Who should be Virginia’s next governor? Qasim lays out the case for his chosen candidate.

Consistent polling shows that up to 50% of Virginians are undecided on who to vote for governor. Republicans have chosen to bypass a democratic process with a closed convention for party elites to block out the GOP frontrunner—a self-described Trump in heels. The Democratic party, however, recognizes that our nation is strengthened when more people vote—and has a primary scheduled June 8.

At this moment of crisis, we are at a crossroads. Does our next governor move our Commonwealth forward, or maintain the status quo? In my view, our next governor must bring three things to the table. Someone who changes the status quo, not by their words, but by their actions. Someone who is pro worker above all else, especially as the next governor will guide Virginia’s recovery from the pandemic. And someone who has demonstrated a personal understanding of the suffering of marginalized communities, and therefore knows where our broken institutions need repair. With that in mind, here’s why Jennifer Carroll Foy is the best candidate for Virginia’s next governor.

Someone who changes the status quo by their actions

I first learned about Jennifer Carroll Foy in 2017 during her run for the House of Delegates. Though I lived just outside of her district, the popular media narrative was that of a Black woman skipping her turn in line to run before she was ready.

How interesting that those same narratives continue to emerge in her run for governor? When the dust settled, Jennifer Carroll Foy emerged with adorable twin boys and a remarkable victory, flipping a seat from red to blue as Delegate Carroll Foy. Yes, she ran while pregnant with twins.

Her leadership in the House of Delegates helped expand healthcare access to 500,000 low income Virginians, pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and expand voting access—to name a few. Not bad for someone “not ready.” If this is how she leads while a Delegate, imagine the progress she’ll make to move us forward as American history’s first Black woman to serve as governor.

I looked it up. Our nation has elected 2561 people to the office of governor—exactly 0 of them have been Black women. Jennifer Carroll Foy is beyond ready. It is time to elect someone who will shake up the status quo not just by their words—but by their actions.

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Someone who is pro worker above all else

Virginia is number one in business, and dead last in workers rights. Understand—this is no accident. It is the end result of deliberate historical policies by both parties that bust unions, prevent a living wage increase, and give tax breaks to corporations who then fund politician elections.

As we emerge from this pandemic, we need someone who will put workers first and always, so that we’re not just the best place to do business, but the best place for working people to live, work, and raise a family. And before anyone claims I’m playing the tired “both sides” argument, consider that throughout both total GOP control and total Democratic control of the Virginia legislature, the “right to work” policy that Dr. King condemned as racist has remained intact.

At a time when wealth and income inequality is the worst it’s been in 60 years, we need a leader who is funded by the people, not by corporations. Someone who will repeal “right to work” to protect worker rights. Someone who will strengthen unions to secure worker benefits and raise  wages.

But it isn’t only that Jennifer Carroll Foy rejects corporate money that makes her candidacy special. She is herself a working mom. She has student loans. She’s a mom who nearly died after childbirth because the doctors wouldn’t listen to her, and was forced to choose between paying her mortgage or being with her infants due to a lack of worker rights in Virginia.

It’s no surprise that Jennifer Carroll Foy has been endorsed by more labor and union organizations than any other candidate in this race. Her experience is quintessentially what so many Americans experience. That’s why she’s so well suited to fix these broken policies that only serve corporations—not workers. 

Someone who understands the suffering of the marginalized

By my count, Jennifer Carroll Foy would be the first public defender in at least modern Virginia history to serve as governor. Public defenders are the last line of defense to protect our rights from a criminal justice system that over incarcerates low income and Black and brown communities. Underpaid and under resourced, public defenders have long fought to reform our criminal justice system from one of retribution and revenge to that of rehabilitation and reform.

Jennifer Carroll Foy was built in that fight for marginalized Virginians. Thankfully, Virginia has now abolished the death penalty in 2021—and Jennifer Carroll Foy has fought for its abolishment for years. Virginia is poised to decriminalize and legalize marijuana—and Jennifer Carroll Foy has long represented Black and brown Virginians unjustly snared in the war on drugs for simple possession.

The war on drugs criminalized addiction—and Jennifer Carroll Foy fought to expand Medicaid, thus providing addiction treatment to some 40,000 Virginians who otherwise would have ended up dead or in prison. In short, Jennifer Carrolly Foy knows the struggles of the marginalized because she sharpened her teeth as their last line of defense in an economically and racially unjust system. It’s time we make her our first line of defense as governor to instead build an economically and racially just system for all Virginians.

In Conclusion

I’ll remind you again, polling shows that up to 50% of Virginians are undecided on who to vote for Governor. Virginians want change, a champion for workers, and someone who understands their struggles.

Many of you may have tuned in to the first televised debate this week undecided, and came away with the same conclusion that has been very clear to me: That person is Jennifer Carroll Foy.

Let me be transparent. I’m not a paid staffer for Jennifer Carroll Foy. I’m a human rights lawyer who supports DV survivors, asylum and refugee applicants, and served as a prison chaplain in Virginia. I’ve seen the devastation our systematic and deliberate unjust policies continue to impose on women, low income Virginians, workers, and Black and brown Virginians.

As Congresswoman Ayanna Pressely brilliantly says, “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.” Jennifer Carroll Foy has fought her entire career by living and serving closely with those in pain—it’s time to ensure she’s closest to power to fight for working Virginians who’ve been left behind too long.

Qasim Rashid is a human rights lawyer, author, and Truman National Security Project Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid.