Lee Carter is the Democratic candidate for House District 50, which is located in Prince William County and Manassas City. Carter is running against the GOP incumbent Jackson Miller, who was first elected to HD50 in 2005 and has been the House Majority Whip since 2012.
Below are Carter’s responses to Battleground Virginia’s Spotlight questions. Battleground Virginia reached out to Delegate Miller several times to conduct an interview and has not yet received a response. If he responds to our interview requests, his responses will be available at battlegroundva.com.
What is the most important issue facing the district where you’re running and what are concrete steps you would take to address it?
The most important issue facing the 50th District is financial insecurity. There are thousands of hardworking folks in Manassas and Prince William who are just one unexpected setback away from disaster. In order to address this, I will support the fight for a minimum wage that people can actually live on, and for reforms in Virginia’s Workers Compensation and Unemployment Insurance systems to guarantee that people can still pay the bills if they’re out of work due to an injury or layoff.
What is the most important issue facing Virginia and what are concrete steps you would take to address it?
The issue of financial insecurity is not only the most important in the 50th District; it’s the most important statewide. Entire communities in Southwest and Central Virginia are facing spiraling unemployment and poverty rates, with little access to employment opportunities or even basic healthcare. We must make sure that Virginia protects these vulnerable Virginians and gets them back on their feet.
Tell voters about your professional background. Why are you uniquely qualified to represent your district? Why would you take time away from your day job to represent the district?
I served five years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps as an electronics technician, and transferred that skill to the civilian world by repairing cancer therapy equipment throughout the DC metro area for nearly four years. I am currently an IT consultant, which gives me the flexibility necessary to run for and hold elected office. I believe that I am uniquely qualified to represent this district specifically because my professional background is a blend of blue collar work in white collar environments that allows me to represent folks who work with their hands, and present their issues well to the political class in Richmond.
How would your approach in the House of Delegates differ from your opponent(s)?
Because I’m not taking a dime from for-profit interests, people will always know that my decisions are based on whether or not the policy will help people.
What are concrete measures that can be taken to foster greater bipartisan collaboration in the House of Delegates?
My philosophy on legislation is to take the low-hanging fruit of any issue before moving on to an aspect of it that will be more controversial or divisive. By doing this, we can make sure that both parties work together to achieve at least a little bit of progress in making people’s lives better, before getting mired in gridlock.
What’s your position on voting rights in Virginia? Are there steps that should be taken to expand access to voting (End voter ID laws? Reinstate voting rights of former felons? Change the election day from a Tuesday in early November to a weekend? Expand absentee voting access? Provide opportunities for early voting? Other ideas not listed here?)
The right to vote is fundamental to a democracy. That’s why I support automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons who have repaid their debt to society, as well as automatic voter registration for all Virginians.
What changes, if any, would you like to see to the redistricting process in Virginia?
I’m supportive of any measure that will make the redistricting process more fair, and remove the influence of elected officials from the process. The most modest of these is simply banning partisan motivation and incumbent protection as criteria for drawing the lines.
What else is absolutely necessary that voters know about you and the election in November?
State level elections have the largest impact on people’s day-to-day lives, and they’re the elections in which each person can have the largest impact. Each voter and volunteer makes up a larger share of the electoral process in a smaller district, and in the end the winner will be voting on issues ranging from school funding to fundamental civil rights.
Your opponent is the House Majority Whip. How does facing someone who holds a leadership role in the House of Delegates change the dynamics of the race? Are you confronting a particularly strong challenge because he is in a leadership role?
My opponent’s position in leadership means that we have a steeper hill to climb, but winning this race will be more impactful than most. He’s a 10 year incumbent whose campaign account is flush with lobbying cash, but money alone won’t be enough to secure his seat. That’s why my primary goal is to organize the people of the 50th District and let them know that they have a real choice in November.
Hillary Clinton won HD50 53 percent to Trump’s 41 percent, yet Democratic turnout in off year elections in Virginia is notoriously low. What’s your plan to ensure voters show up to the polls on November 7?
That statistic is precisely what shows me that we can get the job done. It’s my firm belief that if people have a candidate they can truly believe in, and a cause that they’re excited to vote for, rather than just the other party to vote against, that people will go to the polls when the time comes.
After the 2016 election, many on the right and some on the left decried the Democratic Party’s appeal to “identity politics.” HD50 is a diverse district with more than one-third of constituents being people of color. What role do you think identity and multicultural understanding has to play in the race, if any? What steps would you take to ensure you represent people of all backgrounds within your district?
It is vitally important to protect the rights of all Virginians, because rights are only rights if they’re protected equally. Unfortunately, Virginia’s government doesn’t always live up to that promise, and I think the conversation around those rights tends to become polarized around the language that we use to describe that failure. That’s why I’m committed to protecting voting rights, civil rights, and economic justice for all Virginians regardless of race or religion. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.
This interview is part of Battleground Virginia’s Spotlight: The Swing Districts initiative – a project to bring Virginia voters more information about key races in the 2017 House of Delegates elections. Read more about the initiative here.