The Women Running (for) Virignia: Candi King
Courier Newsroom / Keith Warther

King won her first election just months ago. She’s back again for more.

Del. Candi King (D-2) was just elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in January, but she is still working the campaign trail like it’s her first election. Dogwood was able to catch a few minutes with her in between a volunteer event and canvassing for the campaign. And with less than a week until the election, Del. King spends about four hours nearly everyday knocking on her neighbors doors.

“[I’m] knocking [on] as many doors as I possibly can, talking to people about all of the progress we’ve made with our Democratic majority, talking about the work that’s still ahead in terms of paid sick leave, education equity, and turning out the vote,” said King, currently running for reelection. “With Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, Mark Herring, and the wonderful candidates for the House of Delegates; we have a chance to really take our commonwealth to the next level, and I just want to get people out and excited about that.”

Running Under Unusual Circumstances Is Her Normal

Del. King’s first campaign was a bit shorter than most. When former delegate for the second district, Jennifer Carrol Foy, resigned her position, there was a little over a month until the General Assembly’s first session of 2021. 

“It was absolutely bananas,” King said. “I made the decision to run sort of between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next morning, and immediately, we had a firehouse [primary election], and then 15 days later, we had the election.”

That experience has made it acutely clear to King that Virginia voters are tired. So tired, that King has backed legislation in committee for all elections to be held in the month of November. With Virginia’s unusual practice of off-year elections, people answer the door to the delegate with questions.

“I literally have heard people say, ‘I just voted for you. I have to vote for you again?’” King told Dogwood, “because I knocked on their door in January, I knocked on their door in June, and now, I’m knocking on their door again.”

That’s one reason she wants to make elections as accessible as possible. As a working mom, she understands that not everyone has time to advocate for themselves and their communities. By putting in the work to make it easier for everyone to vote, King hopes to raise participation in ALL elections to the same level as in presidential ones. That way, more people can choose who can best advocate for them.

Mentoring Through Music

King is a first-generation college graduate from Norfolk State University, a public, historically black college in Virginia.

While there, King was a member of the Spartan Legion’s color guard for four years. Up until running for office, she spent 20 hours a week coaching and mentoring high school girls. 

“I bring them in for a color guard, but I send them out going to college,” said King, adding that college changed her life. “Norfolk State took a young girl who I don’t even think was ready for college.”

“I don’t think I had the discipline to really be successful, and when I stepped onto that campus, I had mentors and people who were cheerleaders for me, correcting me when I needed correcting and guiding and directing me in the right path,” King said.

Those mentors set an example for King that still influences her work ethic today. Because they invested time in her, she wants to invest time in her community. 

Advocating for ALL of Virginia’s Students

King’s daughter shares in her mother’s love of music. A self-taught pianist and drummer, she is passionate and meticulous, even able to play by ear. She is also on the autism spectrum.

“My daughter likes things a really particular way, and that’s an asset,” King said. “There are people with special needs who have become master weavers, people who have skills and talents, and we need to create a workforce that is inclusive.”

Black girls with disabilities, like her daughter, are more likely to be punished for actions associated with their disability. The delegate wants to change that (and more) in Virginia’s education system. That’s one reason why she helped raise teacher pay

“Our teachers are underpaid–special education teachers, especially, who often pick up extra duties and responsibilities,” King told Dogwood. “They’re underpaid, and the programs are underfunded.”

One month after being elected, King had already introduced and passed legislation to update the Department of Education’s special education standards. “My vision is to make Virginia the best place in the country for people with special needs,” King said.

Access for Underrepresented Communities 

King thinks a diverse approach to special education services is critical–and not just in schools. Part of the delegate’s influence to support modernizing Virginia’s transportation came from conversations with the disability advocacy community. 

“The barrier to jobs [and] the barrier to education for young adults with disabilities is lack of transportation, and I think mass transit is a key component of that,” King said. “I think being able to hop on a bus and go to work, or hop on a train and go back and forth to work, it gives folks independence.”

Helping children means helping their caretakers, too. That’s why she supported legislation that secured paid sick leave for home health care workers.

“If you have parents who are working in service industries, parents who don’t have paid leave, who can’t attend meetings, all of these things, their children are not getting as much as they should be, and so that’s what motivates me,” King said.