Meet the candidates hoping to be Virginia’s next governor

Politics
Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol in July 2019. (Photo: Dean Mirshahi)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The once-crowded field of 13 candidates vying to be Virginia’s next governor is now down to seven after Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the GOP convention eliminated six Republicans from contention.

Despite the field getting split, it is still getting recognition for being the most diverse in the commonwealth’s history. 

Virginia could make history in November and elect the nation’s first Black female governor. The field in this year’s race includes political newcomers, lawmakers with years in the state legislature and a former governor who wants another four years in the Executive Mansion.

Five Democrats are currently seeking to be their party’s nominee, with a primary set for June 8. There is one independent candidate running under a newly formed party.

Under the state constitution, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is prohibited from running for consecutive terms.

Democrats in the Virginia governor’s race

Jennifer Carroll Foy

Jennifer Carroll Foy (photo provided by Carroll Foy’s campaign)

A former delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates, Jennifer Carroll Foy was one of the first candidates to enter the governor’s race. Carroll Foy flipped her House seat, representing Prince William, in 2017 and helped lead the legislature’s effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

Carroll Foy, who stepped down from her House seat to focus on her campaign, told 8News when she announced her bid that she believes Virginia needs to address everyday gun violence. If elected, Carroll Foy would be the first female governor of Virginia and the first Black woman in the country to serve as governor.

READ MORE:

Lee Carter

This Monday Feb. 12, 2018, photo shows Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, as he looks over legislation during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas), a self-described socialist who won a seat in the Virginia House in 2017, officially announced his plans to enter the governor’s race on New Year’s Day. Before joining the field, Carter said he would decide whether to declare his candidacy after assessing the policies in other candidates’ platforms.

Carter has said he supports reparations for Black and Indigenous communities in Virginia, previously calling for tax revenue from marijuana legalization to fund the proposal. He has pushed for the repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work law in the legislature and has called for a massive investment in the commonwealth’s school systems, including supporting a pay raise for teachers.

READ MORE:

Justin Fairfax

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (Associated Press)

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, was elected lieutenant governor in 2017 with nearly 53 percent of the vote, becoming only the second African American to win a statewide election in Virginia. Fairfax said he aims to follow the path of L. Douglas Wilder (D), the first African American candidate to win a statewide contest, who served as lieutenant governor before being elected governor. 

“The campaign is focused on justice, fairness and opportunity,” Fairfax told 8News in an interview after filing paperwork with the state in September, “and bringing that to 8.5 million Virginians.”

Two separate sexual assault allegations brought against Fairfax has hanged over the lieutenant governor for the last two years. Fairfax has struggled to clear his name, getting backlash over his response to the women accusing him, but a federal appeals court panel recently heard his effort to have another hearing for his $400 million defamation lawsuit against CBS over the network’s interviews with the women.

READ MORE:

Terry McAuliffe

In this March 1, 2020, photo former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe walks up to the stage as he prepares to introduce Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, during a campaign rally in Norfolk. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Former Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe is trying to follow in the footsteps of Mills Godwin as the only person to serve as Virginia’s governor more than once. The state constitution prevents incumbents from running for back-to-back terms but Godwin won as a Democrat in 1965 and as a Republican in 1973.

McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, was elected as Virginia’s governor in 2013, the first time he had run for political office. If elected, McAuliffe says he will push for an assault weapons ban and the creation of an agency to combat gun violence in Virginia as part of his gun control platform. 

READ MORE:

Jennifer McClellan

Jennifer McClellan
In this Jan. 12, 2017, photo State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, smiles as she is applauded by members of the Virginia House of Delegates during a warm send-off from the chambers at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) has introduced an education plan since entering the governor’s race, including proposing a $4 billion investment to reach a goal of establishing universal child care in Virginia by 2025.

McClellan, assistant general counsel for Verizon, announced her gubernatorial run in June. Several key measures passed during this year’s legislative session were introduced by McClellan, including one loosening abortion restrictions by repealing the ban on coverage for plans on the state insurance exchange.

If chosen by the voters, McClellan would be the first Black woman to be elected state governor in the United States and the second Black governor in Virginia.

READ MORE:

Independents in the Virginia governor’s race

Princess Blanding

Princess Blanding speaks with 8News’ Talya Cunningham in Richmond back in June (Photo: 8News)

Princess Blanding, an educator and community activist, is running under the newly-formed Liberation Party as an independent in this year’s race. Blanding says she aims “to ensure liberation is a human right, not a privilege.”

Blanding founded Justice and Reformation after her brother, Marcus-David Peters, was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in 2018, and has publicly called for more police oversight in the wake of his death.

Among other police reforms, Blanding has proposed ending qualified immunity, which the legislature has opted against in the last two legislative sessions, and believes funding to local departments should be reallocated to allow localities reinvest in other programs.

READ MORE:

Republicans in the Virginia governor’s race

Amanda Chase

Sen. Amanda Chase announcing her bid for Virginia governor (Photo: 8News)

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) is seen as one of the most polarizing figures in the race for the GOP nomination. A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, Chase has pushed a conservative agenda with a focus on upholding gun rights.

Chase has clashed with several state lawmakers in the past, including fellow Republicans, and was eventually censured by the Virginia Senate and stripped of her committee assignments following her decision to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

After threatening a possible third-party bid over the GOP’s plans to hold a convention, Chase conceded she would run as a Republican. She even filed a lawsuit to force a statewide primary, which was dismissed in court.

READ MORE:

Kirk Cox

Former House Speaker, Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, presiding over the House during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), the former Virginia House speaker seeking the GOP nomination in the governor’s race, believes Republican candidates face a different electoral landscape than in 2019, when Democrats took control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation, citing the policies implemented under one-party rule since then.

Cox, a retired public schools teacher, has called on the state to immediately give parents the option to send their child back to in-person learning. Cox also proposes giving school teachers a raise and improving school buildings with funding all construction costs.

READ MORE:

Sergio de la Peña

Sergio de la Peña (photo provided by de la Peña’s campaign)

Retired U.S. Army colonel Sergio de la Peña, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, announced in January he was seeking the GOP nomination in the Virginia governor’s race. 

Described as a “Trump Republican” on his campaign website, de la Peña campaigned for Donald Trump and was appointed to the Pentagon post by President Trump after the 2016 election. In a campaign advertisement, de la Peña talks about growing up with dirt floors and no running water in Mexico before coming to the United States, which he calls the best country in the world.

De la Peña says he believes the American Dream is under attack from “socialists and Northern Virginia liberals,” backs making English the official language in Virginia and would aim to eliminate taxpayer-funded benefits for undocumented immigrants in the commonwealth.

READ MORE:

Peter Doran

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Peter Doran (photo provided by Doran campaign)

Describing himself as a “conservative outsider,” Peter Doran wants to phase out the state income tax to zero percent in an effort to grow Virginia’s economy. Doran, former CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, an international affairs and security nonprofit, believes such a move would help bring more businesses to Virginia.

Doran, who was born in Arizona but has lived in Virginia since 2006, is pitching a campaign that calls for Virginia to be recognized as the top state for education, safety and business. While his proposals on those efforts are not clear, has called for protecting the right-to-work law in Virginia.

Octavia Johnson

Octavia Johnson, the Roanoke City Sheriff from 2006 to 2013, became the latest candidate to announce their run for governor, joining the race in early March. Johnson, born in Elk Creek, Virginia, is seeking the GOP nomination. 

On her campaign website, Johnson lists job creation, keeping communities safe and “building strong schools” as her top priorities.

“As your Governor I will put the best interest of the citizens of Virginia ahead of politics, political parties or self-interest,” Johnson’s website reads. “I believe that we can work together to solve our most pressing challenges.”

Pete Snyder

Pete Snyder, center, gestures as he talks to delegates during the opening of the Virginia Republican convention in Richmond, Va., Friday, May 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Pete Snyder, a technology entrepreneur and former Fox News contributor, formally announced plans in January to seek the GOP nomination in the race for Virginia’s governor. 

Snyder highlighted his experience as a “job creator” while criticizing the leadership of Gov. Ralph Northam and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a video released on Twitter. In an interview with 8News, Snyder, the CEO of the capital investment firm Disruptor Capital, attacked the record of the previous governors and shared his displeasure with Virginia’s response to schooling during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Governor after governor has embarrassed us [Virginia],” he said. “Our schools are still closed and we are losing a generation of students.”

READ MORE:

Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin (photo from campaign)
  • Glenn Youngkin secured the Republican nomination in the Virginia governor’s race

A former executive at the investment firm Carlyle Group, Glenn Youngkin joined the field of Republicans in the race in late January. Youngkin has never served in office, a fact he has focused on during his campaign, but his net worth could help his campaign to stay viable ahead of the May convention.

“I’m not a politician, and I certainly don’t have the 120 years of combined political baggage that my opponents have,” he said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “They talk a lot about solving problems, but I’ve actually done it.”

Youngkin has signed a pledge to not increase taxes if elected governor and proposes establishing an Election Integrity Task Force.

READ MORE:

Who leads the money race?

Snyder and Youngkin loaned their own campaigns over $5 million within the first three months of this year, allowing them to spend more on advertisements than what most other candidates have been able to raise. 

Snyder took in $6.8 million from Jan. 1 to March 31, with $5,175,000 coming from Snyder and his wife, Burson, according to campaign finance reports. Youngkin raised more than $7.6 million in that same span, giving $5.5 million to his campaign, an analysis of campaign finance disclosures from the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project found. 

Despite their hauls, Snyder and Youngkin still trail former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in fundraising. McAuliffe raised more than the other four Democrats running for governor combined for the second straight reporting period.  

McAuliffe’s campaign raised $5.7 million from Aug. 12 until Dec. 31, 2020, even though he joined the race on Dec. 8, 2020. With $5.5 million already on hand, McAuliffe was able to bring in nearly $4.2 million in the first three months. of 2021 and his campaign had $8.5 million in total on March 31, according to VPAP and state records. 

Carroll Foy was the only other candidate besides McAuliffe, Snyder and Youngkin to raise over $1 million this year. In December, Carroll Foy stepped down from her House seat to focus on her campaign, allowing her to raise money while state law barred other candidates in the legislature from fundraising during the regular 2021 General Assembly session.

Despite not being allowed to raise any money for her campaign during this year’s regular legislative session, Sen. McClellan was able to bring in over $635,000 from Jan 1 to March 31, finance reports show. McClellan’s campaign spent $809,498 in that time and had $442,042 on hand as of March 31. 

Del. Carter (D-Manassas), another candidate prevented from raising money during the session, raised over $138,000 in the first quarter of this year. He used nearly $50,000 on campaign expenses and had almost $89,000 in the bank as of March 31. 

Starting out this year with only $225 on hand, the fundraising struggles for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s campaign continued in the first three months of 2021. According to VPAP, Fairfax raised nearly $100,000 but $75,000 came from in-kind contributions — goods or services given to the campaign. Fairfax’s campaign had only $20,689 on hand on March 31.

During this latest reporting deadline, Blanding’s campaign disclosed that she raised over $12,000 and had more than $10,000 as of March 31. According to VPAP, Blanding has raised a total of $14,017.

Sen. Chase and Del. Cox (R-Colonial Heights) fell well short of the fundraising totals of Snyder and Youngkin. Chase raised nearly $114,000 in the first quarter of 2021 but her campaign spent $147,297 and had less than $200,000 on hand by the end of March, campaign finance reports show.

Cox outpaced Chase with a haul of almost $700,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31. According to VPAP, Cox’s campaign had to spend $725,750 in that span and had a little more than $310,000 left over.

De la Peña’s campaign filed a report showing a total of $263,384 in contributions this year. Doran reported raising $16,385 and Johnson’s campaign took in just $932 in that same span.

Update: This story has been changed to reflect Youngkin’s win in the Virginia GOP convention. Stay with 8News for more updates in the governor’s race.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

More Trending Stories