Commentary/Opinion
On occasion, Charlottesville Tomorrow will publish opinion pieces by members of our local community. At this time, we can acknowledge receipt and inform you whether a period for accepting them for publication is open.  We cannot guarantee that a submission will run. Letters must include the writer's full name. Anonymous opinions and those signed with pseudonyms will not be considered. Commentary on an article should be submitted within one week of a story's publication. For verification, opinions and commentary also must include the writer's contact information. Writers should disclose personal or financial interest in topics addressed. Pieces are edited for clarity and fact checked. Writers and/or organizations may only submit one piece over a 30-day period. We do not endorse political candidates, but candidates and supporters are welcome to make one submission before a primary election/convention and again before the general election. Candidates and anyone wishing to write about a candidate must submit their pieces no later than 45 days before Election Day. Political pieces will not be run within 30 days of the general election election. For more information, or to submit a letter to the editor, contact News Editor Elliott Robinson at erobinson@cvilletomorrow.org.

I was born to a family of educators, domestic workers and laborers. My parents were raised during the Depression under the tyranny of Jim Crow, where they faced racism in education, economic opportunity and their ability to vote. But despite the hardships they faced, they witnessed the powerful force of the New Deal and watched their government win the war on poverty. Listening to their stories, I came to understand that at its best, the government is a force for solving problems, responding to crises and improving people’s lives. At its worst, it’s a force that oppresses some for the benefit of a few.

At 11, I decided I wanted to make government a force for progressive change to solve the problems facing people and communities.

In 2006, I began serving in the Virginia General Assembly because I wanted to address the struggles that Virginia families continue to face. And I am proud of the landmark achievements I have ushered in — particularly the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, the Reproductive Health Protection Act, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and the Virginia Clean Economy Act,  which make Virginia a leader in the South on expanding and protecting voting rights, reproductive rights, workers’ rights and addressing climate change.

But even with all the progress Virginia has made, too many of our communities, our experiences and our voices have been left behind. The coronavirus crisis has brought dramatic changes and challenges to the lives of millions of Virginians, exposed the depth of the inequity in our commonwealth, and made them worse. Even as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, communities like Charlottesville are still grappling with the impact of the past year.

As we rebuild, our next governor must have the perspective and experience to break down barriers and open doors of opportunity for the people of Virginia in a way that includes all of us and takes the policy-making table out into all communities. That’s why I’m running for governor.

I have the most experience of any candidate running for governor when it comes to delivering progressive change. To move Virginia forward, I’ve built coalitions and worked across party lines with determination and resolve. That is how I passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the biggest clean energy law in Virginia history. I worked with Charlottesville companies like Sun Tribe Solar and Sigora Solar to pass this landmark bill, which will create 13,000 jobs a year, including in Charlottesville’s growing clean energy sector. As governor, I will go even further, expediting our timeline and making Virginia the No. 1 state for clean energy in America.

I have also achieved generational progress expanding health care, particularly in securing reproductive health access and mental health resources for all Virginians. I worked tirelessly until we expanded Medicaid, and I passed the bill to create the Virginia Health Benefits Exchange under the Affordable Care Act, which will provide more affordable health insurance for approximately 300,000 Virginians. I also worked with Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, to pass the bill to allow abortion coverage to be offered on the state health care exchange. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia PAC endorsed my campaign because of my work expanding reproductive health care for all Virginians. As governor, I will continue to make access to a high-quality, affordable, comprehensive health care system available to everyone, including reproductive care and mental health care.

As the daughter of educators and the mom of two children in Richmond Public Schools, education policy is critically important to me. I have been fighting to increase education investment and improve our schools — and as governor I will be able to do even more. We’ve seen continued inequity in our school system from early education through college. According to ProPublica, Black students in Charlottesville are on average 3.6 academic years behind white students — a disparity that is unacceptable. As governor, I will invest $2.3 billion more per year into our education system, fully funding the Board of Education Standards of Quality, raise teacher salaries to at least 65,000 per year, fund more school support staff and address crumbling school infrastructure across the commonwealth, in order to provide every Virginia student an equitable education.

On my website, JenniferMcClellan.com, you can see my comprehensive policy plans for every area, including universal child care, voting rights and criminal justice reform.

I’m proud to have the support of many Charlottesville area leaders, including Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, former Charlottesville Mayor Virginia Daugherty, Charlottesville City Council Member Lloyd Snook and Albemarle County School Board Member Judy Le.

We are only a couple days from the election, and there has never been a better time to join my grassroots movement. As a Black woman and a working mom with over 15 years of legislative experience, I am uniquely qualified to rebuild our commonwealth for every Virginian and every community.

This is not a moment to retreat to the past, but to step boldly into our future.