Issues and Priorities
Education and Childcare
The goal of a robust educational system is to provide our young people access to a high-quality, rigorous, and engaging learning experience that prepares them for demands in their work or as active participants in our democracy. Raised by a single mother, who juggled multiple jobs to make ends meet, school was my refuge, and I learned the importance of a good education at a young age. My teachers inspired me to pursue my goals and dreams. With my mother’s support, work-study jobs, and Pell grants, I went on to college and achieved success as a small business owner. Given the challenges young people face in today’s world, and as a mother of three sons who all attended Norfolk Public Schools, I will prioritize early education, childcare and educational programs and funding to ensure that every Virginia student is well equipped to compete for quality, good-paying jobs and take part in our democracy.
- Meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19. As we reopen schools, these needs must be addressed so that students are capable of learning. I will support adding trained counselors to address this critical need head on, using restorative practices that not only heal but help reduce disciplinary issues and suspensions. I also support extended learning time, tutoring, and similar interventions to help students advance academically.
- Expanding infrastructure investment in the public schools. Too many Virginia schools are in dire need of major capital improvements or new buildings entirely. In fact, the ceiling of the auditorium at my sons’ high school collapsed a few years ago while school was in session. I will expand investments in our schools to provide adequate spaces, natural light, working heating and air conditioning, and modern technology to provide a safe and healthy environment conducive to learning.
- Raising teacher pay. The quality of our children’s education is only as good as the teachers providing it. Research shows that as teacher salaries rise, school districts and students both benefit, with improved teacher retention, gains in student performance, and a better chance of hiring teachers who earned top scores on educator certification exams. I will fight to raise salaries so that our schools can recruit and retain the best talent.
- Expanding early childhood education. Research shows that these early investments not only better prepare students for their K-12 education but have lasting positive effects through their lives. For every $1 invested in high-quality early education, society receives between a $7-$12 return on that investment as students are more likely to graduate high school, have a lower risk of heart disease and obesity, and have higher income as adults.
- Expanding access to high speed, affordable internet, devices and digital literacy. Students lacking access to the internet and devices at home often struggle to complete homework, have lower grade point averages, and lack sufficient digital skills. These skills deficits also contribute to lower standardized test scores and less interest in STEM careers. I will continue to fight to ensure every student has adequate broadband and devices, as well as the digital literacy training, to address digital equity and give them a real opportunity to succeed.
- Expanding Career and Technical Education (CTE). Research shows that CTE programs decrease students’ risk of dropping out of high school and create a direct pipeline to good-paying, often union, jobs. My plan calls for expanding these programs, with a focus on the new industries being created, such as the clean energy economy, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and robotics/megatronics, as well as the traditional trades skills that are in high demand, including HVAC, building, plumbing and electrical.
- Supporting Childcare access. Virginia needs dramatic investments in affordable, accessible, quality, safe childcare. Too many parents find it difficult to afford childcare, which too often pushes women out of the workforce to stay home. I support policies to ensure childcare expenses do not pose an undue burden on families, and I will work with the General Assembly to encourage the creation of more quality childcare centers, expanding access and creating good paying childcare jobs.
Justice & Equity
Our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform. Black and Brown people should not live in fear of being harmed by police; yet that is a reality for far too many, and we must bring that to an end. It is incumbent upon us to address the systemic racism in our society and build a more just future for all. In Norfolk, I was appointed to serve as Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Social Equity and Economic Opportunity, which was formed in the wake of protest during the summer of 2020, where I’m working to address racial disparities in education, housing, health and economic opportunity. As Lieutenant Governor, I will uphold a system of accountability that is just and equitable for all Virginians.
- Holding Police Accountable. There is a desperate need for greater police accountability. Communities should be able to rely on law enforcement to protect and serve, and where it falls short, the General Assembly must provide laws enabling oversight and accountability. On the Norfolk City Council, I’ve led the effort to stand up Norfolk’s Citizen Review Panel, which would have subpoena power over police conduct.
- Legalizing Cannabis. I support the legalization of cannabis, treating hard drug addiction as a public health issue, and ending the failed and racially discriminatory war on drugs.
- Fair sentencing and restoring civil rights. I support ending mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, ending cash bail, and I support restoration of voting and civil rights for returning citizens.
- Providing adequate training and resources. I support investing more resources into training for law enforcement to deal with situations in which someone is going through a mental health episode or crisis and to be able to identify and work with people with disabilities. I support allocating more resources to social service professionals who can help to respond to an emergency where an individual is going through a crisis.
- Restoring rights and providing jobs and skills for returning citizens. Voting rights are fundamental and must be protected. I support the restoration of voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. And, as the former Chair of the Board for The Up Center, I led this non-profit that provided a re-entry program for formerly incarcerated individuals with workforce training and access to job opportunities; I also helped to secure millions of dollars to provide mental health, financial and housing counseling and foster care for people who need it most. More resources should be provided to organizations that address re-entry and provide job-training and life skills to reduce future recidivism.
- Addressing Structural Racism. Structural racism is a persistent and disgusting reality in our commonwealth. Black Virginians continue to be left out of the opportunities available to others, and it’s incumbent upon us all to take steps to deconstruct the system of white supremacy. We can start by providing equitable access to health care, education and economic opportunity through strategic policy and investment on the state level.
- Advocating for Public Defenders pay parity. Public defenders provide legal defense for poor defendants who cannot otherwise pay for an attorney. Yet, there is too often a significant pay gap between what public defense attorneys are paid versus that of prosecutors in the Commonwealth Attorney’s offices. This puts poor defendants at a disadvantage, which must be addressed. I will advocate for legislation introduced in 2021 by Delegate Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) directing the state to provide additional resources for public defenders to help address this pay parity.
Supporting Jobs and Small Businesses
Over the past 15 years, we’ve suffered through two terrible economic shocks in the Great Recession and the economic effects of COVID-19. A lack of access to opportunity created unseen levels of economic inequality. As we work towards recovery, Virginia has an unprecedented opportunity to fix broken systems and policies and position itself to revitalizing the economy in an inclusive manner.
To achieve an equitable and lasting economic recovery—one that everyone can contribute to and benefit from—our investments must be focused on building human capital. To do so, we must partner with colleges (including both our Community College System and 4-year institutions), trade schools, apprenticeship programs and the private sector to align programs with ever-changing workforce needs, ensuring that Virginia businesses have the skilled talent they need to compete in the global economy and thrive.
My platform will reverse a decades-long trend of rising inequality and drive upward mobility for all by:
- Re‐skilling for new economies. More and better investments in skills training is needed to prepare workers for returning to existing jobs, upgrading their skills to keep pace with the introduction of new technologies, and benefitting from emerging industries, like the clean energy economy.
- Upskilling the entry‐level workforce. Create stronger programs and partnerships between high schools, community organizations and community colleges to provide entry-level workers with the foundational skills and stackable credentials they need to get good paying jobs and embark on career pathways.
- Expanding pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and work-based learning. Pre-apprenticeship programs provide the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential while having access to support services and career counseling, and are shown to greatly increase success in full apprenticeship programs. And, allowing workers to learn while they earn means more people can get the training they need while caring for their families and meeting their obligations. As many workers don’t qualify for apprenticeships or other jobs, I support expanding programs that get more workers the skills needed without creating crushing debt.
- Wages and Worker Protections. I would support repealing the so-called “Right to Work” law because collective bargaining is key to ensuring fair and equitable rights for workers. To have an equitable economy, I support paying Virginians a living wage and ensuring access to paid family and medical leave.
- Supporting access to capital. Small businesses are the state’s biggest job creators, and if they don’t recover, the economy won’t either. Small businesses, especially women and minority-owned businesses, need greater access to capital, and I will work to make sure these entrepreneurs have increased access to banks and other borrowing options, including, increasing access to mid-range ($20,000-$50,000) capital for business expansion.
- Increasing support to Small, Women and Minority Owned Businesses. I will work to expedite the certification and recertification process for Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) businesses. We also need to increase outreach to SWaM businesses to help meet procurement goals and expand awareness and effectiveness of state-supported Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). And, using the updated data from the latest disparity study, I will work to tailor future programming to ensure that Virginia meets expanded procurement set asides, better prioritizing women, minority and service-disabled veteren-owned businesses.
Tackling the Climate Crisis
The climate crisis is not a future threat, it’s right now. The road I drive to access City Hall is flooded multiple days per month on sunny days because of sea level rise. I’ve been working to address climate change mitigation and adaptation in Hampton Roads for almost a decade, including writing the region’s first Climate Action Plan and helping to bring millions of federal dollars to the area to address sea level rise.
- Green Energy. As Lieutenant Governor, I will be a strong advocate to accelerate progress on Virginia’s 100% Clean Energy goal as well as to improve access to clean renewable energy for families, schools, businesses and local governments.
- Flood Mitigation. I will encourage the creation of a Commonwealth Flood Board to address and fund flood mitigation statewide. I will also continue to expand support for Resilience Innovations (RISE) to identify and support new flood mitigation, environmental protection and resilience technologies.
- Reduce Emissions. It is critical that we reduce emissions and champion the use of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction funds to implement energy-efficiency upgrades in low/moderate income communities and support funding for regional flood mitigation planning. I will also advocate updates to the state building code to address improved energy efficiency and resilience.
- Keeping our planet beautiful. As Lieutenant Governor, I will stand up a statewide task force to identify ways to improve recycling in the Commonwealth, as well as supporting increased public transit to reduce pollution emissions and congestion.
- Supporting A Green Economy. As Lieutenant Governor, I will support “green job” and “blue job” certification options throughout the Virginia Community College system.
- Water Conservation. I will support improved Chesapeake Bay water quality through expanded use of Stormwater Local Assistance Funds.
Learn more about my plan to tackle the climate crisis.
Expanding Access to High-Speed Internet
Access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service is critical to every Virginian for work, for school, for accessing health care, for agriculture, and, recently, for pre-registering for a COVID vaccine. This pandemic has shown that the digital divide is very real and growing, and we need comprehensive policy solutions to tackle it.
- Create the most connected state in the nation. Virginia needs to consider a “moonshot” approach, and strive to become the most connected state in the nation by committing necessary financial resources and prioritizing the need for making broadband ubiquitous, using an “all of the above” approach to broadband deployment. I will support the expansion of a statewide broadband team to include administration representatives from Commerce, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Housing, Emergency Management, Education, Health, Agriculture, Diversity and Transportation in order to make broadband access a priority across state agencies.
- Connecting all of our students. I will work to eliminate the “homework gap” and the growing digital divide, ensuring all students have access to affordable, high-speed internet; appropriate devices and digital-literacy skills. And, I will advocate that Virginia increases its investments in digital training at all levels, from K-12 to higher education to senior centers, through state funding, partnerships with community organizations and public-private partnerships.
- Providing access to equitable health care. I will focus on connecting the “last mile” to homes to ensure equitable access to telemedicine and telemental health visits. I will support codifying Virginia’s telehealth regulations to allow for telehealth visits post-COVID and outside of a state of emergency; moreover, I will advocate for a statewide mandate for telehealth parity allowing for telehealth visits to be covered at the same rates as in person visits, beyond the current emergency.
Learn more about my plan to expand access to high speed internet.
Abortion care is health care and health care is a human right. I am proud to be a Democrat because we are the party unafraid to defend a person’s right to choose and make personal decisions about their own body under the care of their doctor, not the orders of a politician. Access to comprehensive reproductive health care is essential to the values of equality, opportunity, and dignity which we cherish.
In Norfolk, I’m proud to represent one of the premier centers for women’s reproductive medicine in the country, home of the first successful IVF baby in the country–the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, VA.
I will always stand to ensure all Virginians, regardless of income, gender identity or circumstances, have meaningful access to a full spectrum of care. As Lieutenant Governor, I will be a brick wall against legislation aimed at limiting access to reproductive healthcare.
- Access to Care. I fully support easy and equitable access to reproductive health care, including abortion, birth control and other forms of family planning. I will support proposals ensuring that health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs cover prescription contraception on an equal basis. As Lieutenant Governor, I will advocate for the continued funding of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) as part of the state’s budget.
- Education and information. I will support sex education programs for young people in Virginia schools that are age appropriate, medically accurate, and include information regarding consent and healthy relationships as well as preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,
- Protecting Choice in Virginia. As Lieutenant Governor, I am prepared to cast the tie-breaking vote to protect a person’s right to make unencumbered choices about their reproductive health and bodily autonomy, including the right to choose an abortion, in the Virginia constitution.
Supporting Virginia’s disAbility Community
As Lieutenant Governor, I will use my relationships, network, and knowledge to ensure that those with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as every Virginian.
- Community resources. As a Norfolk community member, I served as Chair of the Board for The Up Center, a non-profit organization which provides critical services to Norfolk’s disability community. I helped to raise money for an annual residential summer camp for kids with severe disabilities; and raised money to fund therapy, and foster care services for children with disabilities.
- Access to Opportunity. On the Norfolk City Council, I have strongly advocated for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Norfolk and used my role to ensure they had access to government services. As Vice Chair of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (HRT), I have consistently advocated for improved paratransit services to ensure our disability community has much needed access to transportation resources.
- Supporting with Policy. I will support ending the waiting list for ID/DD waivers, expand access to ABLENow 529 accounts and autism insurance, and reform the criminal justice system so we no longer jail those who need access to mental health services. I will ensure that our state government buildings, schools, public universities are truly accessible to those who use aid for mobility.
Access to Equitable and Affordable Healthcare
Health care is a human right. More than 500,000 people in the Commonwealth currently lack health insurance, including approximately 100,000 children, and we know that Black and brown communities are more likely to be uninsured than white Virginians. I support efforts to ensure that health insurance is accessible and affordable to all.
- Expanding access to healthcare. One of the many reasons I was thrilled about President Biden’s victory in November was because of the possibility of expanding access to health care for millions of Americans, and I look forward to seeing what the administration proposes.
- Lowering prescription drug costs. I will support legislation to reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with private health insurance, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and reworking subsidies to make insurance more affordable for Virginia families.
- Addiction care and mental health services. I will advocate for expanded addiction care and mental health care services, which have become even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave. I strongly support implementing Paid Family and Medical Leave to ensure no one has to choose between a paycheck and welcoming home a child, attending to a sick family member or staying home when they are sick themselves. I support proposed legislation in Virginia which would establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program in the commonwealth, ensuring covered employees can take at least 12 weeks of paid time away from work when they need it.
- Expanding access to telehealth. Health care is inaccessible for too many Virginians, whether due to a shortage of healthcare professionals in rural areas or because of one’s inability to take time off to visit a provider in person. I support codifying Virginia’s telehealth regulations to allow for telehealth visits post-COVID and outside of a state of emergency; moreover, I will advocate for a statewide mandate for telehealth parity allowing for telehealth visits to be covered at the same rates as in person visits, beyond the current emergency.
- Addressing disparities. COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities in our healthcare system but for far too long marginalized communities have experienced disparities in health care. To address healthcare disparities, we must also address fundamental needs like transportation, access to fresh fruits and vegetables and mitigating food deserts, ensuring safe environments with clean air and water and mitigating heat islands, and the affordability of prescription drugs and corrective vision care and hearing aids. It is also critical that we address implicit bias in the medical system that puts Black and brown Virginians, especially women, at risk.
Addressing Gun Violence
Our nation has become all too comfortable with the routine of a mass shooting. In addition to the many gun violence prevention solutions recently implemented by the Virginia General Assembly, it is time for comprehensive policy solutions at the federal level to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
And, you won’t see me posing with an AR-15 like the Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate. That’s irresponsible in a world filled with senseless gun violence. Indeed, there was nothing worse than receiving a call from my oldest son, when he was hiding under his desk during a lock down (not a drill!), worried that his fate would be similar to so many other school shootings. Fortunately, that was not the case, but it left an indelible mark in this mother’s memory.
The best way I can address this is to ensure that Republicans don’t erase the progressive gun laws that Virginia has recently implemented. That’s why I am running for LG, because I know I am the best candidate to beat Winsome Sears in November and help to maintain our majority in the House.
- Support the progressive gun violence prevention measures recently implemented. I support the great strides Virginia Democrats have made in 2020 to reduce gun violence, including the one-gun-per-month restriction, red flag laws, reporting requirements for stolen guns, banning guns in polling places and allowing municipalities to ban guns in public locations. It is critical that we maintain the majority in the House to ensure that these efforts won’t be erased by Republicans.
- Banning Assault Weapons. I am hopeful that an assault weapon ban will be reintroduced in the next General Assembly, and I would be proud to break the tie in the Senate to ensure its passage.
- Banning Ghost Gun sales. I strongly support legislation that will ban “untraceable firearms” or so called “ghost guns,” which are essentially homemade weapons that are sent in kits and can be assembled at home. Any such gun should be subject to the same standards and background checks as conventional firearms.
- Banning high-capacity magazines. I support the ban of LCM’s (large capacity magazines) to reduce fatal mass shootings.
- Community Intervention. I also will advocate for expanding support for community-led violence intervention programs and programs that provide our youth with alternative, safe outlets, like Teens with a Purpose in Norfolk.
Supporting Virginia’s Veterans
I am committed to supporting the military community at every step of their service, from active Service members and their spouses and families to Veterans and their caregivers. Norfolk is home to the largest Naval base in the world, which houses the largest concentration of U.S. Navy forces. Virginia is home to the second largest active duty population in the country, and one in 12 Virginians is a veteran. Virginia also has the greatest number of veterans in the workforce per capita. I will work with the government at all levels as well as engage the non-profit and private sectors to meet the unique challenges faced by Virginia’s veterans and military families.
As many jobs relate to skills and not degrees, I will work with our federal delegation and the Department of Defense to reduce barriers to “credentialing” service members over the entire course of the military life cycle in order to demonstrate to prospective civilian employers that the training and experience they attained in the military are on par with that of their civilian counterparts. We have many who are exiting the military who should be recognized for their experience and receive credentialing that leverage these transferable skills.
- Identify and Track Labor Market Demand and Outcomes. One critical initiative is to assist former service members in making the transition from their service to obtaining civilian jobs. I will support increased research to better match industry needs with skills learned by service members.
- Expand collaborations in high tech industries. Virginia is home to several leading-edge and growing technology companies and industries, such as cybersecurity and unmanned systems. I will forge closer integration with the military, like the NavalX Tech Bridge, to create a regional innovation ecosystem and employment opportunities.
- Ensuring Health and Well-Being: We must support the physical and mental health of military families who may be experiencing mental health challenges, caregiving for a wounded family, or facing economic and food insecurity. I will also work to better the coordination and delivery of services by the civilian community to effectively support Virginia’s military families.
- Identify and assist justice-involved veterans through Veterans’ Treatment Courts. Many veterans returning from deployments in a combat zone struggle to readjust to civilian life find themselves involved in the criminal justice system. I will support the implementation of Veterans Treatment Courts which reduce recidivism and increase participants likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early, continuous and intense judicially-supervised treatment.