This week I announced my support for Tom Perriello. This was not a decision I came to lightly or without thorough consideration.
November 8, 2016 was a wake-up call for our country. The seriousness of our situation cannot be understated. Our economy, our environment, our children’s education, our belief in equality and leveling the playing field for all citizens, and even our very own democracy, are all being threatened like it has never been threatened before. Now, more than ever, we need courageous, democratic leadership, willing to stand and fight for all citizens of Virginia; not just for a select few.
Yesterday’s solutions will not work today and they surely won’t work tomorrow. We need new leaders to embrace progressive policies that benefit working families, that vigorously fight inequality wherever it exists, and who are courageous enough to stand up to well-funded powerful corporate interests that harm our environment, hurt small business and stifle entrepreneurship.
The status quo is not working. It is hurting working families, small businesses, the poor and the uninsured. It is no longer acceptable.
Having grown up in a housing project in Richmond, I am familiar with poverty and struggle. However, I learned a long time ago, if you want something different, you must do something different. I believe we need new and different leadership for Virginia Democrats. We need progressive leadership, capable of boldly standing up to the Trump agenda, leading Democrats in Virginia. And that is why I am supporting Tom Perriello for governor.
It’s also refreshing to know that Tom Perriello’s progressive leadership isn’t some recent phenomenon.
While a member of congress, he was called the most “courageous” man in DC because he voted on issues he believed were right for the citizens of Virginia. Even when pressed and targeted by conservative groups in his district, he voted for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and other bills that protected our environment and the rights of immigrants.
Unlike most politicians, he was more concerned about the people he served rather than his own self-interest of staying in office. And speaking of special interests, Tom is the only democratic candidate for governor who has pledged not to take contributions from Dominion Power or any state regulated utility because he believes the needs of Virginia citizens and the environment must be a priority above corporate interests.
I’m with Tom because he’s not your typical politician. He’s a teacher, entrepreneur, diplomat, man of faith, and a fighter. And as governor, he will fight for:
• An economy that works for everyone; which includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making two years of community college free, guaranteeing paid family and medical leave, ending the gender pay gap, and ensuring pre-K for our youngest children is universal.
• Turning back bigoted Trump policies; which includes protecting equal rights for all, fighting any attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose, or assaults on our immigrant, minority and LGBT communities.
• Reforming criminal justice; which includes fixing a justice system that criminalizes poverty and addiction, wastes millions of taxpayers’ dollars per year on reinforcing racially discriminatory outcomes, fosters a school-to-prison pipeline, and de-emphasizes community policing
• Protecting our environment; which includes safeguarding Virginia’s natural resources, opposing offshore drilling, while investing in Virginia’s clean energy future with next-generation energy sources to power the clean energy economy of the future.
• Stopping the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline; and the Mountain Valley pipelines, which have been driven by large corporate interests ahead of those of Virginia landowners and everyone in the Commonwealth who enjoys clean water.
• Democracy; which includes overhauling our partisan gerrymandered map that fails to equally represent Virginians across the state as well as fight to modernize Virginia’s absurdly restrictive voting laws and making it easier for Virginians to vote.
• Common sense gun control; which includes work to enact universal background checks on all gun sales, end “default” gun sales, restrict access to weapons and ammunition that have no defensible role in sport or home defense, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and stalkers.
Please join me in supporting Tom Perriello for governor in the June 13th Democratic primary. Please know, I like Ralph and I like Tom. But while this “involves” Tom and it “involves” Ralph, this election isn’t “about” either of them. This election is about the millions of current and future citizens of Virginia. They deserve and desperately need fresh leadership who will chart a new course for our collective future.
That’s why I’m with Tom.
Gary McCollum is a local political activist and former Cox Communications executive.