Three Democrats are vying to become the party’s nominee for Lieutenant Governor. Michael Pope talked to the candidates to get a sense of why they are running, and what they hope to bring to the job.
The Justin Fairfax campaign team is huddled around a small desk on the penthouse floor of a nondescript office building in Arlington. His campaign manager pulls out a piece of slick direct mail.
His manager says, “So this is the first mail piece. So this one’s going to the general mail list. So this will be going to everyone.”
Fairfax confirms. “This will be our first piece to go out?
Fairfax ran for attorney general four years ago in the Democratic primary and lost to Mark Herring. He’s been putting the pieces into place for another statewide run ever since, securing a long list of endorsements along the way.
Fairfax says one of his top priorities is boosting the economy by getting more Virginians into better paying jobs. Specifically he wants to get people currently in low-skilled jobs into what he calls middle-skilled jobs — jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.
“These jobs are the fastest way for many Virginians into the middle class,” Fairfax says. “So you can be a certified welder, dental technician or long-distance truck driver. These are jobs that are typically not outsourced.”
Fairfax says filling these jobs will finance itself. “Those 175,000 jobs, if we filled them, would produce an additional $1 billion of income to Virginia’s families, an additional $54 million in tax revenues to the general fund.”
Fairfax is a former federal prosecutor who was worked in the U.S. attorney’s office with another candidate in the race, Gene Rossi — a longtime federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Rossi says he wants the bully pulpit of the office to address the opioid crisis in Virginia.
And he says a law enforcement approach won’t work.
“We don’t need to add more fuel to the prison-industrial complex like Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to do with building more prisons, charging more serious crimes for low-level people and instituting mandatory minimums when they’re not necessary.”
I ask for clarity, “On that issue, though, in your years as a federal prosecutor weren’t you part of that prison industrial complex?”
Rossi answers, “Absolutely! And I’ve got to make a confession: In the 1990s, I did prosecute people with mandatory minimums. I did aggressively pursue individuals who nowadays should not be prosecuted with such severity.”
Rossi says he does not want to defend his role in the War on Drugs. And he says he doesn’t think he should have to.
“And the worst thing for a politician to do is to stand by a position when they know they’re wrong, and I now realize that we have to treat addiction like it is, a disease.”
Rossi is a first-time candidate. But he’s not the only first-time candidate running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
Another candidate in the race is Susan Platt, someone well-known in political circles because she’s managed many political campaigns. And she’s spent years encouraging women to get involved in the political process.
“You know there have been 40 lieutenant governors: Six Johns. Two Jamses. Two Roberts. One L. Douglas. And no Susans. And I plan to be the first Susan.”
One of the key issues Platt has hit over and over on the campaign trail is the controversial pipeline Dominion wants to build through the state. She’s against it, and she says she refuses to take money from Dominion.
“I’ve worked for some Virginia companies that knew they needed to change the way they do business, and I think it’s time that Dominion realize it’s time they change the way they do business and start working to promote more renewable energy sources.”
Voters will have the final say which Democrat will stand as their party’s nominee when they head to the polls on June 13th.