Virginia Del. Lee J. Carter has filed paperwork to raise money for a bid for governor, a move that means a self-proclaimed socialist could join an already crowded field of Democrats that now includes former governor Terry McAuliffe.

On Wednesday, Carter (D-
Manassas) said he has not yet decided whether to run but chose to file the paperwork to keep that option open if he feels the other candidates are not strong-enough advocates for workers’ rights and other liberal issues.

Besides McAuliffe, who announced his bid Wednesday, the field of Democratic candidates includes Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond) and Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William), who this week announced she was leaving her seat to campaign full time.

On the Republican side, there are two declared candidates: Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), the former speaker of the House of Delegates, and state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield), who said Saturday she will run as an independent.

Carter, who co-chaired the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Virginia, said next year’s election should be about “transformational change.”

“We need a government and an economy that works for all 8.5 million people who call Virginia home,” he said.

Since he first took office in 2018, Carter, 33, has adopted an assertive style of politics that has sometimes put off his party’s leaders, particularly while opposing them on core Democratic goals such as banning assault weapons.

After seeing his bills die in House committees for two years, Carter began to see some legislative success earlier this year.

Among the bills that reached the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D) during the 2020 session was one that prohibits employers from classifying workers as “tipped employees” if they are not allowed to solicit tips. Another bill that bars prisons and jails from strip-searching inmates who are minors was signed into law, and so was one that prohibits health insurers from charging diabetes patients more than $50 for monthly supplies of insulin.

Other bills that have not gone as far include one that would legalize marijuana and use the tax revenue for reparations paid to the descendants of enslaved people, and one that would abolish the death penalty in Virginia.

A former Marine who works as a Lyft driver, Carter has also gained some notoriety among political opponents for the political positions he has taken and for the revelations he has made about his personal life.

In 2018, he posted a series of confessional tweets in which, among other things, Carter described himself as the victim of “abuse, including rape.”

On Wednesday, Carter said he has become a voice of moral conscience for Virginia Democrats.

He pointed to his early advocacy on legalizing marijuana, which, he said, helped lead to a law earlier this year that addressed the disproportionate number of marijuana-related sentences for African Americans and Latinos by reducing the penalty for possession to a $25 fine in cases where small amounts of the drug are involved. The General Assembly also approved a bipartisan bill requesting a study on the issue of legalizing marijuana.

“Time and again, we’ve proven that when you take a big stand on moral issues, people respond, and they respond positively,” Carter said.