RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Six Democrats and six Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination in the race for Virginia lieutenant governor, a part-time position used as a springboard to the governor’s office.
Gov. Ralph Northam and two former Virginia governors, Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Douglas Wilder, all served as lieutenant governor before taking the commonwealth’s top elected office. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), the commonwealth’s current lieutenant governor, has entered this year’s governor’s race.
The official duties of Virginia’s lieutenant governor are to preside over the Virginia Senate as the president of the chamber and to succeed the governor if they were to leave office for any reason before their term is over.
As president of the Virginia Senate, the lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes when senators are split on a measure and can make rulings on disputes between lawmakers.
This year’s crowded field is made up of a sprawling group of candidates from different backgrounds, including several who have emigrated to the U.S., four aiming to be the first woman to serve as Virginia lieutenant governor, a son of immigrants and a state delegate seeking to be the first openly gay person and first Jewish person to win statewide office in the state.
There are several current state lawmakers and candidates who have never run for political office in the lieutenant governor race. No Republican has won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. Republicans will select their party’s nominee during a May 8 convention and a Democratic primary will be held on June 8, but early voting begins in some areas on April 23 and statewide on April 24.
Republicans vying to be Va.’s Lt. Gov.
Puneet Ahluwalia, a lobbyist and business consultant with the lobbying firm The Livingston Group, announced his intentions to seek the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in September. Ahluwalia, an immigrant from India who became a U.S. citizen 14 years ago, says in a campaign video he believes Virginia’s gas tax hike and other initiatives from Virginia Democrats have hurt businesses, particularly small businesses, during the pandemic.
Ahluwalia believes gun control measures passed by the state legislature have made people less safe and is among several Republican candidates calling for Virginia to make voters have photo identification when they go to the polls, a requirement that was repealed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly last year.
Lance Allen, an Air Force veteran and national security company executive, has talked openly about his difficult upbringing during his campaign for lieutenant governor. With his mother struggling with addiction and his father being murdered when he was a child, Allen grew up in foster care before being adopted at age 14.
The political newcomer says his own struggle to find his voice drove him to focus on helping people. Allen supports prohibiting abortions after a heartbeat is detected and believes Virginia’s “red-flag” law “violates due process.” He backs a pay raise for school teachers and like several other GOP candidates, has cited a need for “election integrity.”
Del. Glenn Davis Jr. (R-Virginia Beach), the first Virginia Republican to announce their bid for lieutenant governor, lost out on the GOP nomination for the office in 2017. Davis, who has been in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2014, famously campaigned and lived out of an RV during that run four years ago.
Davis has called for the repeal of Virginia’s law that allows residents to vote without showing a photo ID, stopping abortions after 20 weeks and expanding broadband access.
Timothy Hugo, a former state delegate who lost his seat in 2019 to Del. Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax), announced his run for Virginia lieutenant governor in October. Hugo, an Army veteran, had served in the House of Delegates since 2003 before losing to Helmer.
Unlike other Republicans in the race, Hugo has previously supported some gun-control measures, including Virginia’s “red flag” bill. Despite that, Hugo got an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association as a delegate.
Maeve Rigler, a business executive and attorney, founded Securus Capital in 2003. According to the company’s website, the Northern Virginia business provides management consulting services and helps “structure an installment payment solution” to federal agencies.
“An attorney who has been intimately involved for 15 years in structuring, documenting, negotiating and closing federal contract financings,” Securus Capital’s site reads. “Ms. Rigler’s knowledge of the federal government is extensive.”
Rigler is among five candidates hoping to be the first woman to serve as Virginia’s lieutenant governor.
Winsome Sears became the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, representing Norfolk in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. Sears, who is now seeking to be the first woman to be elected Lt. Gov., emigrated from Jamaica when she was a child and served in the Marines before running for office.
Sears, who ran for Congress in 2004 but failed to unseat Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), served on the Virginia Board of Education and was appointed to the U.S. Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans by then-President George W. Bush. Sears believes gun ownership deters crimes, not gun-control laws and supports school choice in Virginia, according to her campaign website.
Democrats vying to be Va.’s Lt. Gov.
Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William), a cybersecurity specialist at the Department of Homeland Security, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017. A member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Ayala worked to help expand Medicaid in the commonwealth and believes access should be expanded even further.
Ayala, chief deputy whip in the Virginia House, backs expanding Pre-K, funding for school infrastructure and co-patroned legislation to provide free community college to students pursuing jobs in high-demand fields. On her campaign website, Ayala touts her work on bills to legalize marijuana, abolish the death penalty and expunge non-violent marijuana charges.
If elected, Ayala would be the first woman to serve as Virginia lieutenant governor.
Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016. Representing a district including Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, Levine has introduced measures to set up LGBTQ protections and increase the minimum wage.
Levine cites the murder of his sister, who was killed by her husband in 1996, and the 10-year battle to change domestic violence and custody laws in Tennessee as the driving force to get him into politics. Levine’s effort eventually got his parents custody of his niece and nephew and put his brother-in-law in prison.
According to his campaign website, the work Levine says he’s perhaps proudest of the most is the federal grant to “bring 24/7 Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners to Northern Virginia.” Levine introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana and supports legalization. Levine could become the first openly gay person and Jewish person to be elected to statewide office in Virginia.
Andria McClellan, a Norfolk City Council member who represents 125,000 constituents on the nonpartisan panel, announced on Dec. 1, 2020, that she is seeking the Democratic nomination in this year’s lieutenant governor’s race. If elected, she would become the first woman to win the office.
When current U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was state governor he picked McClellan, a former entrepreneur, to be chair of the Virginia Small Business Advisory Board.
The former vice chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia from 2014-2015, McClellan has touted her work to create Norfolk’s first Climate Action Plan, her service on the Workforce Development Committee for the statewide Off Shore Wind Task Force and the effort she made to create a “five-city 110-mile broadband fiber ring” to provide better internet access to Virginia’s coast.
Sean Perryman, the former president of Fairfax County’s NAACP chapter and the youngest to serve in the leadership role, is among the Democrats running to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor. Perryman supports ending cash bail, ending qualified immunity for law enforcement officers and “creating a true parole system for Virginia,” according to his campaign website.
Perryman, an attorney who says he quit his firm in protest after it was hired to represent Donald Trump before he was elected president, was eventually named the first director of Social Impact and Diversity and Inclusion Policy at the Internet Association, a lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. Perryman believes marijuana legalization would help bring tax revenue to Virginia but any sort of legal framework should also free those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.
He also backs repealing Virginia’s “right-to-work” law, claiming it weakens collective bargaining efforts for workers.
Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) grew up in the Roanoke Valley after his parents left “war-torn Palestine in the late 1960s” and was the only Muslim in the Virginia General Assembly when he was sworn into the Virginia House in 2014.
Rasoul, a member of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, believes infrastructure to expand affordable broadband internet access is essential, supports expanding health care coverage and has touted his idea for a Virginia Marshall Plan for Moms during his campaign.
The effort calls for quality child care for all children, creating a caretaker income tax credit and expanding access to paid family, medical and sick leave.
Xavier Warren, a partner and lobbyist at Congressional Partners, a lobbying firm in the nation’s capital helping corporations and nonprofits secure grants, announced his bid for Virginia lieutenant governor in September 2020. As an agent for NFL players and an Arlington County businessman, Warren has made jobs his priority in the race.
Warren, a Virginia native who grew up in Pittsylvania County, believes schools should be equipped with “state-of-the-art technology” and practical instruction in order for students to be prepared to join the workforce and challenge for high-paying jobs, his campaign website states.
Who leads the money race?
Candidates for statewide office were required to submit campaign finance reports in January, giving a glimpse of how much each candidate brought in and the cash they had on hand last year.
Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) raked in the most money in 2020 with $655,851, followed by Del. Hala S. Ayala (D-Prince William), who raised $431,394, and Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (R-Virginia Beach), who took in just over $400,000.
A few Democratic candidates seeking the lieutenant governorship took in between $150,000 and $232,000: Del. Mark H. Levine (Alexandria), Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman and Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan.
Xavier Warren’s campaign received $64,190 in contributions last year, according to VPAP.
Air Force veteran Lance Allen raised $103,329 and Puneet Ahulwalia, a business consultant from Fairfax County, took in just $27,402 as both aim for the GOP nomination. Former GOP state delegate Tim Hugo has not filed a report with the state.
Update: Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) has announced she is suspending her campaign for lieutenant governor to focus on maintaining her House seat. “After assessing the campaign finance reports that posted yesterday, I have made the difficult decision to suspend our historic campaign and put all our resources into defending the House of Delegates seat,” Guzman said in a statement on April 17.