Tysons, VA

Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman wasn’t planning to explore the possibility of running for public office earlier this year.

Pressing issues from the ongoing pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement after police killed George Floyd inspired Perryman to explore jumping into Virginia’s lieutenant governor race.

“It was really born out of the crisis we are seeing,” Perryman said. “This was not something that was in the cards for me when I first started this year.”

Already familiar with how to elect local Democrats from his work for Virginia’s Democratic Party, Perryman said that the lieutenant governor position would give him the most leverage to advocate change.

In addition to his role as Fairfax County NAACP’s president, Perryman works for the Internet Association. Previously, he served as counsel for the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He practiced civil litigation in Texas and D.C. after attending Vanderbilt University.

Current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, is eyeing a run for governor in 2021. The election for Fairfax’s seat will be held next November.

So far, Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st) and Paul Goldman, the former chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party, and have announced they will vie for Fairfax’s seat. In addition to Perryman, Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st) and Norfolk Councilmember Andria McClellan are considering running for the position.

Currently, Perryman said he is working with his team to figure out how they can best “serve Virginians” and that they haven’t set a date to officially announce his candidacy. Perryman shared with Tysons Reporter what some of his top issues are.

Perryman said that extending the eviction moratorium is one of his main priorities, noting that he’s already been advocating for the extension in Virginia with the NAACP since the pandemic started. 

“The federal government did not provide enough assistance to get people through this crisis and now I think, rather cruelly, allowing people to be evicted when all they did was adhere to what the government told them to do,” Perryman told Tysons Reporter.

Though the Virginia Supreme Court extended the eviction moratorium through early September, Perryman said this isn’t enough time for people to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout.

“It really depends on how long it takes the federal government to get financial assistance to those people in need,” he said.

Allocation of the CARES Act funding, which allows states to extend unemployment benefits to independent contractors, is yet another area that needs work, according to Perryman. “Here in Virginia, what we can do better is the unemployment insurance that is available.”

People had to wait weeks for Virginia to sort out the delays with unemployment payments. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in January before skyrocketing in the spring due to the pandemic.

Perryman said that unemployment benefits should be more widely accessible for all kinds of workers as long as they can prove their income was interrupted by the pandemic.

Perryman attributed Virginia’s unemployment office being short-staffed — “It wasn’t up to par for what was coming” — as a reason for the delays and suggested that there is an opportunity to revamp the department and hire new people.

Right now, Perryman is focused on grassroots fundraising. He managed to raise over $80,000, all of which came from individuals — not corporations or political action committees — in the first 10 days of the campaign, Perryman tweeted.

“I’m relying on small-dollar donations from the community,” he said.

His next steps include meeting with community activists and elected officials. No matter what happens in the next few months, Perryman said it’s crucial that voters pay attention to state elections.

While voter fatigue is possible with the tensions around the upcoming elections this fall, Perryman said people need to think about the changes they want to see both locally and nationally.

“People understand we are in unprecedented times,” Perryman said. “None of us thought we’d be sanitizing our groceries, wearing masks and talking only via Zoom. We can’t give up or get tired. We have to essentially rebuild the society we are living in.”

Photo courtesy Sean Perryman

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