State Senator Jennifer McClellan D-Richmond first started working in the General Assembly in 2006 after she was elected to the House of Delegates; then she moved over to the state Senate after winning a special election in 2017 to represent a larger district that stretched into Henrico. Now she is trying to make history by becoming the first Black woman ever elected governor in the United States.
But with only a few days left to convince Democratic voters to vote for her and the polls don’t look great, McClellan’s campaign said they are focused on a ground game and driving turnout for the June 8 primary.
“Ground game wins races,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesperson for her campaign. “Jenn McClellan’s campaign is focused on doing the work on the ground to reach out to voters in every community, partnering with well-known progressive elected officials and organizations.”
The ground game will have to make up for a large gap between McClellan and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, the frontrunner in all of the polls — including one released Friday from Roanoke College showing him with a nearly 40-point lead over the rest of the field.
Care in Action, a nonprofit group that focuses on helping domestic workers endorsed and helped a lot with the field work for McClellan so far. “When Care in Action endorses a candidate, folks should pay attention because our investment is more than a symbolic gesture,” said Alexsis Rodgers, the state director for Care in Action. “For us, that means running a strong field operation across Virginia to connect with voters and increase voter turnout. We’re bringing the same energy and ground game to Virginia that we had last year when we helped flip Georgia blue.”
Care in Action contributed over $175,000 of in-kind donations during the last filing period from their work on the ground for McClellan. “So far, we have reached out to 242,380 voters by phone, mail or in person,” Rodgers said. “I’ve personally knocked 1,000 doors. We’re mobilizing a national network of volunteers and staff to ensure victory for Senator McClellan. This is the productivity and effectiveness women of color bring to campaigns.”
McClellan is competing with McAuliffe, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Del. Lee Carter, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax for the nomination. Both Carroll Foy and McClellan have talked during their campaigns about how important it would be for them to become the first governor in America that is a Black woman. “Black women have been the backbone of this country for 400 years,” McClellan said in an interview last year. “Often, we have been relegated to the shadows or the back, and we have been pushing and pushing and pushing and striving forward. To know that I could now be the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s the natural progression of that movement forward that began when the first African woman was brought here in chains. I feel the weight of that, but I also feel the power and the hope in that.”
But building a coalition large enough to challenge McAuliffe’s candidacy has been a tough task for the rest of the field. McClellan’s campaign hopes that her long history in the legislature and experience within the state party will give her a chance on primary day. “Sen. McClellan helped build the Democratic Party of Virginia for the past 30 years and passed many of the most important progressive laws in the past decade,” Leopold said. “She has built a network of local leaders and supporters around the Commonwealth who are working to turn out the vote for her on June 8.”
The winner of this primary will be going up against Glenn Youngkin in November as Republicans try and take the Executive Mansion for the first time since 2009.
In addition to the Democrats and Republicans in this race, Princess Blanding is running as an Independent and would also be the first Black woman to be elected governor.
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