Home 2023 Elections SD27 Democratic Candidate Joel Griffin’s Responses to Blue Virginia’s Candidate Questionnaire

SD27 Democratic Candidate Joel Griffin’s Responses to Blue Virginia’s Candidate Questionnaire

Griffin: "I will beat either of these anti-choice Republicans in November because I can pull in independent voters and moderate Republicans in a way that my Democratic primary opponent can not."

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Last Thursday (April 27), I sent identical questionnaires to both Democratic candidates – Joel Griffin and Ben Litchfield – running in State Senate District 27 (Stafford/Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg; “purple”/slightly-“reddish”-leaning). The first one I received back is from Joel Griffin; see below for his responses, and thanks to his campaign for the quick response!

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself. Specifically, what prompted you to run for this office? Also, what in your background and/or temperament do you believe makes you the best qualified of the two Democratic primary candidates to represent the 27th State Senate district?

Joel Griffin: I’m a Marine veteran, community advocate, and small-business owner. After 20 years of serving my country and opening a number of small businesses, I founded a company dedicated to supporting veteran entrepreneurs. I also serve as the Chairman of the Stafford Economic Development Authority and on the board of Germanna Community College. After the death of my oldest daughter, my wife and I co-founded Gwyneth’s Gift Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and educating people about CPR and the use of Automated External Defibrillators. I spent countless hours advocating and lobbying the state government to pass Gwyneth’s Law, mandating CPR training in Virginia schools.

Through my advocacy work, my nonprofit, and my support for local small businesses, I have always considered myself to be a servant to my community. I am running for State Senate to be a servant leader for District 27. I’m running for State Senate to stand up for the working families of Virginia and will fight tirelessly against the extremists in our government that threaten our peace and freedom. In the State Senate, I will create the good paying jobs we need; protect people’s rights to safe, legal abortion; strengthen and invest in our public schools; and work to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

I believe I am the only candidate capable of winning this seat for a few reasons; the first of which being is that I am the only candidate with experience advocating and lobbying to pass legislation in the form of Gwyneth’s Law. I am the only Democratic candidate in this race with the right message and story who can resonate with the independent and moderate-minded Republican voters critical to winning this type of seat. I am also the only candidate who will win in November against Tara Durant, who is the most pro-life member of the Virginia legislature, or insurrectionist Matt Strickland. After only being in the race for half-a quarter I had announced more cash on hand than any of the candidates combined and am running a disciplined campaign indicative of winning this tough race.

2. Have you always been a Democrat? If not, what’s been your journey towards the Democratic Party? Also, have you ever supported any Republicans, and if so, why?

Joel Griffin: I am proud to be the longest voting Democrat in this race. I am also a life-long Democrat. I am the only candidate in this primary who can say this. I am unapologetically pro-choice, I believe in protecting voting rights, and I believe we must stop the MAGA Republican attacks on our schools. I’m proud to be endorsed by Democratic leaders like Senators Dick Saslaw, Scott Surovell, and Mamie Locke as well as a multitude of local democratic advocates such as Chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors Dr. Pamela Yeung. On rare occasions, I have contributed to individual Republicans because of my background as a small business leader and my bipartisan outlook for our community. However, I have contributed significantly to
local Democrats including Kaine, Warner, Spanberger, and Josh Cole. I have also contributed to my opponent before deciding to run myself. Now that I am a candidate, and I see candidates move forward with anti-choice legislation, I believe it is critically important that we elect only Democrats up and down the ballot. I am the only candidate that can win this seat in the general election. I am committed to ensuring a Democratic trifecta in 2025.

3. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?

Joel Griffin: First and foremost, I am running to protect the fundamental right to choose and defend access to safe and legal abortion in Virginia. As the father of two girls, husband, brother, and the next Senator for District 27, I understand the critical importance of this fight. In our state, a full ban on abortion is not off the table if Republicans win the Senate. I will fight to enshrine in our Commonwealth’s constitution the right to safe and legal abortion. Furthermore, I will work to expand access to contraception and family planning, fight for comprehensive sex education in schools, and invest in programs that promote maternal and infant health.

Second, I am committed to promoting economic development in Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Fredericksburg so that every family has a living wage and the ability to achieve the American dream. As a small business owner and Chairman of the Stafford Economic Development Authority, I know firsthand how important it is to create good-paying jobs and support our local small businesses. I have worked tirelessly to attract new businesses to our area, and to ensure that our existing businesses have the resources they need to thrive and will continue this fight in the senate.

Third, I will fight to strengthen and invest in our schools. Our children are the future of our community, and we need to ensure that they have access to the best possible education. That means investing in our schools, our teachers, and our students. And as someone who grew up spending my weekends and summers in libraries because my parents couldn’t afford childcare, I will fight to protect our libraries from attacks from extremist Republicans.

4. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, and other activities reflect your political ideology?

Joel Griffin: I consider myself to be a pragmatic liberal, in the same vein as many of our most effective representatives in Virginia. I am less concerned about labels, and lofty campaign promises, than I am with getting results for families across the 27th Senate District. As a Marine, I never asked “are you a Republican or a Democrat”. I asked what the mission was, and then I got it done. I plan to approach representing our district in the Senate in the same way.

5. Are there any specific Virginia politicians you’d compare yourself to, emulate, etc? Also, are there any specific Virginia politicians you particularly find to be antithetical to your values?

Joel Griffin: As a public servant, I will strive day-in and day-out to emulate Congresswoman Spanberger. Our similarities are everclear; we both come from a national security background, both are passionate about economic development, increasing access to rural broadband as well as helping small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also pragmatic problem solvers, not shy in our bipartisan bonafides, capable of reaching out to voters across the aisle and thereby capable of winning in tough districts like SD27. Make no mistake, the path to holding the State Senate runs through  enate District 27, and I am the only candidate capable of winning in November.

I am wholly antithetical to one of the Republicans running for this seat on the other side of the aisle – Matt Strickland. Matt Strickland is an insurrectionist, full stop. For me as a Marine veteran January 6th represented the most significant betrayal to our democracy as is possible and as the next State Senator from District 27 I will strive to make sure that our fragile experiment in democracy remains upheld and strong.

6. On transportation and land use, where do you stand when it comes to encouraging “smart growth”/”transit-oriented development” vs putting money into more road and highway construction (aka, “sprawl” development)?

Joel Griffin: More people and more development are coming to Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties. Trying to stop this is like standing at the beach and telling the tide not to come in. Instead of trying to fight this, we need to have a strategic plan for development in our district, and we need that plan now rather than five or ten years from now. When I’m talking to voters at the doors, or fielding questions at meet and greets, one of the most common questions I get is around how we are going to get new restaurants and storefronts in Stafford County. My answer is simple: we need to meet certain criteria in order for restaurants and companies to set up shop in our district. We need to meet their requirements for housing density, walkability, good transit, and more. That’s why I will fight to make our housing more affordable—whether that is legislation requiring a certain number of units in new developments to be affordable, or any other number of solutions to encourage smart growth.

Our district has the worst traffic in the country, and yet for some reason we are never the first in line when it comes to investment from the state government for our infrastructure. That needs to stop. As the next Senator for District 27 I will be a fierce advocate for improving our transit to alleviate the traffic issues we face. When the time comes to disburse funds to repair and improve our roads and highways, I will be first in line with my hand raised. And the solution to our traffic issues is not simply adding lanes to the highway. We need working secondary roads, and better public transit options. A commuter should be able to get across District 27, from Spotsylvania to Stafford, without having to rely on 95.

7. On gun violence prevention, would you support banning assault weapons? What other measures would you support? Any that you’d oppose?

Joel Griffin: As a Marine, I know how deadly assault weapons can be—especially in the wrong or untrained hand. Therefore, I am uniquely qualified to know that these weapons of war have no place on our streets. I support a ban on assault weapons and I am committed to fighting for common sense gun reform. I’ll also fight to expand background checks, require safe storage of firearms, and prohibit ghost guns, among other reforms. I am proud to be a 2023 Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate, and I’ll fight to put an end to the gun violence in our community.

8. What are your views on Glenn Youngkin’s assault on (and politicization of) our public schools, on LGBTQ students, on equity, etc? How would you combat this?

Joel Griffin: As the husband of a public school teacher, and the father of two girls who attended public schools, I know firsthand that our teachers, schools, and students are all under attack by a false flag culture war being perpetuated by Governor Youngkin and his MAGA Republican cronines to scare voters and score political points. As the next State Senator from District 27, I will be a fervent advocate for fully funding and increasing funding to our public schools and work with labor such as the NEA to ensure that our teachers have all the resources they need to succeed. Moreover, we need to empower teachers to set standards so that we can quell the manufactured crisis that is Critical Race Theory.

Additionally, I will do everything within my power to ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel safe and protected in public school environments. No-one in the commonwealth deserves to feel any less dignity than anyone else.

9. If you were in the State Senate right now, would you support Glenn Youngkin’s tax cuts that are heavily weighted towards wealthy individuals and corporations? More broadly, do you support a more progressive, fairer tax code?

Joel Griffin: We need a more progressive and fairer tax code that provides relief to hard working middle class families all across the Commonwealth and ensures that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share so we can fund critical programs and investments in our future.

10. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future and combating the climate crisis? Specifically, how would you propose to build on the Virginia Clean Economy Act and move Virginia towards a 100% clean energy economy as rapidly as possible?

Joel Griffin: My vision for Virginia’s energy future is one in which we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in energy alternatives, and minimize our climate footprint on the planet.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act did great work to strive towards that future, but we need to protect the legislation’s principles from a Republican Governor and Republican control of the House of Delegates. I am proud to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by Clean Virginia and will hold Dominion energy accountable as the next State Senator from District 27.

11. What are your views on women’s reproductive freedom, given that Republicans are assaulting those rights, that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, etc? What would you do as a State Senator to protect women’s rights and freedoms?

Joel Griffin: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s devastating, political choice to overturn Roe, Virginia must set the example. Our elected officials must fight to protect reproductive rights and enshrine in our Commonwealth’s constitution the right to safe and legal abortion. Virginia can be the stalwart for the nation to defend equality. As the father of two girls, husband, brother, and the next Senator for District 27, I will advocate for policies that expand access to reproductive healthcare, increase access to contraception and family planning, and fight against any attempts to restrict or ban abortion in Virginia.

12. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken in many ways – for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation – and needs major reform? If elected to the State Senate, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” or “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, state-regulated utilities (aka, Dominion Energy) and powerful special interests? 

Joel Griffin: Any measure in which we can reduce the influence of money on politics, I can get behind. As a freshman Senator and someone new to running for public office, I see the need for more citizen involvement. I will get behind efforts to shake things up and will be a powerful voice in that room as the only candidate in this Democratic field who has worked to pass legislation before. You need to participate in the system in order to change it. That’s why as the Democratic candidate who can win this seat in November I am proud to have the support of Clean Virginia and will work with our caucus once elected to enact real substantive change.

13. SD27 is considered to be a “purple”/competitive district in November. How do you plan to win this seat, and why do you believe you’d be more electable than your Democratic primary opponent?

Joel Grifffin: I am the only Democrat in this race that will win the election in November against a radical anti-choice Republican. I have more cash on hand than any candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, and I have more than 12 times the cash on hand of my primary opponent. That is money that will be spent on mailings, advertisements, hiring field staff, and more. I have been endorsed by Democratic leaders in the state like Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, and Caucus Vice Chair Scott Surovell. I’ve also been endorsed by local leaders like Stafford Board of Supervisors Chair Dr. Pam Yeung. When we win the primary election in June, my campaign is ready to hit the ground running to take on either Tara Durant or Matt Strickland.

I will beat either of these anti-choice Republicans in November because I can pull in independent voters and moderate Republicans in a way that my Democratic primary opponent can not. As a resident of Stafford County since 1999, as a Marine, and as a small business owner, I have been involved in our community for decades and have a broad network of supporters that spans across the aisle. This appeal to a broad base of voters, along with a campaign war chest larger than both of the Republican candidates, and a winning message on protecting reproductive rights and defending our schools from MAGA Republican attacks will propel me to victory in November.

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