Meet the 13 candidates hoping to be Virginia’s next governor

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Thirteen candidates are vying to be Virginia’s next governor, a crowded field 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. Voters could also pick a candidate who emigrated from Mexico, a possible first for the state.

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 and seven Republicans seek to be their party’s nominee, with a Democratic primary set for June 8 and a Republican convention on May 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.

Who leads the money race?

So far, leading the pack is former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who didn’t officially announce his run until Dec. 8 but still raised more than all other candidates, Republicans included, combined. In total, McAuliffe’s campaign received more than $5.7 million from Aug. 12 until Dec. 31, 2020, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project and state records. 

The only other gubernatorial contenders who have raised over $1 million are state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and former state delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, VPAP analysis shows.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raised $200,559 in 2020 but only has $225 cash on hand, campaign finance reports show. Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas) reported no contributions to his campaign from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31, 2020. 

The only two Republicans in the race who have submitted finance reports, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) and Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), each raised more than Fairfax but well below McClellan and Carroll Foy.

Princess Blanding, an activist running as an independent, has raised $1,866 and has $116 cash on hand, according to VPAP.

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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin (photo from campaign)

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.


Stay with 8News for updates on Virginia’s governor’s race.

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

StormTracker 8

Trending Stories

More Trending Stories

Local Events