“We have an opportunity to do something incredibly special. We have an opportunity to provide a ray of hope, optimism and change in a relatively dark political time,” explains Justin Fairfax of his bid for Virginia Lieutenant Governor in this year’s upcoming election.
Fairfax, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the first democrat to announce his candidacy for the seat of Lieutenant Governor, upholds a platform focused on creating higher-paying jobs, economic security and opportunity for all Virginians. To expand on his vision for the Commonwealth, he recently spoke with the Highland Cavalier.
Should he be victorious in November, improving Virginia’s economy will be Fairfax’s priority. In Virginia alone, he explained, there are currently 175,000 unfilled middle-skill jobs, which are jobs that require more than a high school education but less than a four-year college degree. These jobs, he continued, are going on average 26 days unfilled; he credits this, in part, to the inaccessibility and high costs of the training and certification needed to be eligible to carry out these job’s duties. Because these jobs mandate prior knowledge, they are typically high-paying positions that offer the worker greater economic ability and a lasting career. Fairfax is passionate about improving access to these training and certification opportunities, and, in turn, filling these higher paying positions across the Commonwealth so that Virginians can better support themselves and their families.
Fairfax also envisions these training and certification opportunities being extended to former coal miners displaced by the southwestern regions’ declining industry. Because he feels that it is time for Virginia to look to the future and adopt clean energy sources, he recognizes the importance of having opportunities available for former coal miners to train to reenter the sector, or to enter a new sector of work. As the Commonwealth’s Lieutenant Governor, Fairfax desires to look out for the interests of all Virginians and give each person an opportunity to participate in and benefit from the Commonwealth’s new economy.
Enhancing the affordability of obtaining a college degree will be another major component of Fairfax’s strategy to revamp Virginia’s economy. The rising costs of college, he offered, are not being subsidized with adequate amounts of financial aid opportunities to make them affordable for students and their families. For this reason, Fairfax proposes cutting student loan debt by creating a state refinancing authority that would allow students to refinance their loan debts at much lower rates. According to him, each four-year college student in Virginia graduates with an average debt of $30,000 at an average interest rate of 8%; by allowing students to refinance their debt through a state-backed credit facility, their monthly payments, as well as their total payment, would lower significantly. This, he suggested, would put students in a better financial situation after graduation to buy homes more quickly, gain access to capital to start and grow small businesses and reduce their debt loads to begin saving for retirement. This, he believes, would boost Virginia’s overall economy.
While creating economic security and opportunity is the central theme of Fairfax’s campaign, he also places emphasis on the importance of expanding accesses to healthcare, defending constitutional rights and reforming the juvenile justice system in Virginia.
Closing the healthcare coverage gap in Virginia would be a significant achievement for Fairfax. Currently in Virginia, he proposed, there are 400,000 uninsured residents that could receive healthcare coverage as a result of Medicaid expansion. In addition to expanding Medicaid, Fairfax would also look to work with state legislators and stakeholders to find solutions to eliminate gaps in mental health care coverage, and to reduce the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic across the Commonwealth.
Reducing gun violence while also defending the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would also be important to Fairfax as Lieutenant Governor. To decrease large-scale mass shootings and preventable gun deaths in Virginia communities, Fairfax advocates for universal criminal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and those who suffer from ailments that make them more prone to violence. Belonging to a family that both works in law enforcement and hunts, Fairfax acknowledges that Virginia is home to many responsible gun owners and appreciates their right to bear arms. In order to reduce gun violence and preserve this right, he believes, will require the introduction of “smart” legislation.
A reform of Virginia’s criminal justice system, particularly the juvenile criminal justice system, is the final major cornerstone of Fairfax’s campaign. “I believe we have a system that is, unfortunately, too often broken. It is tremendously expensive, and it does not achieve the objectives that we want to achieve in terms of rehabilitation and offering people a second chance at life,” Fairfax commented of the Commonwealth’s current criminal justice system.
He outlined this issue by sharing that Virginia spends approximately $27,000 per year to house a single adult criminal, and upwards of $150,000 per year to house a single juvenile criminal in our juvenile detention centers. This latter figure, he observed, is greater than a 4-year scholarship to any college or university in Virginia. He also noted that Virginia is the number 1 state in the nation for what is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” meaning that Virginia sends the largest number of juveniles to juvenile detention centers for school-based offenses than any other state. Fairfax would instead respond to school-based offenses with diversion, behavioral, and other types of therapy before submitting to juvenile criminal justice prosecution. As a formal federal prosecutor, Fairfax assures his constituents that he is committed to keeping Virginia communities safe, but has also experienced a need to restructure the current system to better serve taxpayers and those incarcerated.
While these are the key area of focus for Fairfax’s campaign, he is also passionate about defending women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality and non-discrimination measures and equal pay for equal work.
To learn more about Fairfax’s campaign, visit www.fairfaxforlg.com. The Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial primary will take place on June 13.