A candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates listed a master’s degree and Ph.D. that he does not have on his LinkedIn page and provided information to a local news outlet that he had a master’s degree.
When interviewed this week, Laquan Austion, a Republican candidate in Northern Virginia, acknowledged that he did not have those degrees. He’s running in House District 2, a competitive swing district that includes parts of Prince William and Stafford counties and is represented by Del. L. Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, who did not seek re-election to instead run for the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
Austion’s LinkedIn page lists a master’s in political and policy management, American government and politics, and a Ph.D. in public policy analysis from George Washington University.
Additionally, Austion provided information to the news website Potomac Local that was published in February saying “George Washington University MA,” which typically is understood to mean Master of Arts.
He acknowledged he has no degree beyond a bachelor’s degree from Drew University in New Jersey.
“I’m pursuing my master’s and Ph.D.,” he said. “I’m in pursuit of those degrees.”
However, Austion is not currently enrolled at The George Washington University. According to school records, he studied political management there from summer 2012 to fall 2014 and no degree was awarded. Prior to that, Austion said, he attended law school at Penn State University but left because he was no longer passionate about law school and wanted to pursue civic service.
Austion said he was proud to be the first person in his family to graduate and that he grew up in urban poverty, sometimes living in homeless shelters with his mother and siblings or sleeping in a car.
“I was the first in my family to graduate college and continue to pursue higher education after that,” he said. “I take great pride in that.”
Austion said his proudest professional achievement was developing a partnership between Koch Industries and the United Negro College Fund to focus on scholarships.
The Democratic candidate for the seat is Jennifer Foy, who edged Josh King in the June primary by just 12 votes, 2,182 to 2,170, according to the Department of Elections.
Kurt Lofquist, Austion’s new campaign manager, issued a statement from him Friday with further explanation.
“First, regarding the LinkedIn Page, I never really kept that updated and hardly refer to it as a standard for which to gather information on — or anyone else for that matter. All of my campaign literature has been consistent in stating that I am “pursuing” a PhD in Public Policy,” the statement said.
“For the record, I was enrolled in a dual degree program at George Washington University in public policy. I have completed the course work for the Masters and am just shy of being designated ‘all but dissertation’. Currently, I am not enrolled in the program as I have taken a leave to pursue my campaign for the House of Delegates. I have always maintained that I have completed my course work.”
In the statement, Austion also addressed questions about court records in New Jersey showing past debts.
Capital One Bank filed papers against him in 2010 in Superior Court in Somerset County alleging he owed the bank $1,729.78. A debt collector could not locate him and the case was dismissed, according to records.
In 2013, Payless Auto Wholesale filed papers against Austion in Superior Court in Hudson County alleging he purchased an Audi in 2012 but had not made payment, contacted the company or returned the car. The company asked for $7,002. Austion could not be located and the case was dismissed, according to records.
In his statement, Austion, 30, said:
“Regarding some of the financial difficulties, I had as a very young man while a full-time student — well, who hasn’t? Mistakes I made in the past early in life were due to a lack of financial literacy at a young age. It’s important to pay attention to how you bounce back from those circumstances. My wife Alicia and I are proud of how hard we worked, sacrificed, and have been afforded great opportunities.”
He said he’d keep fighting to make sure more Virginians have opportunities.