ROANOKE — An emergency department nurse from Albemarle County on Thursday became the first person to announce a run for lieutenant governor.

Kellen Squire is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2021 state race. If elected, he said he would use the position to advocate for progressive issues and the middle class.

“We’re at a very consequential time in Virginia,” Squire said in an interview. “With the climate crisis, high costs of housing and health care, college debt, and the rise of white nationalism, these are just some of the issues we have to deal with if we want to continue to build a Virginia that works for everyone.”

Squire, 34, is a nurse at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Albemarle. He lives with his wife and three children in Barboursville. He attended Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke before transferring to the University of Virginia School of Nursing.

“As nurses, we feel the impact of a government when it does and doesn’t work for its people,” Squire said. “You see it when people are there for a mental health crisis, opioid addiction or domestic violence, and you watch families dealing with high medical bills.”

Squire ran for the House of Delegates in 2017 against Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, but lost with 39% of the vote.

The lieutenant governorship is a part-time job. Its duties include casting tie-breaking votes in the Virginia Senate.

Squire said the lieutenant governor has a bully pulpit, and he’d like to use the position to advocate for issues more than others have in recent years. He points to populist-style liberal Democrat Henry Howell, who was lieutenant governor from 1971 to 1973, as a role model. Howell’s crusade against “the big boys” in the utility industry and the Democratic establishment gave him the nickname of “Howlin’ Henry.”

“I’m not sure ‘Yellin’ Kellen’ has the same ring,” Squire said.

Rural areas of Virginia that were once strong with Democrats have gone heavily red. Squire said his loud voice will be valuable in building the party’s support across rural parts of the state.

“We have a chance to build a diverse ticket, geographically and socioeconomically,” Squire said.

Much of the focus on the Capitol has been on the election this November, when all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election. Republicans are working to retain a two-seat majority in each chamber.

Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, has said he still plans to run for governor. Herring, along with Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, both Democrats, were embroiled in scandals earlier this year. Herring admitted to wearing blackface while in college. Fairfax, who has been weighing a run for governor, has been accused of sexual assault by two women.

Republicans have not won a statewide election since 2009.

More information about Squire can be found at his website www.squireforyou.com.

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