Endorsement Profile Series: Lee J Carter for Virginia Governor

Updated: Jun 8

Foreword by River St-Grey

Leftists in Virginia do not need to be registered to the Democratic Party to vote in the Primary, which takes place on Tuesday, June 8th.

As an indigenous anarchist, I no longer believe wholly in electoralism as the singular path for progress. However, amongst leftists of all stripes, it is important to keep an eye to vulnerable offices which can be occupied and used to forward the cause.

It's all too tempting and understandable to experience burnout over electoral pursuits, even in a model of dual-power.

That said, opportunities for progress and vanguardism still exist in the electoral sphere. In the following interview with Gubernatorial candidate Lee Carter, we hope to compel fellow leftists into seriously considering where they can be effective in local electoral races, and to turn out on June 8th for the Virginia Primary.

Reminder: All Rose Caucus Endorsed Candidates & Legislators, and Allied Orgs & Entities, take the same pledge of solidarity:

  • To publicly identify as Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Imperialist, and Socialist (or left of).

  • To advocate for & help develop a comprehensive Peoples' Platform.

  • To refuse all corporate money.

  • To participate in mutual aid/community service efforts.

  • To center marginalized voices in their messaging & organizing force.

  • To adopt SHARP into their organizing spaces.

Socialist candidate in the Virginia Democratic primary, Del. Lee J Carter, holding his newborn daughter, Charlotte Julianna ("Charli" for short), before the final gubernatorial debate; Newport News, Va., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Photograph via Violet Rae.

Lee Carter; tell our supporters who you are, and what you do:

I don’t come from a normal background for a politician. I’m not an attorney, I’m not wealthy. I am an electronics repairman by trade, and I got involved in Virginia Politics after I got hurt at work in the summer of 2015. I don’t know if they make every kid watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in high school, but they did where I grew up, and it was very Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

I got hurt on the job and I started talking to people who worked in the Virginia general assembly, asking them what the plan was to fix worker’s comp. Nobody had a plan, nobody was really interested in making a plan.

So I said “The plan has to begin with me running for office.” That's what got me here, that's what got me started, and since that day I have fought tooth and nail, every single day, to make life better for working people, both in and out of the workplace. That is what we need.

We need organizing in electoral politics, in the workplace, and in our communities, to make sure that we are transforming our economy and our political systems away from systems that are dominated by billionaires like Jeff Bezos & Elon Musk, and towards systems that put people in control of their own lives, and their own destinies.

People concerned with socialism commonly voice their opposition to government overstepping and strong arming communities. What role do you see local communities playing in your administration, such that they are empowered and seen as cooperative allies to the state?

Well, it's not about the government taking over things. It's about whether you have ownership & control over your life, if your community has ownership and control over their own lives, or whether we let decisions about you, your economic future, and your community, be made by massive corporations like Amazon, Micron, and Nestle.

So, I’m fighting to put you back in charge of your life, and not billionaires like Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, to make it easier for everyone else to do the hard work of organizing, and transforming our economy.

With the decriminalization of Cannabis taking effect on July 1st in Virginia, what sorts of action do you want to put the Governor's office toward, in providing reparations and restorative justice to those who have been harmed throughout prohibition?

Well first things first; we’ve got to make sure that nobody is sitting in prison, for a product that is no longer illegal. So, as governor, I will pardon anyone who is currently in prison for a cannabis related offense.

Moving forward, we’re going to have to decide how we’re going to implement legalization. So I’m gonna fight for an automatic expungement process, so that anyone who has been convicted of a cannabis crime can get that crime expunged from their record, and they don’t have to carry that around for the rest of their lives.

Staying with Cannabis, what jobs do you see the government getting involved with for its production & sale? Where are you looking to allocate the funds raised from that labor?

Well, I’m going to make sure that the new legal cannabis industry is owned and operated by the people who work in it, with preference towards those who have been negatively impacted by prohibition.

Secondly, we’re also going to use 100% of the cannabis tax revenue to create a fund for reparations for Black & Indigenous Virginians. We have a lot to atone for as a government, between the genocide of Native Americans, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the War on Drugswhich is still ongoing! We have got to start making reparations.

This one income stream will not be enough to atone for 100% of the crimes in Virginia’s past, but we have got to start making steps towards it, and this is the perfect place to start.

Speaking of jobs: You've campaigned on your background as an electronics repairman & person employed in the trades. In coal producing states such as Virginia, and with the effects of climate change accelerating, what sorts of renewable energy and infrastructure job packages are you hoping to advocate for those in mining, production, and the trades?

The biggest thing is making sure that we’re not just abruptly saying “Hey, you know if you work in fossil fuels” because there’s a lot of people who work in the fossil fuel industryWe can’t just abruptly say, “If you work in fossil fuels, you’re out of luck!” We do have to have an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure construction, but for those people who depend on it for their livelihood, we have got to make sure that we are funding their transition over to a more sustainable future. That means giving folks the startup capital that they need, to create their own employee owned enterprises.

Then they [don't just get a job] working for someone else, but they get a business that they own, that they operate, that is a pillar of their community, and that puts them in charge of their own economic destiny. We can't let this transition be managed by the big monopolies that got us into this mess, like Dominion Energy and APCO. We have got to let people empower themselves.

With the pandemic having left so many small businesses to fend for themselves, and acknowledging the limited avenue of actions that state governments can take here, what kinds of debt relief, and loan programs do you want to see happen?

First on the list is reimbursing people for their out-of-pocket Covid expenses. First of all, I don’t think that you should have to pay anything out of pocket for any healthcare, which is why I’m fighting for a universal healthcare system that will guarantee that you can see a doctor free at the point-of-service, period, end of story.

But, while we’re getting there, I think it’s important we establish that you shouldn’t be out-of-pocket because you got sick during a pandemic.

So whether you paid $20 for a test, or $20,000 for an ICU stay, my administration will create an office where you can bring in that receipt, or bring in that bill, and get reimbursed for it, and then Virginia’s government will fight with the insurance companies on your behalf, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Finally, why do you think it's important for socialists, and those left of socialism, to continue to target vulnerable seats in electoralism? What made you consider a Gubernatorial run over your current position?

Well, I think that we're not going to get there by voting alone, but it's important to not leave any ground uncontested. The people who oppose the liberation of the working class have made it much harder for us to organize, and made it much harder for us to fight for a better future for ourselves, and for our families, and for our communities… and they have done so largely by electoral politics.

So we’ve got to fight back against them, on their own turf. We’ve got to remove the restrictions that they’ve put in place for our own organizing efforts, and then, because this is not going to be a one person thing, I can remove as many barriers as possible from my position, ideally as Governor of Virginia, to make it easier for everyone else to do the hard work of organizing, and transforming our economy.

It's got to be an all of the above approach. We can’t just pick one lane and put 100% of our efforts there. If we do that, we’re going to get outflanked every single time. We have got to fight capitalism, and capitalist exploitation every single place that it exists, including in electoral politics.

You can find out more about Lee J Carter & his policy positions, and donate on his campaign website.


Editors' Notes

by River St. Grey & Violet Rae

We've worked intermittently with Carter on cooperative projects; ultimately accomplishing an insulin cap of $50, and the abolition of the death penalty in the Commonwealth. We continue to consult with Del. Carter, specifically regarding disability rights, and defunding & disempowering the police.

These wins alone would be enough to warrant our endorsement anyone with a sufficiently socialist vision is good enough but when their record of victories is as impressive and instructive as his, any electoral initiative of theirs should be supported and platformed.

Elected officials are quick to insist that things must be done through the proper channels, and only the proper channels. Carter recognizes the need for an approach of multi-power, and it's for that reason, our endorsement is awarded.

It has been very valuable to have a sitting legislator willing to listen to our platform positions, and proposed solutions. He actually works with us, which works for all of us.

During the interview, Del. Carter pointed to a myriad ways in which parallel power can be built, leveraged, and intersected with electoral pursuits;

"It's about whether you have ownership & control over your life, if your community has ownership and control over their own lives"

Understanding the need to empower individuals & communities is an essential part of any leftist work, period. Communities that can minimize their dependency on capitalism are freer for it, and can challenge the interests of capitalists, neoliberals, and their whole array of bootlickers.

Community is one of the few things that cannot be fully commodified. As a result, community is one of the few things whose mere existence acts as a challenge to the dominant powersThus the tendency of police institutions & surveillance agencies to undermine, overthrow, or destabilize strong communities.

Elected office has a role to play in vanguarding our efforts to achieve independence from capital interests, and can act as an important shield. At the very least, sympathetic elected officials are less likely to turn to the state for destroying grassroots initiatives.

Carter's recognition of the multi-faceted fronts we need to be fighting on suggest him as an important civil servant, and one who could achieve far more in the Governor's office.

If we are to be serious about liberating ourselves and each other, as distasteful as electoralism can be, we need to be putting up that fight.

He's a Working Class Family Man It is worth noting that Del. Carter is running for Governor of Virginia, running for re-election for his 50th House District seat, and a being an active parent to four children; including a 3 month old newborn, and an 11 year old with special needs. We appreciate the representation for working families from our representatives!

Photograph via Violet Rae.