, globally—or what small thing was much more pivotal than anybody realized?
JCF: I remember the 2016 election hitting me viscerally. Watching Donald Trump win lit a fire in me. I thought, “Well, if he can win, then so can I.”
So I got to work. I ran for the House of Delegates in 2017 while pregnant with not one but two babies, knocking on thousands of doors through morning sickness and swollen ankles. The establishment already had their candidate, and told me I was a joke. But I ran anyway. And I didn’t just run, I won, unseating the incumbent and flipping my district from red to blue. I was proud to be a part of a wave of women, people of color, and first-time candidates running and winning in Virginia. That led us to be able to secure real wins for Virginians: Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, securing a raise for our teachers, and more. This new wave of leaders represents a new Virginia, and we need to keep building toward the future.
It would be a mistake for us to elect politicians of the past that will only move us backwards. This has been on my mind recently, when Gov. Northam repealed the death penalty—an inhumane and ineffective punishment that has disproportionately taken the lives of people of color, the poor, and people with mental illness for far too long. This was a historic moment for the Commonwealth—we’re the first in the South to take this bold step into the future, thanks to Gov. Northam. My opponent, Terry McAuliffe, had the power to repeal the death penalty when he was governor. But he chose not to, which led to multiple executions during his term.
To me, this moment was a reminder that this campaign isn’t just about electing Democrats, but leaders with the political will and courage to fight for what’s right—leaders who will bring us into the future instead of align themselves with the dangerous politics of the past. That’s the reason why the one-time capital of the Confederacy has become a progressive leader in the South. And it’s the kind of leader I look forward to being as the next governor of Virginia. It’s the kind of real, transformative change that I will build on as governor.
KS: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Commonwealth of Virginia, right now?
JCF: The pandemic has exposed what so many working people have known for years—that too many people are working far too much and barely making ends meet. My top priority is not just applying Band-Aids that gets us from crisis to the next, but building back our Commonwealth so that every Virginian has the opportunity to thrive far beyond this public health and economic crisis. That’s why I was the first candidate to roll out a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan because I will fight every day to bring diverse, high-paying jobs to every corner of the Commonwealth, expand access to health care, and ensure every student has first-class public education, and more.
Politicians of the past have moved from one crisis to the next without addressing the root of the problem that has left working families like mine behind for years. I’ll be a leader who will tackle those systemic issues, and bring Virginia into the future with plans that will lift up every last one of us.
KS: I know you’ve spoken at length in the past about your passion for grassroots activism. How does that connect with your run for governor?
JCF: Long before I was a legislator, I was a community organizer. Today, I’m running a community-focused, people-powered grassroots campaign. For too long, the wealthy and the well-connected have had power in Richmond. It’s time for the people to have a working mom represent working people, and that’s why I’m proud to be building a broad, diverse coalition of community leaders, activists, unions, and everyday Virginians that is doing the on-the-ground organizing necessary to win this race. This grassroots coalition won’t go away once I’m elected governor, either. We’ll work together for years to push progress in the Commonwealth, working hand in hand with the folks who have been leading the way for decades, because the work doesn’t stop when the election is over.
KS: As you know, I’m an emergency department nurse, and though I work in Charlottesville, I live in a holler in Barboursville. Rural Virginia—what some people would call ROVA, or “the Rest of Virginia”—and the issues out here are something I am passionate about, but that seem to often get put by the wayside. How are you going to work for all Virginia as one Commonwealth, united?
JCF: I grew up in Petersburg, Virginia, a town with one of the highest poverty rates in the Commonwealth, rates of unaccredited schools, and was named one of the most dangerous places to live in Virginia. It’s a town that has been left behind. You’re right that too many communities in Virginia have been neglected, ignored, and forgotten.
Petersburg made me who I am, and it’s why I’ve spent my entire career being a voice for the voiceless—as a foster mom, public defender, and member of the House of Delegates. I will never forget where I came from, and I will never forget the communities that have been overlooked. From my plan to expand access to healthcare by investing in mobile health clinics in rural communities, to my pledge to ensure 97% of Virginians have access to high-speed internet by the end of my term, I will always fight for every Virginian, no matter their zip code.
KS: My last question is, simply: Why is now the time for you?
JCF: In this moment of crisis, we have a choice between moving our Commonwealth forward, or choosing to go back. Virginians are looking for a fresh leader with a clear vision and bold ideas to tackle the challenges we face. They deserve a Governor who has walked in their shoes and will fight for working families every single day—someone whose plans for the future are rooted in the challenges we face. I want to bring down the cost of healthcare because I know how painful it is to go without it. I will fight to raise the minimum wage faster because I’ve worked minimum wage jobs and I know how hard it is to get by on that little. I will give everything I’ve got to ensure we keep moving Virginia forward, because we don’t get change by recycling the same old policies and politicians of the past.
All of my life, people have been telling me “no.” Girls from Petersburg aren’t supposed to be successful, but I always had big dreams, and never stopped fighting. People told me that I’d never graduate from Virginia Military Institute. They told me no when I ran for the House of Delegates—that they had their candidate and that I’d never win. And when they found out I was pregnant with twins, they said “definitely no.” In this race, people have said “No, it’s not your time. Wait your turn.” But I’m not waiting because change can’t wait. We need a leader who will lift up every last one of us, and I’ll do exactly that as governor.