Kellen Squire, an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, and former candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, announced today that he will be running for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2021.
“This is a seminal time in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Squire said in his announcement. “The most consequential election in half a century, and the decisions we make in the next few years will determine the course of the next hundred. From the climate crisis to the looming specter of recession and economic instability; the rising costs of housing and the crushing load of college debt; from healthcare reform to the stunning rise and re-emergence of authoritarianism and white supremacy. We must address these issues if we’re going to continue building a Virginia that works for everyone.”
While the jockeying for position in the Governor’s mansion has been ongoing for months now, the Lt. Governor position has not received nearly as much attention. The job is not a full time position, however the Lt. Governor oversees the Virginia State Senate during session and casts tie-breaking votes.
Squire said his priority would be “pushing relentlessly for forward-thinking, progressive policies that will see Virginia through any challenge ahead.”
Running in a dark red district in 2017, Squire lost to Republican incumbent Rob Bell. He told Richmond 2day that the 2017 race and his current job has shown him that “the kitchen table issues are the same in every zip code of the Commonwealth. As divided as people want to think we are, the kitchen table issues are the same in every corner of the Commonwealth, every zip code. Healthcare, schools, good jobs, transportation, housing! You might have a different problem with transportation in Abingdon than Arlington, right, but it’s still the same.” He continued. “I get that in the ER, too; we’re the great filter. If you don’t know what to do about whatever crisis you have going on, what’s the instinct society has taught you to do? Call 911, go to the ER, let them figure it out. And not just physical or mental health issues, but everything. We see it all. We’re the safety net. So I get a vivid view of where government is broken, where it is not serving the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Squire touted his website and policy stances, saying he has “more in-depth positions and policy wonk than ever before in Virginia history”. He goes on to say that his website will be reflective and updated frequently: “as we go to every holler and hill, every school and farmhouse, every zip code, and listen to the people- not just wait for their turn to talk, but listen. Really listen. And then take those concerns to Richmond and fight to fix them, once and for all.”
Squire stated that working in the emergency department in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017, played a role in his decision to run. “The rhetoric being spewed so casually in our national politics isn’t a joke,” he said, “it has real consequences, and I refuse to stand by and allow another Virginia community to suffer intimidation, violence, or worse from the ‘very fine people’ who brought terror to the streets of our community in Charlottesville.”
In his announcement, Squire said he believes Virginians need a lieutenant governor who understands the challenges they face – because he’s lived those challenges too. “Being a punch-clock warrior, and equal part of a two-income household where we have to make every dollar count, makes running for any political office- much less a statewide one- awfully tough,” Squire said. “My wife and I don’t quite live paycheck to paycheck anymore, but one minor fiscal catastrophe or health emergency could easily put us back there.” However, Squire noted that he “wouldn’t change that for anything, because it keeps me connected to the same struggles faced by everyday Virginians.” He went on to say his work as a nurse has given him a unique view into the struggles facing working families across the Commonwealth.
“Every single day, nurses feel the impact of a government that doesn’t work for its people,” Squire said, “and this is true of all nurses, but particularly in the ER, which is the final safety net that too many Virginians have to rely on to keep them from hitting rock bottom. Whether it’s the mental health crisis, the opioid crisis, domestic violence, prescription drug costs, or medical bankruptcy, we’re on the front lines of addressing the human costs of Richmond’s failure to act on these issues.”
Squire describes himself as a “perpetually under-caffeinated ER Nurse, outdoorsman, and dad joke aficionado.” He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Nursing and is now an emergency department nurse at UVA Medical Center.
Squire said that his single-biggest influence was former Lieutenant Governor and progressive populist Henry Howell (D-Norfolk).
“Henry fought for a fair deal for working Virginians,” Squire said, “a square deal for the middle class, and a new deal for those whose bloodlines weren’t blue.” But most importantly, Squire said, it was Henry’s take on what the office of the Lieutenant Governor represented that. “Henry knew the job of lieutenant governor wasn’t just to twiddle your thumbs, but to use its bully pulpit to fight unapologetically for working Virginia families.”
On if he wins the nomination, he says it will “prove anyone can run, and win, at any level. As long as you’re willing to work as hard as you can for the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, nothing is out of reach.”