Criminal justice reform
For too long, Virginia’s treated white people by one set of standards and people of color by another. We’ve made a lot of progress to close the gap, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Equal protection under the law is a right that should be shared by all. We must change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color and practices that lead to systematic inequality–especially at the intersection of race and income. Ralph will do this by reforming drug laws that do long-term damage to communities of color. He will do away with the practice of suspending a driver’s license simply because a person can’t afford to pay court costs. By taking away an individual’s transportation, you take away their ability to pay the fine and entrap them in a never-ending cycle of fines and fees. Ralph will also continue to fight for the restoration of rights, because, in a democracy, we should be encouraging more people to vote, not less.
Addiction and substance abuse
In the 1980s, Virginia and our country were facing a public health crisis—the crack epidemic. Unfortunately, instead of caring for those suffering from addiction, our nation placed blame on its victims. We can’t repeat that mistake. Currently, three Virginians are dying each day from accidental overdose, and in 2016, more than 800 Virginians died from overdose. During his tenure as lieutenant governor, Virginia increased access to naloxone, the drug needed to counter the effects of opioid overdose. Ralph believes we must continue to expand access to new substance abuse treatment options and drug courts. Ralph will use his medical expertise to lead on addiction and substance abuse.
Fighting gerrymandering and protecting voting rights
Gerrymandering can disproportionately affect communities of color. That’s one reason Ralph has been a strong proponent of nonpartisan redistricting reform ever since he entered the Senate, co-sponsoring legislation with the late Senator John Miller to curtail unfair redistricting. As governor, Ralph will be a bulwark against further attempts to make voting more difficult and will fight to ensure redistricting is done fairly. Because in a democracy, we should be encouraging more people to vote, not less.
Ralph knows a house isn’t just a place to sleep—it’s the place you create a life. For too many Virginians, creating that kind of home is out of reach. On average, minimum wage workers in our commonwealth would need to work 124 hours a week to afford a two bedroom fair market value apartment. From introducing legislation to study ways to develop affordable housing to expanding access to housing choice voucher programs, increasing housing affordability is an issue Ralph’s been fighting for for years. Ralph is also concerned with discriminatory housing practices. He supported legislation to expand Virginia’s Fair Housing law to include prohibitions on discrimination against the LGBT community and voted to expand access to educational materials about Virginia fair housing law.
Air pollution threatens public health across the Commonwealth and is exacerbating respiratory illnesses and chronic lung conditions, like childhood asthma, and allergies. As a member of the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission, Ralph developed recommendations for how Virginia can reduce its carbon footprint, which will help relieve the 700,000 Virginians suffering from asthma and other chronic lung diseases. The highest concentration of those suffering are in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads—also the areas in Virginia with the highest concentration of minority communities. People in those communities are also often those living without adequate health care, creating a vicious cycle of illness and costly medical treatments. As governor, Ralph will continue his work fighting air pollution and its health effects.
One in 9 Virginians was born outside the United States. We’re a community of immigrants, and Ralph believes our strength lies in its diversity. As such, he opposes legislation that would bar individuals from entering the state based on race, religion, or country of origin—legislation like President Trump’s Muslim ban. Ralph supports the work of the Virginia Office of Newcomer Services, which helps immigrant and refugee communities gain economic self-sufficiency and social integration.
Donald Trump has made his first priority as president to roll back women’s access to reproductive healthcare and to take us back to the days before Roe v. Wade. Ralph is committed to fighting for Virginia women, especially their right to quality, affordable healthcare. As a physician, Ralph believes women’s healthcare choices are personal and best left between a woman and her doctor—not politicians in Richmond or Washington, DC. Ralph will fight for women so they can decide when to start a family, and he is an advocate for expanding access to long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs, as well as protecting a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion. As a state senator, Ralph led the fight against the invasive transvaginal ultrasound mandate and opposed legislation that would limit access to women’s health clinics. Ralph is proud to have a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
In just the first 50 days of holding office, the Trump administration reinstated the Global Gag Rule. He is continuing the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood by barring their ability to receive federal Medicaid reimbursements, the majority of the organization’s federal funding. Make no mistake — this is an attack on a woman’s ability to choose her provider and have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
When Republicans proposed banning abortion coverage in health insurance plans sold through our healthcare exchange, Ralph called the proposal out for what it was: a move to decrease women’s access to reproductive healthcare. When he is governor, Ralph will fight to overturn that amendment and any others like it.
Ralph fought against personhood legislation that would have effectively blocked women from accessing many types of contraception and invitro fertilization. Ralph has never wavered on choice and he never will. That’s why Ralph received a joint endorsement from both NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and carries a 100% rating with NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Ralph will continue to be a brick wall, stopping attacks on reproductive rights and access to healthcare.
Expanding Access To Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs)
This year, Ralph proposed a $6 million pilot program to provide long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to women regardless of their ability to pay. A similar program in Colorado saw teen birth rates drop by 40 percent and teen abortions by 42 percent.
This legislative session, Republicans stripped the funding at the request of right-wing anti-abortion groups despite the fact it used no state funding. As governor, Ralph will make implementing this program, and increasing access to it if we experience similar success to Colorado, a priority. Through public and private sources, we can expand access to LARCs to ensure that income is not a barrier for Virginia women seeking affordable contraception.
Protect LGBT equality
Hate isn’t a Virginia value. Ralph will be a brick wall against the discrimination of the Trump Administration. Ralph knows every person deserves to be treated equally—no matter who they are or who they love. Unfortunately, Republicans too often disagree. Ralph has a long history of standing up for LGBT Virginians, from opposing bathroom bills that discriminate against transgender people, to fighting to protect LGBT people from workplace and adoption discrimination. Not only is protecting LGBT equality the right thing to do, building an inclusive, fair Virginia is good for business.
Domestic violence prevention
Virginia has made progress towards ending domestic violence, but we need to do more. The toll on the victims of domestic violence is immeasurable. And all too often, the emotional and mental effects on children who witness abuse are not mentioned as a consequence. However, this can be almost as devastating as children who are the victims of direct abuse.
Other states, including Mississippi and South Carolina, have passed laws to increase penalties on domestic abuse committed in front of a child, and it’s time for Virginia to do the same. Domestic abusers should pay for the damage they cause, and Virginia should require them to pay for counseling services.
Personal Experience And Accomplishments
As a State Senator, Ralph introduced legislation to ban the use of gas chambers to euthanize companion animals, a legislative initiative that was ultimately signed into law in 2008 by Governor Tim Kaine. Euthanizing companion animals was a ghastly and archaic exercise that had no place in the commonwealth. Ralph was glad to work alongside Governor Kaine to end such an abhorrent practice.
Dr. Northam also supported making the fighting of any animals, including cocks, punishable by a Class 6 felony, which was signed into law by Governor Kaine in 2008. Fighting animals for sport is an inhumane practice that cannot be tolerated in our great commonwealth. Making the fighting of any animals a Class 6 felony both acts as a deterrent to avoid animal fighting in the first place and ensures that justice is served if anyone engages in animal fighting.
Dr. Northam will support increasing funding and awareness for combating animal cruelty. The first step in combatting animal cruelty is creating awareness to get people actively engaged. Animal cruelty has no place in the commonwealth of Virginia and Ralph will do everything in my power to combat it.
Dr. Northam will work with Attorney General Herring to ensure that the Animal Law Unit has the complementary resources it needs in the Executive Branch- that means identifying a point of contact within the State Police, and also from our Commonwealth Attorneys in order to leverage state resources and expertise within the law enforcement community to provide guidance to animal control officers around Virginia.
Ralph will increase animal-friendly appointments, including to the VDACS and VDGIF Boards. It’s important to have many stakeholders at the table to ensure that their voices and perspectives are heard. Having animal-friendly appointments on the VDACS and VDGIF Boards will lead to a fuller, more thorough conversation regarding animal welfare.
Tethering is not only bad for dogs—it is a high risk factor in serious dog bites and attacks. Dogs unable to retreat from perceived or real threats can act out aggressively when approached. Dogs tethered for long periods can become highly aggressive. When confronted with a perceived threat, dogs respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. A tied dog, unable to take flight, resorts to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person who unwittingly wanders into his or her territory.
Tragically, the victims of such attacks are often children who approach the dog unaware of the risks. Keeping a dog tethered during extreme weather events or for extended periods of time only increases the danger for both the dog and people. Dr. Northam will support legislation to prohibit the tethering of animals outside in extreme weather for prolonged periods of time to ensure the safety of both animals and people in the commonwealth.