By David T.S. Jonas
It’s never fun when someone you believe in deeply drops out of a marquee race, but thankfully, Virginia’s impressive bench of candidates running for Lieutenant Governor offers me another chance to back a candidate worthy of statewide office.
This time, it was down to Del. Hala Ayala, Del. Sam Rasoul, and Sean Perryman. Each has the resume, the background, and most crucially, the drive to be a changemaker in Virginia.
My immediate impulse was to endorse one of the sitting legislators, who have both put in their time and secured legislative progress in Virginia. I’ve gotten to work with both of them in Richmond (Sam especially) and rate both very, very highly.
But as I noted when I first endorsed Elizabeth Guzman, I thought it was the “soft power of the Lieutenant Governor that matters most. At a time when Virginia’s Senate is often the barrier on issues like paid leave, gun safety, civil rights, and energy affordability, we need a leader in the Senate who can build coalitions and push forward on our shared priorities.”
Again, all three of my favorites met that standard. But after careful reflection, it was an unlikely choice who met the standards I laid out: Sean Perryman.
And here’s why.
The last four years have really opened my eyes about how progress happens in Virginia. Obviously, winning elections is the most important precursor to this, but as we’ve seen, it’s then up to legislators, organizers, and activists to get things actually passed.
Many times, the caucus as a whole comes together. On issues like LGBT rights, the ERA, expanding Medicaid, and plenty of others, everyone is admirably on the same page. It’s awesome to watch.
But on issues like criminal justice reform, campaign finance/ethics, worker rights, and reducing gun violence, the party often needs to be pushed. That pushing isn’t fun, but what we saw this year on marijuana reform, on repealing the death penalty, and on other issues shows that this tension is healthy and can produce big gains.
And the person I think who will push the hardest to secure these big gains is Sean Perryman:
- Sean’s activism is rooted in his time as President of the NAACP here in Fairfax County. He comes from the “good trouble” school of coalition politics—he respects the process and the need for coalitions without forgetting who he’s fighting on behalf of. He’s worked with everyone from school administrators to local police to business leaders to get things done.
- Sean has been a consistent and vocal critic of Richmond’s “pay-to-play” system of government. He’s always had my back on confronting Dominion, on the need for stronger rules on conflicts of interest, and on ending a campaign finance system that will always, always help Republicans win elections more than it helps Democrats.
- Sean’s past and current leadership alongside a host of grassroots groups on marijuana reform was crucial to getting the job done this session. Many elected Democrats deserve credit (and props to Gov. Northam for not delaying legalization beyond this year), but I’ll credit this one first and foremost to the folks who don’t always get invited to ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Sean will govern from that side of the bargaining table.
Again, the candidates running for LG this year are so stellar, I don’t think we can go wrong. Del. Hala Ayala and Del. Sam Rasoul especially would make wonderful, wonderful LGs.
But if the goal is who as Lieutenant Governor will help secure the most legislative progress for Virginia, that’s Sean Perryman.
I’m proud to endorse him.