Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman announced on Tuesday his bid for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
Perryman has been a practicing attorney for 10 years, working on policies relating to emerging technologies. He has been an active member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Steering Committee since 2018. He also served as counsel on the House Oversight Committee while working on the staff of late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“I would be someone who every day would try to make sure I’m incorporating the voices of those that feel marginalized or unheard,” Perryman said. “That would be my primary goal of doing this.”
He joins a group of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor that includes Del. Elizabeth R. Guzmán (Prince William), Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), former Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman, and Arlington County businessman Xavier Warren.
Republican candidates include former delegate Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax), Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach), Fairfax County business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia, and Lance Allen, a national security company executive from Fauquier County.
Each candidate is vying for the role that will be vacated by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor.
Perryman is focusing his campaign on the values learned and utilized through his advocacy work and public service, as well as his work as the first director of social impact and diversity and inclusion policy at the Internet Association.
“I would say the ‘Es’: education, equity, economics and environment,” Perryman said. “That’s really the issues I view as the most urgent problems we’re facing and what we’re going to focus on as a campaign to get us out of this mess in the years to come.”
Perryman added that his decision to run for lieutenant governor comes amidst the “inequities that we already had” that were brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic.
His campaign will focus on several key points that include COVID-19 containment and relief, rejuvenating efforts to boost the workforce, legalizing cannabis, and investing in infrastructure projects.
As a part of Perryman’s “Es” focus, he aims for a specific investment in broadband infrastructure to provide internet across the state. He sees this as an education issue as well as an economic one.
“If you don’t have internet access, that means you can’t get telehealth, that means you can’t get on the school if it’s virtual, and that means you can’t work remotely,” he said.
“There are some Band-Aid measures that can help us in the interim until we can get that up, but that’s going to be critical for us in the years to come. That’s also a way to get people back to work.”
If elected, he aims to champion legalizing cannabis to create a regulated market that can be used to generate tax revenue to fund projects such as universal pre-K, and create jobs. He also recognizes that a discussion of legalizing cannabis comes with a need to talk about releasing people who have been arrested on cannabis-related charges.
Perryman acknowledged that the lieutenant governor role “isn’t inherently powerful,” but said that he is aiming to take his goals and work with the governor, whether in commissions or committees, and establish a set of priorities, policies, and values that he believes Virginia needs to adopt.
“I want to be out there speaking on these issues, elevating these issues,” Perryman said. “But also, pushing back on people who stop the progress from happening. Whether they’re my colleagues in the state Senate, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, we need to have people that are being honest brokers with the public and saying, ‘These are the barriers to progress, these are who we need to defeat, and we need to elect new people.'”
To accomplish his goals, Perryman said he will utilize the knowledge and experience he has gained during his community advocacy. He points to his role as a chief advocate behind renaming Robert E. Lee High School to John Lewis High School, and changes he helped push for in communication between schools and police, which helped lead to a reduction of arrests in schools.
He also vows a vigilant push amongst policymakers to fight for these issues.
“I think the issues are far too important,” he said. “I’m not looking at this as a stepping stone for anything else. I’m looking at this as the role I want to clearly articulate a set of values and fight for those values in Richmond.”
If elected, Perryman, 34, will be the youngest candidate elected to the position in 50 years. He is no stranger to this situation, as he was the youngest elected president of the Fairfax County NAACP in the chapter’s 102-year history.
He also sees his experience working with the Steering Committee and Counsel for the Oversight Committee as advantages to speak on issues of race and criminal justice. Perryman views his age, coupled with his experience, as an opportunity to directly relate to the issues that he sees being left to the younger generations, specifically environmental and student loan debt issues.
“I’m coming from a place where as a community advocate, I’m able to know what’s impacting people on the ground,” Perryman said.
“I think that, more so than anything, is why they should vote for me. I’m coming from both having the policy experience as well as dealing with folks one-on-one and being able to elevate their issues and speak to them.”
Perryman also pushes his experience working with members of the community as a key point that he could use as lieutenant governor. He points to the work he has been able to accomplish as the president of the Fairfax County NAACP, including providing forgivable loans to about 30 small minority-owned businesses during the pandemic with the help of the Virginia 30 Day Fund.
A graduate of Vanderbilt law school, Perryman was the first person in his family to attend college – which he paid for himself. He touts his ability and desire to reach different locales and incorporate community members from across the state in forming opinions on policy.
“I believe you need to have someone in these positions that lived these experiences. They weren’t handed things. They understand what it’s like to be a working class person trying to make it and navigate through a system without help,” Perryman said.
“I understand more so than I think most people do. I want people to know that I’ve lived that experience, and not just someone who’s talking about it.”
Photo courtesy Sean Perryman