McClellan’s Closing Argument Outlines How Perspective and Experience Make Her Best Candidate to Lead Virginia Forward

VA DEBATE: McClellan’s Closing Argument Outlines How Perspective and Experience Make Her Best Candidate to Lead Virginia Forward


McClellan Draws Clear Contrast With Gov. McAuliffe on Child Care Investment and Education


McClellan: ‘We’ve got to give people something to vote for. They know I’ve been doing the work for 15 years’


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – In this evening’s final Democratic Party of Virginia gubernatorial debate, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) gave her closing argument to Virginia voters, laying out how her unique perspective as a Black woman and working mom combined with more than 15 years delivering generational progress in Virginia makes her the best candidate to lead the Democratic party forward and rebuild the Commonwealth.


McClellan highlighted clear distinctions with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, noting that she is the only candidate to propose universal childcare and early child education — and that McAuliffe failed to address the issue of childcare in a question about workers returning post-COVID.

 “What I didn’t hear in [McAuliffe’s] answer is what 40% of our workers desperately need right now—and that is access to childcare,” McClellan said. “Before COVID, too many parents didn’t have access to childcare, and COVID has decimated the childcare industry. That is why the first plan I rolled out as a gubernatorial candidate is a universal child care plan.” [Video]


McClellan detailed how she would bring her experience passing landmark legislation to address the challenges Virginians face today and build a Virginia that leaves no one behind. If elected, McClellan would become the first woman governor in Virginia history and first Black woman governor in U.S. history.

“We also need a nominee who will excite and expand our base,” McClellan said. “I’ve spent 31 years building this party and electing Democrats at the local, state, and national level. It’s not enough to give someone something to vote against—we’ve got to give people something to vote for. And they know I’ve been doing the work for 15 years, leading on progress in the General Assembly, and I’ll do that as your Governor.”

McClellan also pointed out former Governor McAuliffe’s borrowed education plan, explaining that “Frankly, I have been working on legislation that would, at the bare minimum, fully fund the recommended Standards of Quality from the Board of Education—which looks remarkably like Governor McAuliffe’s education plan—but that doesn’t go far enough.”

McClellan also spoke personally about how stories of racial violence are ones she knows intimately, noting “My parents grew up during the Depression under the tyranny of Jim Crow. My great grandfather had to take a literacy test and find three white people to vouch for him just to be able to vote. I drive past the Robert E. Lee statue and walk past Harry Bird every day going into the General Assembly, knowing I’m their worst nightmare: a Black woman working to eradicate the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that they worked to keep in place.” [Video]

Find more highlights from the debate below.

  • ON HER EXPERIENCE: “For the past 15 years, I have taken what I’ve heard out in communities all across this Commonwealth and put it into action. That is what people are looking for in the next governor, that is what people are looking for in the next leader of this party—someone who will invest in the party everywhere in a true coordinated campaign that leaves no Virginian and no part of Virginia behind.” [Video]

  • ON CENTERING UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES: “People’s policy positions are based on their perspectives, and we need to make sure the perspectives of Black Americans, Black women, are heard and brought not just to the table, but the table is brought out into those communities.” [Video]

  • ON EXPANDING HEALTH CARE: “Before COVID, too many families were one illness or accident away from economic devastation, and COVID has made that worse and showed that our safety nets weren’t ready. As governor, I will build on the progress that I led in the legislature expanding Medicaid. […] We need to build and implement the state based health care exchange, which I wrote, and make sure we are expanding both coverage through insurance and to providers.” 

  • ON POLICE REFORM: “We’ve got to make sure when there’s police misconduct and especially an officer involved shooting or death that we have mandatory transparent independent investigations, either through civilian review boards in the localities, or through a regional civilian review board if a locality doesn’t have one, or through a default statewide one, or by giving the Attorney General more investigatory power, but there has to be an investigation. And we’ve got to end qualified immunity because until there are consequences, we will not fully end this scourge.”

  • ON UNEMPLOYMENT DELAYS: “Our economic and health care safety nets were starved under at least two decades of Republican leadership in the General Assembly. That’s why we weren’t ready. We had a computer system at VEC that was over 20 years old […] People call a state government agency or state government official to solve a problem, and if we are not prepared to solve the problem because we have let our systems atrophy, then we are the problem.”