Richmond, Va – On Friday, State Senator Jennifer McClellan announced 30 new endorsements from elected officials and community leaders as she seeks the Democratic nomination to run for Governor in 2021.
The field for 2021 is crowded, to say the least. McClellan will be facing off against former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Delegate Jennifer Caroll Foy in an attempt to win the nomination. Justin Fairfax, the current Lieutenant Governor is also seeking the nomination but has had trouble garnering any support after multiple women accused him of sexual assault in 2019.
Now that the presidential race is over, 2021 candidates are hustling in an attempt to build the largest coalition of support within their party. “Right now we’re in the ‘invisible primary’ where candidates try to line up elite support and big-money donors,” said Dr. Richard Meagher, Associate Professor of Political Science at Randolph-Macon College. “The goal here is to build up your war chest and – for folks like Foy and McClellan – try to show that [Terry McAuliffe] is not inevitable.”
While McAuliffe has not officially launched his campaign, he has been building a staff and is expected to make the run official sometime in the next two weeks. The former Governor is popular within the state party, especially after he spent 2019 stumping for statehouse candidates, but some Virginians say they want to continue making history in the commonwealth.
There has never been a Black woman Governor in the United States and McClellan and Foy want to change that.
“Black women have been correcting course for this Commonwealth since its inception,” said Amy Wentz, a community activist in Richmond and former city council candidate that endorsed McClellan on Friday. “Who better than a Black woman to lead us forward during these times of massive change as we work to positively reshape our government so that it serves the needs of all, especially those whose needs have been overlooked and underserved for far too long.”
While United States Senator Tim Kaine has yet to endorse a candidate in the gubernatorial race, the Secretary of Administration during his tenure as Governor, Viola Baskerville, is endorsing McClellan. “I’ve known Jennifer for decades, and I encouraged her to run for the 71st House District seat upon my retirement,” said Baskerville, who is also a former member of the House of Delegates and was the first Black woman to run for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia. “I realized then that she was a natural leader. Jennifer embodies principled, authentic and knowledgeable leadership. She is well aware of Virginia’s past and deeply committed to a better and brighter future for everyone.”
Baskerville is not the only person who spent time serving in Kaine’s administration to endorse McClellan on Friday. “Coronavirus has made it painfully clear that our current economic situation is unlike any we have ever seen before,” said former Commerce Secretary Patrick Gottschalk. “To build a future economy that works for all Virginians, we need innovative solutions from an experienced leader with a new vision. Jennifer McClellan is that leader and that is why we need her to be the next Governor of Virginia.”
Endorsements in nominating contests hold much more weight than they do in general elections. Voters in a political party often seek the candidate that has shown they have the best chance of building a coalition and defeating the other party when it matters. But still, the support of establishment leaders within the party is likely what is most important during this process. “The blueprint is someone like Obama in 2008: build momentum behind the scenes so that, if and when you do win over the public, you have the institutional backing to punch the ball over the goal line,” said Dr. Meagher. “You need to resonate with the public, but that’s often not enough if you don’t have the party behind you.”
Candidates have the next seven months, or potentially even longer due to redistricting, to build a coalition of support before voters choose a nominee.
“I’m proud to have the endorsement of so many grassroots community leaders and elected officials from across Virginia,” said Senator. McClellan on Friday. “Our campaign continues to pick up momentum with support from across the Commonwealth. Virginia Democrats are ready to move forward with a future-focused vision that rebuilds the economy and strengthens our education and health care systems in every community.”
Here is a full list of the endorsements that Senator McClellan announced on Friday.
McClellan’s 30 new endorsements are:
- Hon. Viola Baskerville, former Virginia Secretary of Administration under Gov. Tim Kaine, former Delegate (Richmond), and first African-American woman to run for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor
- Hon. Patrick Gottschalk, former Virginia Secretary of Commerce under Gov. Kaine
- Hon. Javaid Siddiqi, PhD, former Virginia Secretary of Education and former Chesterfield County School Board Chair
- Henrico Co. Sheriff Alisa Gregory
- Prince Edward Co. Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark
- Harrisonburg Vice-Mayor Sal Romero
- Lynchburg City Council Member Treney Tweedy, who became the first African-American woman mayor of Lynchburg in 2018
- Alexandria City Council Member John Chapman
- Roanoke City Council Member Patricia White-Boyd
- Staunton City Council Member Brenda Mead
- Richmond City Council Member-Elect Katherine Jordan
- Dumfries Town Council Member Cydny A. Neville
- Chesterfield County Commissioner of Revenue Jenefer Hughes
- Newport News Commissioner of Revenue Tiffany Boyle
- Pastor Michelle Thomas, faith and community leader; member of the Loudoun County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Directors
- Rev. F. Todd Gray, faith and community leader, Richmond
- Dr. Rodney D. Waller, faith and community leader, Richmond
- Dr. Lance D. Watson, faith and community leader, Henrico
- Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington
- Stephen Adkins, community leader, Charles City County
- Debra Gardner, community leader and former candidate for Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors
- Deanna Fierro, education advocate and former candidate for Richmond City School Board
- Morgan Goodman, environmental scientist & former candidate for Delegate, Hanover County
- Lakshmi Challa, immigration attorney, Richmond
- Dr. Wendy Klein, physician & health equity advocate, Richmond
- Amy Wentz, community leader and former candidate for Richmond City Council
- Leni Gonzalez, Latino community leader, Arlington
- Glenda Scales, community leader, Blacksburg
- Joseph Papa, community advocate, Richmond
- Mahmud Chowdhury, business leader, Richmond
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