Jennifer McClellan is a Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor. Her name will appear on the ballot on June 8 during the Democratic Party primary election.
Name: Jennifer McClellan
Biography: As a daughter of educators and domestic workers raised in the segregated south, Sen. Jennifer McClellan is running for Governor to tackle the challenges that our parents, our grandparents, and our great grandparents fought and build a better future for millions of families across Virginia.
With 15 years in the legislature, Jenn McClellan has the most experience of any candidate running for Governor when it comes to delivering progressive change — especially for women, children, and families. To move Virginia forward, she’s built coalitions as a party leader and worked across partisan lines with determination and resolve. That is how she passed a new law expanding health care under the Affordable Care Act and the biggest clean energy law in Virginia history — with bipartisan support.
She’s passed major bills this session to stabilize our child care system during the pandemic, to increase funding for school support staff like social workers and nurses, and to make Virginia the first state in the South with a Voting Rights Act. As Governor, she’ll build a Virginia that leaves no one behind.
Why should Virginians elect you as Governor?
I am running for Governor because so many of us are tired of fighting the same fights that our parents, our grandparents, and our great grandparents fought. We have to tackle those challenges and build a better future for millions of families across Virginia. I will bring my experience and the perspective to lead that change.
With 15 years in the legislature, I have the most experience of any candidate running for Governor when it comes to delivering progressive change — especially for women, children, and families. To move Virginia forward, I’ve built coalitions and worked across party lines with determination and resolve. That is how we passed a new law expanding health care under the Affordable Care Act and the biggest clean energy law in Virginia history — with bipartisan support.
I’m proud to have just passed major bills this session to stabilize our child care system during the pandemic, to increase funding for school support staff like social workers and nurses, and to make Virginia the first state in the south with a Voting Rights Act. I will continue this progress as Governor.
Virginians are ready for the next generation of leadership. Our next governor must look to the future — not the past — to address these challenges and bring the change Virginia needs. As I have done in the legislature, as Governor, I will bring diverse voices to the decision-making table and bring the voices of people in our communities to Richmond so they are heard.
As we rebuild from the pandemic, our next Governor must have the perspective and experience to break down barriers and open doors of opportunity for the people of Virginia in our economy, our health care system, our education system, and our safety nets in a way that includes all of us. We need a Governor who has a new perspective and the experience to get things done on day one. That’s how we’ll build a Virginia that leaves no one behind.
I’m proud to have the support of a number of major Hampton Roads leaders, including: Senators Mamie Locke, Lynwood Lewis, and Monty Mason; Norfolk City Treasurer Daun Hester; and, Newport News Commissioner of Revenue Tiffany Boyle.
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
Whether it’s ensuring people can take time away from work to recover from an illness, care for a sick family member, or welcome a new child; protecting women’s reproductive rights; or changing how public schools are funded in Virginia to make sure that every student no matter where they live gets a quality education — I will take action to rebuild Virginia from the coronavirus and make investments that have been ignored for too long.
As Governor, I will make record investments in public education and the education workforce, provide universal child care by 2025, improve access and affordability within our health care system, and rebuild the economy equitably so no Virginian is left behind.
One top priority will be to address the consistent underfunding of our Commonwealth’s education system. In Virginia, a student’s education depends on the zip code, and in some cases, the neighborhood they were born in. These inequities can be seen in Norfolk, where schools in predominantly black and lower-income communities have high school graduation rates 5% below the national average and 13% below the state average, while students who attend schools just one neighborhood over have a much higher chance of graduating.
As a senator, I led bills to fully fund our schools and increase education funding by $2 billion. As Governor, I will pass the largest education investment plan in Virginia history to address education underfunding and the resulting achievement gaps, rebuild crumbling school infrastructure, and treat our education workforce with the dignity and respect they deserve.
My experience as a party leader, community advocate, and legislator will allow me to bring diverse perspectives and voices that haven’t traditionally been allowed at the governing table and bring that table out into the community, in order to correct structural issues that have previously fallen through the cracks. As Governor, I will work to reform the disparities throughout our systems and create a post-COVID, 21st century Virginia for all.
What is the most important legislative issue facing Virginia, and what is your position on it?
Virginia families are struggling. We are in the midst of the worst health care crisis in the past 100 years, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We have also witnessed a new reckoning for racial justice — with the flashpoint of the murder of George Floyd and the calls to action and movement that followed it.
The most pressing issue is figuring out how we rebuild our Commonwealth. We need to rebuild our economy, our health care system, and our education system in a way that addresses the needs and concerns of all Virginians. It is critical that we rebuild equitably.
We have to build on the progress that we have made in the last couple of years — like expanding the state health care exchange, passing the Virginia Voting Rights Act, and abolishing the death penalty— and finally bring down the inequities that permeate our institutions and systems. We also have to rebuild in a way that addresses the growing loss of faith that people have in the government’s ability to understand and solve their problems.
As Governor, rebuilding an equitable Commonwealth for all Virginians will be my top priority. It’s why I am running — because I believe my perspective as the daughter of parents who grew up in the Jim-Crow south, a working mother, and a community advocate, as well as my experience passing progressive, effective legislation, makes me uniquely suited to rebuild Virginia. We must work together to create a stronger and more united Commonwealth so that we can move forward past these crises, and I am the one who can get us there.
What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?
With the economic and health toll the pandemic has taken on marginalized communities, many of the disparities marginalized communities have faced in Virginia for generations have only deepened. We have seen women leaving the workforce at record high rates, and black and brown communities disproportionately suffering from COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
As a black woman, a working mom, and legislator, I have seen these inequities firsthand in my community. The detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was part of the reason I was inspired to run for Governor. We do not need to bring Virginia back to where it was pre-COVID but to rebuild our Commonwealth stronger so that no community or individual is left behind.
What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in Virginia, and how would you plan to address them?
These problems were not created by the COVID-19 pandemic, only worsened by them. The issues Virginia is facing today are all interconnected.
Take the issue of education. Historic underfunding had left our schools in crisis before COVID-19, and now they are even farther behind because of the pandemic. This is true for K-12 education, as well as early childhood education: During the pandemic over 40% of Virginia child care centers closed, forcing providers out of work, parents — mostly moms — out of work, and children out of care.
This is an issue where children aren’t receiving an education, and an economic issue where employees and parents are unable to return to work. I have proposed the largest education investment in Virginia history, that will invest and reform education from birth to career. My three -part education plan will address school inequities, fix crumbling school infrastructure, support the full educator workforce, and provide universal child care.
COVID-19 has also underscored the importance of paid family leave and paid medical leave, issues that I had already been working on addressing in the legislature. As we revitalize our economy we must focus on small businesses, workers, families, and communities. As Governor I will address the inequities in Virginia’s economy, weaknesses in our economic safety nets, and our lack of strong worker protections.
Additionally, COVID-19 has drastically deepend racial inequities in the Commonwealth and across the country. Racism is baked into every system of our government and society — from housing and the criminal justice system, to education and voting rights. As a party leader, a community leader, and a legislator, I have worked to tell the complete, true history of Virginia so that we can begin to heal. And I’ve brought people and perspectives that have been excluded into the process — fighting for legislation to break down systemic inequity in Virginia. I will bring that perspective as Governor, and everything I do as Governor will be framed by that lens.