On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam endorsed his predecessor, Terry McAuliffe, as he is seeking to run for governor again this year after already serving as governor from 2014-2018. While the state Constitution limits governors from running for more than one consecutive term, it is legal to run for the office again after sitting a term out.
McAuliffe is the front runner in the only two public polls and has been endorsed by a large coalition of elected Democrats. Now Northam, who two years ago was being called upon by his entire party to resign over a blackface yearbook photo from college, is the most sought-after endorsement for statewide Democratic candidates.
Virginia Democrats took the majority in the state legislature in 2019 and were able to pass nearly every aspect of the Democratic agenda over the next two years — a key reason for Northam’s rehabbed image and why he is popular again among Democratic primary voters.
“The longer-term impacts of this pandemic, however, will be around long after I leave office, and it’s critical that our next governor has the plans and experience to continue the fight to rebuild Virginia into a stronger, more equitable future. That’s why I am so proud to support Terry McAuliffe to be our next governor,” Northam said Thursday.
State Senator Jennifer McClellan is also seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor. She released a statement Thursday to directly address Northam’s endorsement of McAuliffe. “It’s no surprise to see one governor endorse another. But this election is up to the voters of Virginia. Virginians aren’t looking backward; they’re looking forward,” McClellan said. “They are ready for a governor to address the challenges they are facing now. They are looking for who is going to get them back to work, who is going to get their kids back to school, who is going to ensure their students are receiving a high-quality education regardless of the zip code or neighborhood they live in.”
Republicans that are also seeking the nomination responded to the endorsement as well. Former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox has been basing his gubernatorial campaign on pushing back against Democratic control of state government — this endorsement played into that narrative. “If Virginians had any doubt about what they could expect from a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion, Ralph Northam just eliminated it with his endorsement of Terry McAuliffe,” Cox said in a statement Thursday. “Two years ago, McAuliffe called Northam’s actions ‘racist, unacceptable and inexcusable’ and called on him to step down. Today, he gratefully accepted his endorsement. Meanwhile, yesterday, McAuliffe sent out a fundraising email calling me racist for advocating for election integrity and removing partisanship from our state board of elections.”
Pete Snyder, a venture capitalist that has never held elected office in Virginia and is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor accused McAuliffe and Northam of keeping a new generation of Democrats from advancing. “The fix is in, Virginia Democrats. You knew it was going to happen,” Snyder said in a Twitter video Thursday. “And the two of them are elbowing out an entirely new generation of talent in the Democratic party. But you know what? This is what the establishment does. They squash the little guy. They cast aside others just so they could desperately cling to power.”
It is worth noting that Cox or Snyder, as Republicans, would benefit from decreased Democratic voter turnout in November if they become the nominee.
In addition to McClellan and McAuliffe, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Del. Lee Carter and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax are seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor. The nominee will be chosen in a primary election on June 8.
Cox and Snyder will be competing with state Sen. Amanda Chase and Glenn Youngkin for the Republican nomination in an unassembled convention on May 8.
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