Democratic Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, who announced her 2021 bid for governor Thursday, said she's running because Virginia is now "at a crossroads" amid a deadly pandemic and unrest over racial injustice.
"I fully understand how we got here, but I also understand that government can either be a force for progressive change or it can be a force of oppression for some and that benefits the few." McClellan said in an interview with CBS News. "I am ready to bring pretty much a lifetime of public service, first to my community, to the Democratic Party and then to the legislature, to the next step to lead Virginia forward through these crises."
Before she was elected state senator, a position she has held for four years, McClellan spent 11 years in the Virginia House of Delegates, where she represented the greater Richmond area. She serves as the vice- chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
She says the country continues to fight the same battles that were being waged in the late 60's that led to mass protests and riots.
"We are at the same critical crossroads today in 2020 going into 2021 as we were in 1968. It is that existential." McClellan told CBS News. "This cannot be a moment about one particular candidate. This has to be a movement where we bring people into the process to shape the future they want to see."
She joins an already crowded field of candidates. McClellan and State Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, are both running in hopes of becoming the first black woman governor in the country.
Foy has made fixing existing economic and health care inequity the crux of her campaign but says her experience as a public defender also gives her a better understanding of making "substantive changes" on criminal justice and police reform.
"It's easier to dismantle a statue than it is to dismantle a system," Foy told CBS News in an interview, alluding to the Confederate statues around the South that have been toppled by protesters.
"While I think the removal of the statues is a good first step, I am here to ensure that we make real substantive changes. Because when you bring a monument down, that doesn't equal to more money in people's paychecks or ending our segregated schools. And that's what I'm really here to fight and champion for."
Among the changes she proposes are the creation of civilian review boards and an independent special prosecution team for officer-related killings and incidents of use of excessive force.
"I don't only want to tackle accountability measures but also prevention — prevention is key," she told CBS News, adding that crisis intervention training for officers should be beefed up as well as mental health and diversion programs.
Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring have also announced they're running, too, and Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, could also make a run for the nomination. In Virginia, governors may not serve consecutive terms. State Senator Amanda Chase is the only declared Republican primary candidate so far.