The Democratic Socialist who unseated the state's Republican House Whip, a veteran politician who had outspent him more than 2-to-1, was inspired to run for office after being treated unfairly during the workers' compensation process, he has said.
Lee Carter's experience in applying for workers' compensation benefits after sustaining a powerful electrical shock on the job "highlighted to (him) the glaring loopholes and problems that have been intentionally inserted into worker protections over the last 40 years by corporate special interests."
Carter had represented himself in court in an attempt to get workers' compensation benefits in the state of Virginia, where he lived. His employer was based in Georgia, and he had been injured in Illinois. None of the four workers' compensation attorneys with whom he consulted advised him to file in a different state, he said.
While in court, Carter says he watched attorneys for his employer's insurance company trot out legally complex arguments that he could barely understand. After his workers' compensation application was rejected, he said, his employer cut his hours to part-time, which eliminated his health insurance.
Carter had always been interested in politics, but he said this was the experience that convinced him to run for office himself.
"I was treated so horribly by my former employer and by the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission that I thought, I have to run for something, I have to fix this, because I can't allow anyone else to go through what I've been through," he said in an interview with the International Business Times.
Reflecting on the experience later to The Huffington Post, Carter said, "It’s kind of messed up that it was easier to run a two-year election and get 11,000 people to vote for me than it was to figure out the workers’ compensation system."
As a Virginia state representative, Carter plans to advocate for single-payer health care, more power for workers in the workplace and an end to corporate influence in politics.
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