RICHMOND, Va. – Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy formally launched her bid for Virginia governor Wednesday, using email and social media to make an initial appeal to voters amid the social distancing constraints of the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-term lawmaker who represents Prince William and Stafford counties said her background - raised by her grandparents in one of the state's poorest cities, graduating from the Virginia Military Institute and serving as a foster parent and public defender - would make her an effective advocate for working families.
"I'm running because the status quo in Virginia isn't working for too many people. Folks still cant earn a decent paycheck, pay off their student loan or get ahead," she said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of her formal announcement. "And so we need a governor who's going to really speak to those challenges. And I understand them intimately because I've lived it."
If she were to win the 2021 contest, the 38-year-old Carroll Foy would be Virginia's first woman governor, the first African American female governor in the United States and only the second woman ever elected to statewide office in Virginia. The first was Mary Sue Terry, who served as attorney general in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Many Democrats are expected to get into the race to replace Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who cannot serve consecutive terms.
Carroll Foy quietly filed paperwork to run last month. Other potential Democratic contenders include state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Republican Sen. Amanda Chase, a populist who is outspoken on gun rights and often clashes with members of her own party, announced her candidacy in February. Republican businessman Pete Snyder has also indicated an interest in running.
In a biographical video released Wednesday, Carroll Foy describes being discouraged from running for her House seat, especially when people learned she was pregnant "not with one but with two babies."
"They said, 'Definitely no. You need to have a seat.' And I knocked on thousands of doors with morning sickness and swollen ankles. And in order for there to be a trail there has to be someone who's willing to blaze it," she says in the video that includes shots of her in her hometown of Petersburg, in the House chambers and caring for her twins, now 2 years old.
Part of a blue wave in 2017 that flipped 15 Republican-held seats, Carroll Foy, who lives in Woodbridge, handily defeated a Republican challenger and then won re-election in 2019 with over 60% of the vote.
Carroll Foy said she thinks Northam has done a "good job" responding to the pandemic but said there's always room to "be bolder in our response."
She's called for a number of reforms, including a vote-by-mail system for the November elections and an increase on the cap on unemployment benefits.
As an attorney who handles court-appointed cases, Carroll Foy said her work has pretty much come grinding to a halt and she said she and her husband are "barely getting by, like many Virginians."
“I want to tell people that I see you. We share the same struggles, and I’m willing to tackle those obstacles and not just through empty promises but through smart policies and leadership,” she said in an interview.