Delegate Clint Jenkins, D-Suffolk, announced Thursday that he is changing course in the gubernatorial race and endorsing Terry McAuliffe for governor. Jenkins first endorsed Jennifer Carroll Foy in May of last year, but he has decided to back a different candidate nine months later. According to the Carroll Foy campaign, Jenkins told them on Wednesday that he was pressured by the co-chair of the McAuliffe campaign, state Senator Louise Lucas, to flip his endorsement to McAuliffe or face a primary opponent during the next election cycle.
Lucas, one of the most powerful Democrats in Virginia, denies that this happened.
“Last night we talked with Delegate Jenkins and he let us know about a call he got from one of Terry’s campaign chairs, Louise Lucas. He just laid out for us that they said if he didn’t flip his endorsement that they were going to recruit and back a candidate against him in the primary,” said Carroll Foy’s campaign manager, Garrick Delzell. “And [Jenkins said] if he won the primary, they would do everything they could to make sure the caucus doesn’t give him a manager or any support.”
An aide with knowledge of the conversation between Delzell and Jenkins confirmed the account to Virginia Scope.
Virginia Scope reached out to Jenkins and his aide early Thursday morning and initially heard no response.
But, after being connected by a member of the McAuliffe campaign for a phone interview, Jenkins denied that any pressure or threats came from Lucas. He said he was not aware that McAuliffe was going to be running for governor when he told Carroll Foy he would endorse her.
Then, after avoiding the question multiple times, Jenkins also denied telling the Carroll Foy campaign that he received political pressure. “Senator Lucas has never tried to influence me to do anything except run for the office of delegates — she has been very supportive of me and my decision,” Jenkins said Thursday. “I have not told Delegate Carroll Foy that anyone pressured me.”
In new evidence that Virginia Scope received Thursday night after this article was published, Jenkins can be heard saying that he was receiving pressure from within the district and from the “Hampton Roads Delegation,” which includes Lucas.
Lucas forcefully denied placing any pressure on Jenkins. She said Jenkins contacted her earlier this week to ask how he can get out of the endorsement of Carroll Foy. “I said use me, tell them that people up there love their senator in Chesapeake and Suffolk and if I don’t align myself with her they will be upset with me,” Lucas said in an interview Thursday. “My integrity really is in question here and I resent it in the highest.”
In his official statement, Jenkins highlighted McAuliffe’s plans to help Virginia move forward out of the pandemic. “Since he launched his campaign in December, Terry has been running a positive campaign focused on his thoughtful, detailed plans to move Virginia forward and create a stronger, more equitable Commonwealth for all,” Jenkins said. “This is the kind of bold, proven leadership Virginia needs as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and work to rebuild our economy.”
McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 -2018 is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for another term this November. In addition to Carroll Foy, state Senator Jennifer McClellan, Delegate Lee Carter, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax are also vying for the nomination.
The latest polling in the race shows McAuliffe with a sizable lead over his Democratic opponents but there is still a large chunk of potentially undecided voters.
“I am so honored to have Delegate Jenkins in my corner as we fight the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created and the generational inequities it has laid bare,” McAuliffe said Thursday. “Together, our broad and growing coalition will work to move our Commonwealth forward and create a stronger, more equitable Virginia. As Governor, I will ensure our post-COVID recovery lifts up all Virginians by creating good jobs and investing in workers, making sure every child has equitable access to a world-class education, and ensuring every Virginian has a safe, affordable place to call home.”
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