RICHMOND, Va. -- Starting at 6 o’clock on Tuesday morning, election day polls open in primary contests across the Commonwealth. In what is the largest prize of the day, Virginia Democrats will select their candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General.
All three races have seen hotly contested races, with more than a dozen candidates between the three positions. At the top of the ticket in the governor’s race, five candidates spent the closing days of the campaign trying to separate themselves from a crowded field that includes a former governor, experienced legislators and a democratic socialist.
The winner of this primary battle is seen as a litmus test for where Virginia Democrats want to go as a party moving forward.
Former Governor Terry McAuliffe spent Monday traveling across the Commonwealth talking with small business owners, teachers, and voters. McAuliffe, who is running a pseudo-incumbent since Virginia law prevents governors from seeking consecutive terms, said his plans focus on the post-COVID recovery.
“Let’s make Virginia number one, but we have big, huge inequities we have to fix, especially in housing, education, and health care delivery,” McAuliffe said. “My message to everybody is we got to go big, and we got to go bold. We can’t tinker around the edges. The states that build back better coming out COVID, stronger, are those states that are going to thrive the next 40-50 years.”
McAuliffe argued that endorsements from hundreds of local and state leaders show Democrats want his experience in the Executive Mansion during this moment of recovery.
“Twice as many members of the General Assembly have endorsed me as everyone else combined,” he said.
The other candidates in the race have cast McAuliffe as a leader of the past who is not suited to meet the moment, especially following last summer’s racial justice protests across Virginia. State Senator Jeniffer McClellan (Richmond), Jennifer Carroll Foy, and Del. Lee Carter (Manassas) have been most pointed in their attacks on McAuliffe.
“Inevitability only exists if we allow it to. Virginians are ready for change. They’re ready for a new leader with clear ideas and a bold vision to move us forward,” said Carroll Foy during an interview while traveling from Petersburg to Northern Virginia.
The former public defender, delegate and current working mother said her upbringing in Petersburg, a city that experienced decades of economic disinvestment and educational inequities, informs her policy positions.
“I can say that I have a record of always being on the right side of working families and marginalized who have needed the most help. I understand the issues that they face. It’s not just about empathizing; I’ve been unable to afford the high cost of health care and had to work multiple jobs living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
Carroll Foy said bringing quality, high-paying jobs with health care to undersized communities and fully funding public education are top priorities.
State Senator McClellan spent Monday in Richmond and Charlottesville, meeting with canvassers and voters to energize her supporters ahead of election day. McClellan said her campaign has focused on connecting with voters on a grassroots level, saying her campaign has contacted hundreds of thousands of Virginian voters during the primary.
“They’re ready for the next generation of leadership, not to go backward,” McClellan said.
At Broad Rock Park Monday afternoon, McClellan thanked organizers with New Virginia Majority, one of several progressive groups who have endorsed her campaign. She said her work as a legislator for more than 15 years shows she has the experience and connection with activists to set her apart from the field.
“I bring a new perspective and the next generation of leadership, but also, the experience to get things done on day one. And on most issues people care about, I’ve been doing the work for a long time,” she said.
Delegate Lee Carter was the chairman of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in Virginia and embraces the label of democratic socialist. Carter told CBS News his economic platform is focused on worker's rights and said he refuses to take campaign contributions from large corporations and political action committees connected to big business.
“I’m the only candidate in this primary that’s 100% grassroots funded, so the people of Virginia know I’m working 100% for them and not for any of these special interests out there,” Carter said during a weekend interview. “I’m going to fight to make sure that you don’t just have a job working for someone else, that you have ownership and control over your workplace and ownership and control over your own economic destiny.”
Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax cited his tie-breaking votes in the Virginia Senate to pass Medicaid expansion and marijuana legalization in Virginia as examples of his focus on issues of justice.
“I’m going to fight to make sure that you don’t just have a job working for someone else, that you have ownership and control over your workplace, and ownership and control over your own economic destiny,” he said. “There are so many people who feel like they’ve been left behind. They feel like they really need a champion in government that has their back and understands their experiences.”
The Lt. Governor’s race is also a crowded field for Democrats. Six people are seeking the nomination:
- Delegate Hala Ayala
- Delegate Sam Rasoul
- Andria McClellan
- Sean Perryman
- Delegate Mark Levine
- Xavier Warren
Delegate Elizabeth Guzman will appear on the ballot but has withdrawn from the contest.
A poll conducted in April by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University found that Del. Rasoul had an edge, but 68% of voters they surveyed were still undecided in the race.
In Attorney General’s contest, Mark Herring is seeking a third term in office but faces a pointed challenge from Delegate Jay Jones, who is part of a young, progressive group of state lawmakers and received the endorsement of Governor Northam.
Virginia Republicans selected their statewide candidates at a party convention last month. Glen Youngkin won the nomination for Governor, Winsome Sears is the GOP Lt. Governor nominee, and Delegate Jason Miyares is the party’s Attorney General candidate.
The Virginia Public Access Project reports 114,000 ballots were cast early in the 2021 primary. In 2017, the last gubernatorial primary for Virginia Democrats, 542,000 ballots were cast total, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
For more information on election day polling places and local races in your area, visit this website.