84th District House of Delegates candidate profile: Michele Joyce

Published 5:42 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

Republican and Democratic primaries are set for June 20 to decide each party’s nominee for the new 84th House of Delegates District, which spans the Isle of Wight County-Suffolk border and includes Franklin and a small area of Chesapeake. Nadarius Clark and Michele Joyce of Smithfield are vying for the Democratic nomination. The Smithfield Times asked 10 questions of each candidate.

Name: Michele Joyce

Age: 51

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Occupation: Computer Scientist, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Prior elected offices held: N/A


1. Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for the 84th District?

I believe healthcare is a human right, that’s what got me into community organizing and Obamacare advocacy 15 years ago. My top priority will always be the fight for affordable, quality health care. That is why I’m running for office today. To start, we need to identify ways to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. House Democrats started this process in the most recent session, but unfortunately were not able to get it out of committee. The new 84th district is a moderate, slightly left-leaning district. They deserve a Delegate with local experience, who will stand up to right-wing extremism and Democratic socialists alike, instead focusing on practical issues that actually improve our community and make everyday life more affordable.

2. Who is your political role model? Why?

My political role model is former President Barack Obama because his demonstrated values are rooted in community and his politics are driven by a diplomacy-first approach that yields results. Those who volunteered on his campaign remember our mission was “Respect. Empower. Include.” I took those words to heart and today, respect, empowerment and inclusion are what I strive to achieve with my own campaign. Good organizing is about more than winning the next race, it’s about strengthening our community for years to come. That’s the legacy of Obama-era organizing and I’ll be forever thankful to him for it. 

3. What change, if any, to state law would you like to see in the wake of last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade?

According to an October 2022 study by the CNU Wason Center, 67% of Virginians support abortion access. I stand proudly with the majority of Virginia voters who support the right to choose. As elected officials, it is our duty to represent the values of our constituents. And in Virginia, that clearly means not encroaching on women’s rights. It is illogical to claim “small government” and “don’t tread on me” while simultaneously controlling what happens in the doctor’s office. Additionally, as Delegate, I would combat right-wing extremism by voting to codify abortion access into law.

4. Should school personnel be required to use transgender students’ preferred names, pronouns and/or not reveal their gender identity to their parents? Why or why not?

Respecting someone’s name and pronouns is simple and polite. At the beginning of the year, teachers always clarify students’ preferred names/nicknames, and name/pronouns are no different. We can call it “southern hospitality,” if that makes it easier for some folks to comprehend. Regarding divulging a child’s gender identity to their parents, as long as the child is not a danger to themselves or others, I do not see why teachers should be inserting themselves between children and their parents. A teacher’s responsibilities are to instruct their subject in a way that resonates with each student, and keep the parents/guardians updated on that process. Forcing teachers to “out” students puts both the teachers and students in an unfair situation.

5. Do you agree with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order banning “divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory” from public schools? Why or why not?

First, let’s be clear: Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Virginia schools. That is a straw man fallacy from a governor who fans the flames of extremism and calls it voter turnout. I respect the hard work our educators are doing and therefore cannot support the executive order. The governor’s misguided leadership on this issue is the reason right-wing extremists on the Isle of Wight School Board peddle his “divisive concepts” rhetoric without being able to give examples of divisive concepts being taught. We cannot dilute our nation’s complicated history. Virginia was on the wrong side of the Civil War and we handled desegregation terribly; that’s not divisive, those are facts with a lingering impact. Learning holistic and accurate history is how we grow and prevent repeating mistakes. Youngkin would be better served spending his time getting his Department of Education in order.

6. What more can Virginia do to prevent mass shootings?

While we cannot prevent all mass shootings, common sense says it is foolish to do nothing as our nation continues to experience an epidemic of daily gun violence. Virginia has made tremendous gains in the ’20s towards gun safety reform, but there remain multiple widely-supported policies that we can implement to save lives. First, we need to keep guns out of the wrong hands. According to a 2020 study by the CNU Wason Center, 73% of Virginians support “red-flag” laws and 54% support banning assault-style weapons. With such widespread support, why isn’t the legislature enacting the will of the people? Additionally, convicted domestic abusers should relinquish their firearms. When it comes to the purchase of firearms, it’s time we require gun dealers to obtain a state license and institute mandatory waiting periods before completing gun purchases.

7. Should the state get involved in stemming or encouraging the proliferation of solar farms in rural counties?

I think solar farming is a great way for rural areas to adapt and make revenue. “Rural” isn’t always the same as “farmable.” For non-arable land, solar farming is a good alternative. I think the Commonwealth should incentivize solar farming alongside traditional agriculture; it will be an important part of investing in rural communities for the foreseeable future.   

8. Should Isle of Wight County have the option of raising its local sales tax by 1% by voter referendum to fund school construction projects? Why or why not?

Yes, allowing the county to vote on whether or not they support a 1% increase in sales tax is democracy in action. Some of our schools are due an upgrade and those issues are compounded by our growing population. The voters deserve to decide if and how we fund these projects. As Delegate, I support measures to return that decision to the county residents. 

9. What is one issue where you disagree with your political party’s national stance?

The majority of the Democratic Party remains opposed to nuclear power and while I understand their reservations, I have direct experience with this issue that gives me a more nuanced perspective. Early in my career, I worked as a Health Physics Technician at the Surry Power Station which produces 14% of Virginia’s electricity. Those employees are committed to protecting workers and the environment. Since Three Mile Island and the creation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, employees risk actual fines and jail time if procedures are not followed precisely. The effluents released by power stations are a non-issue with EPA. This has made nuclear power stations some of the safest places to work.

10. How should retail marijuana sales be implemented, or should the 2021 legalization be overturned?

It is time for the General Assembly to authorize the development of a statewide market for commercial marijuana use after implementing the necessary policies to responsibly and safely regulate marijuana comparably to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. This does not mean dispensaries would be popping up on every corner, we should allow localities like Isle of Wight County to opt out of the commercial market, if that is what the majority of voters decide. One of the greatest benefits of instituting a statewide market would be the opportunity to use social equity initiatives to address a history of disproportionately incarcerated Black Virginians by promoting Small- and Minority Business Enterprises. Finally, creating a legalized statewide market would be a tax windfall for the Commonwealth, providing additional revenue to pour back into social equity incentives and keep Virginia competitive with neighboring states that have already legalized marijuana.