VA DEBATE: McClellan Emphasizes Need for Both Perspective, Experience to Defeat Youngkin in November

McClellan: ‘We don’t have to choose between a new perspective and experience because I bring both.’


RICHMOND, Va. – In this evening’s Democratic Party of Virginia gubernatorial debate, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) laid out how her unique perspective as a Black woman and working mom combined with the more than 15 years delivering generational progress in Virginia make her the best Democratic candidate to take on Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin in the general election.


McClellan outlined how Virginia voters can nominate a leader not just with more experience than the rest of the field combined but someone who understands the challenges that many families and communities are facing across the Commonwealth. If elected, McClellan would become the first woman governor in Virginia history and first Black woman governor in U.S. history.

Governor McAuliffe was the right governor for that time, but Virginia is different,” McClellan said. “And the good news is we don’t have to choose between a new perspective and experience because I bring both. 

“I came to the General Assembly as a 32-year-old Black woman from the most Democratic district in the state, operating in a body that was mostly white Republican men over 50. And yet I’ve been able to pass over 300 bills. Since being in the majority, I’m the only person on the stage who has passed bills to address clean energy and address climate change, to expand access to reproductive health, to expand worker protections to domestic workers, and to create the Voting Rights Act of Virginia – one of the strongest Voting Rights Acts in the country. … I have done more to address inequity than any other candidate on this stage and bringing perspectives that were not represented in the General Assembly. I will do the same as governor.”

McClellan also spoke personally about how her family has talked about police violence and underlined her strong background fighting for transformational justice reform, noting “This is not a new issue. I have had to answer questions from my son that I hoped I’d never have to answer about whether he could be the victim of gun violence or police violence, in particular, as he’s seen children that much older than him killed by police officers. The record will show that I have been working on this issue in criminal justice reform comprehensively before the cameras were on, before it was a hot topic for the press.”

McClellan also drew contrast with former Governor McAuliffe on her plans to build a more equitable K-12 education system in Virginia, saying “At a bare minimum, we need to fully implement the Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality, which is what they say all of our schools need to provide a high quality education to each child. I’ve been working with Delegate Lashrecse Aird to do that. That is the basis of another candidate’s ‘bold’ plan, but it’s frankly not bold, it’s old. We need to go farther.”

Find more highlights from the debate below.

  • OPENING STATEMENT: “We need a nominee who has the experience but also brings a fresh perspective. And as a working mother, as a Black woman who has seen how our state government has left many communities behind, I’ve worked to address those problems for the past 15 years. I have more governing experience than any other candidate running for governor, all of them combined. And I’ve used that experience to lead on addressing climate change, voting rights – expanding voting rights, ratifying the era, expanding reproductive health, expanding access to health care. And that is the kind of experience we need.”

  • ON THE RACE AHEAD: “We need a candidate who will meet Glenn Youngkin and show that Virginians are ready for someone who will not just look to divide us, but bring us together and lead us out of this critical crisis we are in to make Virginia a stronger, more united, and more equitable Commonwealth.”

  • ON EDUCATION: “We need to go farther and make sure that we are not only assessing where the kids are now providing specific instruction to get where they need to be, give our localities more flexibility if they need to have year-round school or longer days. We need to make sure we are lifting the cap on support personnel so that mental health professionals, nurses, social workers are back in the building to address the need, the wraparound services needs of our children. And we need to address the crumbling schools by having the state fund again construction and renovation.”

  • ON INEQUITY: “I have the support of the people on the ground who have been doing the work to address inequity and I have done more to address inequity than any other candidate on this stage and bringing perspectives that were not  represented in the General Assembly. I will do the same as governor. And that is why the grassroots support of New Virginia Majority and Care In Action is so important. Because they know I’ve been doing the work.”

  • ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: “We have to end qualified immunity because when a police officer violates someone’s civil rights and it ends in death or injury, they need to be held accountable. We need to have more than just civilian review boards with subpoena power, we need to have independent investigative units at the Attorney General’s office and for our state law enforcement.”