RICHMOND — Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) is launching a political action committee to help other Democrats get elected around Virginia, becoming the second woman in the legislature to do so as a possible step toward running for statewide office.
Carroll Foy, 37, a criminal defense lawyer, was among the Democrats who won seats held by Republicans in 2017, nearly wiping out the GOP majority in the House of Delegates. Republicans hold each chamber by two seats. Carroll Foy said her new Virginia for Everyone PAC is aimed at helping the party gain control of both the House and the Senate in elections this fall.
“It’s to raise the money so we can continue to mobilize and organize volunteers everywhere to ensure we win everywhere in November,” Carroll Foy said in an interview. She said she was still gathering funds for the PAC and did not yet have an initial dollar amount to announce.
Carroll Foy raised her profile in this year’s General Assembly session by leading efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment — which ultimately fell short — and being outspoken on issues of gender and criminal justice reform. She also began signaling to others within the party that she has ambitions to run for statewide office in 2021.
She has company. State Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) earlier this month announced her own leadership PAC, called Virginia United. It launched with $50,000 in seed money.
Both McClellan and Carroll Foy are members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. No woman of color has ever been nominated for statewide office by either major party. Many Democrats are hunting for fresh faces after a series of scandals that came to light in February hobbled the state’s top three executive branch leaders, all Democrats.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has defied widespread calls for his resignation over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, depicting one person in blackface and another in Klan robes. Northam initially took responsibility for the photo, then disavowed it but admitted to wearing blackface that year in a dance contest.
Attorney General Mark S. Herring (D) admitted his own blackface incident, saying he darkened his face for a college fraternity party in 1980. And Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) denied two separate allegations that he sexually assaulted women in the early 2000s.
Those scandals have clouded prospects for Democrats in this year’s elections, in which all 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot. Democrats had hoped to build on momentum from strong performances in both 2017 and 2018. But the scandals have damaged the fundraising abilities of their top three elected leaders.
Carroll Foy’s PAC is aimed partly at filling in that gap. She said she wants to aid Democrats who might not be on the radar of the state party apparatus, as well as candidates running for local offices around the state.
“I want to be able to take the experience I gained . . . from the 2017 elections, where we won big. A lot of that was attributed to the huge turnout from women and young people and people of color, and we’re making sure our efforts are also focused on those groups,” Carroll Foy said.
She’s recruited some help to manage and administer the PAC, including her longtime aide Josh Crandell, who previously worked at USDA during the Obama administration, as well as Polly Pfeiffer, the former finance director for Northam’s gubernatorial campaign. Carroll Foy has also enlisted Tim Lim, an expert in digital strategy, and Jess O’Connell, former chief executive of the Democratic National Committee and former executive director of Emily’s List.
As for her own future, Carroll Foy said she’s focused on this fall’s election in which she’s running against Republican Heather Mitchell in House District 2. But beyond that: “I will step into any role that helps me have the most impact for the greatest good for the most people,” she said.