Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, a self-described democratic socialist, formally announced Friday that he is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, promising to be a voice for “the rest of us.”
Carter, a member of the House since 2018, is again pushing to repeal the right-to-work law in which union membership cannot be a condition of employment. He also has called for devoting all future tax revenue from legalized cannabis to reparations for Black and Indigenous Virginians.
His announcement on New Year’s Day came the same day that a law he sponsored took effect, capping insulin cost-sharing payments for patients at $50 per month.
“It’s no secret that Virginia is divided,” Carter said in an announcement video, “but it’s not divided between red and blue. It’s not divided between big cities and small towns. Virginia is divided between the haves and the have-nots.
“One side sends their kids to choice private schools, while the rest of us send our kids to schools that are underfunded and crumbling. One side can afford concierge service from their doctors while we’re lucky to see a doctor at all.”
Carter, 34, is an IT specialist. He served in the U.S. Marines from 2006 to 2011. He is the fifth Democrat to announce a bid for the party’s nomination, which will be decided in a June primary. The other contenders are former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William; Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Carter took part in street protests in Prince William County and tweeted that Virginia State Police had sprayed him with a chemical.
He was a key opponent of the constitutional amendment on redistricting which voters approved in November. It set up a commission of eight legislators and eight citizens to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative boundaries. Among opponents’ objections is that the amendment does not guarantee representation on the panel for people of color.
Carter, who was a Virginia co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid in 2020, is known in the legislature as a critic of government support for big business. He supports banning corporate donations to political campaigns and establishing a public financing mechanism.
He says in his announcement video that “when COVID-19 hit, they got massive taxpayer-funded bailouts for their businesses. We had to make do with thoughts and prayers.”
He decries Dominion Energy’s influence in the General Assembly and he has criticized the state’s incentive packages for Amazon and for the expansion of a Micron manufacturing facility in Prince William County.
Under Virginia’s right-to-work law, which Carter calls the “anti-union freeloader law,” employees can work in unionized workplaces without joining the union or paying regular union dues. Many businesses support the law as important to the state’s economic competitiveness and Northam has opposed repeal. The governor said in November 2019: “I can’t foresee Virginia taking actions [that would include] repeal of the right-to-work law.”
Carter’s announcement came a day after his rivals’ year-end fundraising deadline. Carter, who does not take donations from for-profit corporations or from “industry interest groups” will have to pause his fundraising during the General Assembly session
During his two terms in the House Carter has been anything but conventional. In October 2018 the Associated Press reported that Carter had unleashed a series of preemptive tweets to disclose personal information that could potentially be damaging for him in future campaigns. Carter encouraged Republicans to “enjoy the oppo dump,” in which he disclosed, among other things, that he was going through a third divorce and that, growing up in the South, he was not always as repelled by the Confederate flag as he is now.
Two Republicans—Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, and former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights—have announced bids for the GOP nomination, which will be decided in a convention. Cox issued a statement Friday criticizing Carter’s support for repealing the right-to-work law, saying “It’s a scary policy that will turn the commonwealth over to the union bosses that run Chicago and Illinois.”
Princess Blanding, sister of Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by Richmond police in 2018, has announced a third-party run for governor.
Carter and Paul Goldman, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, recently sued state elections officials in Richmond Circuit Court. They are asking a judge to reduce ballot signature requirements amid the pandemic. The suit aks the court to change the signature rules for this year only, cutting the requirement to 2,000 statewide and removing the signature requirement for congressional districts. It also asks the court to require state elections officials to set up procedures for candidates to collect and submit petition signatures online.
Goldman and Carter are urging other candidates for statewide office to hold off on collecting signatures until the case is resolved.