Delegate Lee J. Carter represents Manassas City and part of Prince William County in the Virginia General Assembly. He’s the only Democratic Socialist member of the state legislature, and he says he supplements his $17,640 lawmaker salary by driving for Lyft. He plans to strike Wednesday with other Lyft and Uber drivers, who are calling for job security and fare regulation, among other demands.
Because of the low pay at the General Assembly, I've been driving for Lyft on the side to make ends meet.
I'm striking on Wednesday with thousands of my fellow rideshare drivers. Don't cross the picket line.
Don't do it.
Don't cross the picket line.
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) May 6, 2019
Lyft hasn’t yet replied to Washingtonian‘s query about whether it has records of Carter driving, and Carter himself hasn’t yet replied to my requests for an interview, but the circumstances he says led to his decision to strike underscores an interesting dynamic in Virginia politics: The “Virginia Way” philosophy, which supposes good government derives from legislators who spend most of their time working elsewhere. That’s why Alexandria, for example, has a part-time mayor and council, and why Virginia’s legislature has such a quirky schedule: It’s supposed to meet 60 days per year in even-numbered years and 30 days per year in odd.
Who can take a month or two off from work each year to fulfill those duties, plus all the other work required of a state rep, as well as fund-raising and campaigning on your own time? Businesspeople and attorneys make up nearly half the General Assembly’s membership, according to figures from the Virginia Public Access Project, and 55 percent have investments worth more than $100,000.
Carter’s finances, appropriately for a guy with what he admits is a complicated personal life, don’t appear to really fit in with this crowd. Virginia legislators can compensate in part for their low salaries with unusually loose rules about campaign funds, travel allowances, and gifts from lobbyists. Carter, who has not exactly been friendly to corporate interests, jams econo: He told the New York Times he gets by on a GI Bill stipend and stays at a friend’s house during legislative sessions, which lets him keep his $213 per diem.