Virginia is one of the two states holding their gubernatorial elections later this year, with the Democratic and Republican parties fronting several frontrunners for the November contest. The GOP’s top contenders vying for the spot include Kirk Cox, Amanda Chase, Sergio De La Pena, Peter Doran, and Pete Snyder. Although disputed, GOP has organized a convention in May to nominate the formation’s flag-bearer.
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Similarly, the Democratic Party has attracted five candidates, including Jennifer McClellan, and Lee J. Carter, Jennifer Carroll, Terry McAuliffe, and Justin Edward Fairfax. The hotly contested seat, profoundly shaped by the state’s increasing clamor for social justice, demands that each of the contestants fully exploit their strengths and mobilize their support base if they are to win. Although Dem McAuliffe is anchoring his candidacy on his experience at the office, Senator Amanda Chase of the Republican Party is banking her chances of winning the ticket on her close alliance with ex-President Trump.
Terry McAuliffe ranks prominently high among the Democrat’s contenders for the party’s flag-bearer. He was the predecessor of the current Dem Governor Ralph Northam and served between 2014 and 2018. Terry’s popularity as a former governor and his experience in the office provides an immense advantage and boasts of strong ties with the state’s older Black leaders. He demonstrated his appeal to the Black electorate, which constitutes a quarter of Virginia’s total, by launching his campaign drive alongside an exclusive band of African American leaders. For instance, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, State Senator Louise Lucas, and the House majority Chief Charniele Herring graced the commencement of Terry’s vote-hunting drive.
Additionally, his popularity ratings skyrocketed after vetoing the GOP-sponsored anti-abortion laws, defense of reproductive rights, and the proactive restoration of voting rights for the 173,000 formerly incarcerated felons (Shineman 14). McAuliffe has also attracted high-profile endorsements, including that of the incumbent, and has a significant edge in fundraising, generating more funds than all the other candidates combined (Schneider). From this perspective, Terry enjoys a strong multiracial and expansively diverse support base, even from some independents and mild Republicans.
Jennifer Carol Foy
A former House delegate representing Stafford and Prince William counties, Jennifer Carol Foy, is utilizing her background to propel her quest for the Democratic Party past the other four contenders. When she launched her campaign, Foy said that the experience she acquired from being raised by her grandparents in an impoverished city, schooling, and graduating from the Virginia Military Institute would make her an effective leader (Rankin).
Foy also argues that she is the best fit to serve the Virginians since she has lived the experiences of being underpaid and unable to pay student loans, challenges afflicting most of the population. Serving as a foster parent, an attorney, and a public defender equips her with the requisite strength of working with the electorate and the intimate understanding of the masses’ daily struggles.
Arguably, the increasing number of Democrats calling for more women and African Americans to take positions in government positions her strategically. Foy could also exploit the relieving realization of the first-ever black female governor in the United States. Her perceived base support comprises the expanding black voting block and women caucuses. She differs from McAuliffe by projecting herself as one of the ordinary Virginians, her relatively modest campaign resources, and the absence of high-profile endorsements.
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State Senator Jennifer McClellan
After serving 15 years in the legislature and helping shape the state’s political landscape, Jennifer McClellan seeks to succeed Governor Northam. Her pursuit is strengthened by her vast experience in legislative work, which she believes is a crucial asset that gives her the perfect perspective for the executive roles. Notably, McClellan has a robust support base for the ordinary people, earned through a series of sponsored progressive bills targeting to improve domestic workers, teachers, and daycare employees (DeFusco).
Additionally, she enjoys the support and endorsement of Democrats, including Senator Mamie Locke, Care in Action, and members of the General Assembly over her voting record in the civil rights and criminal justice system, among others. McClellan differs from her competitors in the number of years she has served in various positions, which gives her an edge over other contestants.
Justin Edward Fairfax
Hoping to use his current position as lieutenant governor of Virginia as a stepping stone, Justin Fairfax formally announced his entry for the gubernatorial position. The former federal prosecutor announced his bid with particular emphasis on his status as a descendant of enslaved Americas (Vozzella). He is inspired by Lieutenant Douglas Wilder, who exploited a similar position and became the state’s governor. Notably, Fairfax enjoys the advantage of incumbency, experience, and having won the elective lieutenant seat in 2018. He also seeks to appeal to the Black race, as seen through the emphasis on his allusion to slavery. Fairfax differs from the other contestants since he is currently serving as a first-time elected official, and the accusations of sexual assault hang above his name.
A high-profile far-right Republican, Amanda Chase, has increasingly embraced a Trump-like persona to woo voters and solidify her hard-right support base. She is currently serving as a member of the Virginia Senate for the state’s 11th District, encompassing a section of Chesterfield County, the city of Colonial Heights, and Amelia County. Chase has aggressively ex-President Trump’s conspiracy theories and allegations of widespread electoral illegalities to appeal to the ousted leader’s devoted base (Reid). This distinctive attribute and firebrand political nature sets her apart from the other contenders and is likely to play an influential role in the outcome of the Republican primaries.
A retired teacher and a former GOP Virginia House Speaker, Kirk Cox, announced his bid to run for the state’s governorship on a Republican ticket. Cox is pitching the pursuit of his strengths as a widely known and admired teacher who invited his students to observe the legislative processes in the House. Additionally, he broke from Trump’s administrative policies in 2018, particularly regarding Medicaid expansion, which was overwhelmingly supported by Virginians (Cheslow). This reflects Cox’s strong consciousness of local politics and keen desire to effectively respond to the interests of his constituents despite the influences at the national level.
Sergio De La Pena
Sergio De La Pena is a highly decorated retired military officer and ex-President Trump appointee banking on his professional and personal experiences to clinch the gubernatorial seat. Originally from Mexico, he seeks to mobilize the immigrant citizens by promising to support programs that can help people from other countries establish themselves and thrive in the United States (Fordham). Notably, this attribute sets him apart from the other contestants, a characteristic he deems a strength. In his view, the continued presence of similar candidates by the Republicans has contributed to their losing streak. In this regard, De La Pena enjoys the advantage of coming from a different background and could potentially appeal to a broader demographic than his rivals.
Former CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis and a business magnate, Peter Doran, is making his first entry into politics by running for Virginia’s governorship. Among his prominent strengths is his vast experience and knowledge of a wide range of policy issues, including helping the former Soviet countries to re-establish themselves after being ravaged by socialism (Vozzella). Doran is running on a platform of injecting new ideas into Virginia’s political landscape, which career politicians have dominated for years. Although this is his strongest point, it could be disadvantageous due to the lack of experience in elective positions, a distinctive attribute differentiating him from the other contestants.
Octavia Johnson is an African American and a former Roanoke City Sheriff competing to be the Republican Party’s flag-bearer for Virginia’s gubernatorial race. She was elected as the city’s sheriff in 2005 and served eight years before retiring (Petska). Notably, this is one of her strengths which she intends to exploit as an individual who genuinely understands the issues facing the locals. Additionally, Johnson is the only black woman contesting for the GOP’s ticket, which is a distinctive attribute that potentially appeals to moderate Republicans and the African American voting bloc.
The State of Virginia goes to the polls in November to elect its next governor in one of the first state-wide electoral contestations in the post-Trump era. The race has attracted multiple contenders from both sides of the political aisle. The Republican Party has attracted seven contestants for the ticket, including serving politicians, former state officers, and business people, who intend to appeal to a larger voting bloc to end their losing streak. Similarly, the Democratic formation has enlisted high-profile contestants, including a former governor, to ensure that the Republicans do not clinch the seat. While some candidates are pitching their pursuit on their vast experience, appealing to the state’s changing demographics and the influences of ex-President Trump could play an integral in determining the outcome of the race.
Cheslow, Daniella. “Virginia’s Former GOP House Speaker Kirk Cox Announces Governor Campaign to ‘Fight Back’ Against Democrats.” dcist. 2020. Web.
DeFusco, Jackie. “Sen. Jennifer McClellan Announces Bid for Governor, Tow Black Women Now Running in Virginia.” ABC News. 2020. Web.
Fordham, Evie. “Sergio De La Pena, immigrant who Grew Up on ‘Dirt Floors’, Says He’s Only Republican Who Can Win VA Gov.” Fox News. 2021. Web.
Rankin, Sarah. “Northern Virginia Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy Formally Launches Bid for Governor.” The Virginian-Pilot, 2020. Web.
Petska, Alicia. “Former Roanoke Sheriff Johnson Announces Run for Governor.” The Roanoke Times. 2021. Web.
Reid, Tim. “In Virginia Governor’s Race, Trump’s False Stolen-Election Claim Looms Large.” Reuters. 2021. Web.
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Schneider, Gregory. “University Poll Shows McAuliffe With Significant Lead in Race for Democratic Nomination for Governor.” The Washington Post. 2021. Web.
Shineman, Victoria. “Restoring Rights, Restoring Trust: Evidence That Reversing Felon Disenfranchisement Penalties Increases Both Trust And Cooperation With Government.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2018, pp. 1−36. Web.
Vozzella, Laura. “Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax Says He is Formally Entering 2021 Race for Virginia Governor.” The Washington Post. 2020. Web.
—. “Former Think Tank Leader Joins Race for Virginia Governor.” The Washington Post. 2021. Web.