Democratic shakeup in Virginia primaries for governor, lieutenant governor

FILE - Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, back left, and Virginia Delegate Rodney Willett, back middle, look on as Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaks during a campaign rally for Virginia State Delegates Willett and Schuyler VanValkenburg on Nov. 4, 2023, Henrico, Va. Stoney announced Monday Dec. 4, 2023 that he will run for Virginia governor in 2025. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

By Michael O'Connor

April 23, 2024

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney quit his bid for governor and jumped into the race to be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

The race for governor and lieutenant governor in Virginia just got more interesting.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ended Tuesday his bid to become the Democratic nominee for governor in November 2025 and announced he would instead enter the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. In a statement posted on Facebook, Stoney cited wanting to “avoid a costly and damaging primary” and noted his path to victory in the governor’s race was a “narrow” one.

“Given everything at stake in the next Governor’s race – from reproductive rights to education funding and tax fairness – I believe this is a time when Democrats must stand united and avoid an ugly primary for Governor,” Stoney said.

Stoney’s exit leaves US Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) without a challenger in the Democratic primary to become the nominee in the governor’s race next year. The Democrats will hold their primary sometime in June 2025 and Spanberger, a prolific fundraiser, is likely to have a relatively easy path to the nomination, Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said in an interview.

“Spanberger will have a much clearer path,” Farnsworth said, adding the strength of her position will likely discourage others from jumping in the race.

Shortly after news broke of Stoney’s jumping into the lieutenant governor’s race, state Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach) announced his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. The former Green Bay Packer and Virginia Beach City Council member also announced endorsements from state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton).

“He has held the line against Republican attacks on a woman’s right to choose, on Virginia workers, on public education, and so much more,” Lucas said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Aaron has had my back in the Senate, and I am proud to endorse his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.”

Stoney’s late entry to the lieutenant governor’s race puts him at a disadvantage but he could benefit from there being more candidates in what is typically a low-turnout primary, Farnsworth said.

Stoney and Rouse did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Dogwood.

Meanwhile, Sen Ghazala Hashmi, (D-Chesterfield), is widely expected to enter the Democratic lieutenant governor’s race, though she has not officially announced. Her office declined to comment today to Dogwood beyond saying in a text that “big news is coming soon.”

Virginia is holding elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in November 2025. In Virginia, there are term limits that prevent governors from serving two terms in a row, so current Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin cannot run again.

Merle Rutledge appears to be the only candidate who has announced plans to run for the Republican nomination, though more recognizable names like current Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears or Attorney General Jason Miyares are likely to enter the race at some point.

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  • Michael O'Connor

    Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering Virginia news since 2013 with reporting stints at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Business, and Richmond BizSense. A graduate of William & Mary and Northern Virginia Community College, he also covered financial news for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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