Meet the Candidates for Governor: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam

Meet the Candidates for Governor: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The most closely watched part of the race for governor this year is between the Democratic candidates.  Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and former Congressman Tom Perriello have been neck and neck in the polls.

For his profile interview with NBC12, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam invited us to his roundtable discussion at the Virginia Education Association, where educators asked him what he'd do to increase teacher salaries.

"It's about bringing people to the table and saying this has to be a priority," Northam told them.

He says he wants to make sure schools are preparing students for the jobs of the future in STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

"We always encourage our students to go to college," Northam said. "But there are some very good jobs out there that you don't need to go to a four-year college.  Some of them, you don't need to go to community college. Vocational and technical training in high school are important."

Northam proposes making community college free.  We asked him how he'd pay for it.

"It will cost about $37 million in initial investment, but I would be glad to give you the details. But over five years, it actually pays for itself because these individuals are now in higher paying jobs and that will, in time, bring revenue back to our state," he responded.

Northam said he wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"I think businesses need to understand that in order to move our economy forward, people need to be able to get up in the morning and be incentivized to do a job," he explained.

Northam proposes refunding the grocery tax to low-income people, and he wants to decriminalize the use of marijuana while expanding the legal uses of medical marijuana.

Having worked as a pediatric neurologist, serving in the Army, and serving as a State Senator and Lt. Governor, Northam aims to continue his fight for gun control, protecting access to abortion, and ending veteran joblessness.

"You have to have good relationships on both sides of the isle. That's what we call the Virginia way," said Northam. "We can agree to disagree. But at the end of the day, we have to do what's in the best interest of Virginia, and that's what I'm prepared to do."

Northam faces a tight race against former Congressman Tom Perriello in the primary election on June 13.

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