VA GOV DEBATE: McClellan Stands Out With Unmatched Record of Achievement, Fresh Perspective


McClellan Spotlights Her 15 Years Driving Generational Change in Virginia’s Economic, Criminal Justice, and Health Care Systems


McClellan Highlights Clear Differences on Gun Safety, Drawing Contrast with fmr. Gov. Terry McAuliffe on 2016 Deal With NRA


RICHMOND – In this evening’s Democratic Party of Virginia gubernatorial debate, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) laid out her 15-year record delivering progressive legislative achievements for the Commonwealth and demonstrated how her unique perspective as a working mom, legislator, and Black woman would shape her agenda to rebuild a Virginia where no community is left behind. 


During the debate, McClellan highlighted her plans to lead Virginia boldly forward with expanded access to affordable health care, an equitable economic recovery plan, historic action on criminal justice reform, and comprehensive gun control reform. 


McClellan also made sharp contrasts during the debate, calling former Governor Terry McAuliffe out on the 2016 deal he made with the NRA to allow concealed carry reciprocity in Virginia. McClellan voted against the concealed carry bills. McClellan also contrasted her strategies for growing the economy with a focus on small businesses — compared to the prior approach of “simply focus[ing] on luring other companies here to Virginia.”


As the daughter of Black educators raised in the segregated South, McClellan detailed how her lived experiences have been the guiding force behind her work uprooting systemic inequities in the General Assembly and why she has the right vision for Virginia’s next chapter. If elected, McClellan would become the first woman governor of Virginia and the first Black woman governor in U.S. history.


Find highlights from the debate below:


  • “I have more state government experience than all other candidates on the stage combined: 16 sessions in the legislature – 14 of them were in the minority party. I’ve had over 300 bills passed, the majority of them in the minority party. And I did that by finding common ground, by first understanding different perspectives – whether it was Republicans, whether it was Independents.” 


  • “Watching George Floyd being murdered, I felt the same trauma my parents felt when they saw Emmett Till being murdered… We need comprehensive criminal justice reform that eliminates these low level offenses that criminalize poverty and mental illness. Remember, George Floyd was detained for having a counterfeit 20 dollar bill that became a death sentence.” [Video]


  • “Racial justice is about more than criminal justice reform. It is embedded in every system we have in government, and I did not need George Floyd’s murder or the Unite the Right Rally to teach me that.” [Video]


  • “I was proud to address gun violence, and in 2020, we were able to pass about seven bills to address gun violence, including giving local governments the ability to ban weapons at permitted events. We could have gone farther though. We had the opportunity to require all Virginians with a concealed carry permit to comply with our requirements, rather than allowing them to have concealed carry permits from states that have looser restrictions than we do. Our Attorney General was on the right track to put us there, and Governor McAuliffe made a deal that gave that away.” [Video]


  • “That’s what’s motivated me for the past 16 sessions, as I’ve walked past the statue of Harry Byrd every day into the state capitol, knowing I’m his worst nightmare: a Black woman working to eradicate the inequity that he put in place. And I have done that, leading on generational change – everything from bills to make Virginia the first state in the South to have its own Voting Rights Act, a 100% Clean Energy Standard, proactively protecting women’s reproductive access.” [Video]


  • “Before COVID, though, our economy was leaving many Virginians behind, and we have to rebuild it in a way that leaves no one behind, that centers our workers, that centers small businesses who were struggling before COVID. Unlike past recessions, we cannot simply focus on luring other companies here to Virginia. We have got to stabilize and grow the small businesses, particularly our women and minority owned businesses, who are struggling.”