With presidential run off the table, McAuliffe turns attention to Virginia

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — While he’s not making a run for the White House in 2020, could we see Terry McAuliffe on the ballot again for governor?

In Virginia, governors can’t hold two terms back to back, but they could hold office later on. Last time this happened was with Gov. Mills Godwin in 1974, who changed parties and ran for a second term. Before that, it was James Monroe in 1811. 

Talk about former Governor Terry McAuliffe running for president has been going on since his term ended in 2018. After a series of posts on social media last week alluding to a run for office, Wednesday night on CNN, McAuliffe said he decided not to throw his hat in the ring for president. But when asked about running for governor again, he wouldn’t answer. 

The return of a familiar face may draw appeal to a party caught in a crossroads.

“I could see some folks in Virginia talking themselves into “well, we don’t have democratic leaders that we can trust in the state right now, why don’t we go back to the guy we liked the last time”,” Associate Professor of Political Science Rich Meagher from Randolph-Macon College said. 

McAuliffe’s term is sandwiched between two governors wrapped up in scandals, Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia) and Ralph Northam (D-Virginia). 

Currently, Northam is facing controversy after a photograph from his medical college yearbook surfaced in February with a man in a KKK robe and another in blackface. While he denies he’s in the photograph, Northam did admit to wearing blackface while in college. Eastern Virginia Medical School is conducting an investigation, led by McGuireWoods Law Firm. Attorneys overseeing it expect to complete it by the end of this month. 

Attorney General Mark Herring said he wore blackface during college as well. Two women have also accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault

With tarnished political personas, Meagher says Democrats have “taken a few body blows” with these scandals and may be open to new leadership.

“Things in Virginia have been a little weird lately,” Meagher said.”So it’s entirely possible that there could be some momentum that would build for a return for Terry McAuliffe.”

McAuliffe’s term laid the groundwork for Medicaid expansion and brought more business to the Commonwealth. On CNN with Chris Cuomo Wednesday night, he said he is “going to help Virginians for the next six months.”

“We’ve got to win the House and Senate because we can change it, we can take it to the next level,” McAuliffe said on CNN.

The next six months will be filled with campaigning. All 140 seats are up for the state House and Senate. With slim margins between the parties, Republicans hold a slight majority in both chambers. Over the years, Virginia has been trending towards a blue wave. 

“Terry McAuliffe’s role in that might be a big one, right now there’s a lack of leadership in the democratic party. McAuliffe can come and be a public figure in the state, someone that doesn’t have the baggage of our current political leaders,” Meagher explained. 

What comes with campaigns is fundraising too. Northam’s PAC “The Way Ahead” brought in a little more than $2,500 since the blackface scandal, according to finance reports released earlier this week. That PAC money is primarily used to support other candidates running. 

“The absence of that fund, the absence of that leadership is a problem but it may not be an overwhelming problem but it could that the Democratic dollars that are going to that PAC are going somewhere else,” Meagher said. “It could be that Democratic donors are not giving money to Northam and instead are giving it directly to a campaign.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia reported $272,000 over the Republican Party of Virginia’s $110,000. Democrats overall this quarter raised a little more than Republicans, but some GOP fundraising was higher last year. 

If McAuliffe is successful in continuing the blue wave, Meagher says that could bump up the former governor’s reputation. 

“If [McAuliffe] is able to take any kind of credit,” Meagher explained, “that enhances his profile either in a position for a national democratic administration after 2020 or perhaps a run for governor in 2021.”

We have a long ways away before 2021. The June Primary is happening on Tuesday, June 11. Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is May 20.

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