With only a couple days to go until primary day in Virginia, Democrats are getting prepared. After nearly a year of campaigning from some candidates, the statewide slate will be decided. Candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General will be nominated. But this year, unlike in years past, multiple nominees seem almost certain to win. However, that doesn’t mean predictions can’t be made. And one nomination is still competitive, and is one that could have long term consequences.
Governor: Hit the Mark Morrison, it’s the Return of T(he)-Mac.
The gubernatorial primary has been decided for a while now. Once former Governor Terry McAuliffe jumped in, the primary was decided. McAuliffe is going to win this race barring a miracle akin to Jesus coming back from the dead or the Toronto Maple Leafs getting out of the first round. The real thing to watch in this race is who comes second. That person may be able to translate that into staying viable for future statewide runs.
Of the four remaining candidates, it feels like Lieutenant Governor Fairfax and Delegate Lee Carter will finish 4th and 5th. They have raised little and have spent little. And while each may have their own section of support, it won’t be enough for either of them to probably get more than 7%. The real race for second is between State Senator Jennifer McClellan and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll-Foy. Carroll-Foy has beaten McClellan in the money game, mainly thanks to large donations from Sonjia Smith and the Clean Virginia Fund. However, Carroll-Foy has also rubbed some people and voters the wrong way this race. First, by resigning as Delegate instead of finishing out her term after the last session. Secondly, Carroll-Foy has lied about endorsements, specifically one from NARAL, who endorsed McClellan.
McClellan has come out a bit cleaner this primary, and has a decent base from Richmond. That, along with the fact she hasn’t really upset anyone, might give her the legs to finish second to McAuliffe. With McClellan also keeping her seat in the State Senate, a decent performance would allow her to stay in the spotlight after the race. That could put her in a good position for the future, with an eye to 2025.
Lieutenant Governor: Rasoul has the advantage, but victory is not guaranteed.
The most competitive Statewide nominating contest for Virginia democrats comes in the Lieutenant Governors race. With current Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax running for Governor, this race was wide open. And the candidate list shows that. Six candidates are running for this race, made up of three current delegates, a city councilwoman, a former Fairfax NAACP President and a sports agent.
Now, only four of these candidates seem to have a legitimate chance. The two that are very much on the outside looking in are Xavier Warren, the aforementioned sports agent and Delegate Mark Levine. Now, Levine is a bit of a wildcard. He has recently started using his wealth to spend heavily in the race at the very end. While late spending does not mean as much, in a low information primary it could see him surprise. But it is incredibly unlikely that it will be enough to push him over the edge.
The four that do have a path come from varying backgrounds and politics. The favorite is Delegate Sam Rasoul, who represents the city of Roanoke. Rasoul is a progressive and practicing Muslim, who’s running on representing all of Virginia. His perceived closest competition is Delegate Hala Ayala, from Prince William County. She can be described as your typical Northern Virginia Democrat. Not far behind is Sean Perryman, a former President of the Fairfax NAACP and arguably the most progressive candidate in the race. And finally Andrea McClellan, a Norfolk City Councilwoman, who’s the most moderate and business friendly of the four.
This race has continually been close and with so little polling, its been hard to describe a favorite. It does feel like though, that Rasoul has the most base support, having raised the most money. The limited polling has shown Rasoul ahead as well, although not with any number that would be hard to overcome. Ayala has the endorsement of the establishment, with Governor Northam and Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn backing her. But Ayala has also come under late controversy, having accepted money from Dominion Energy after previously refusing it. And Rasoul was able to secure the endorsement of the still influential Washington Post, which was a surprise to some folks.
The fight for this race will be in Northern Virginia, and whoever can come out on top there will likely win the nomination. I do believe that once the votes are counted, Sam Rasoul will be the nominee for Lieutenant Governor. However, Hala Ayala certainly still has a path, and if you want a good upset pick, I think Sean Perryman has a lot of activist energy behind his campaign that could put him over the top. I think the order in the end goes Rasoul, Ayala, Perryman, McClellan, Levine, Warren.
Attorney General: Mark Herring Favored to Survive
Finally, we get to the Attorney General race. Two term incumbent Mark Herring originally was running for governor, but dropped out to run for a slightly unprecedented third term for Attorney General. Some felt that left him open to a primary challenge from the left. He proceeded to get one in the form of Norfolk based delegate Jay Jones. Jones, who is only 32, black, and progressive, immediately made some noise. He’s kept decently close with Herring in fundraising, majority helped by the Clean Virginia Fund. He has also been endorsed by Governor Northam over Mark Herring for this run. Some argue its because of Northam’s connections to the area and general agreements with Jones, while others argue it’s a way to get back at Herring for calling strongly for Northam to resign over the “Governor Blackface” incident.
Even with all this though, Jones hasn’t been able to break through. He failed to get a still crucial endorsement from The Washington Post. Jones also hasn’t been able to gain ground in vote heavy Northern Virginia, with most of the crucial endorsements from the area, including one from Speaker Filler-Corn and Majority Leader Charniele Herring of the House, going to Herring. Senate Pro Tem Louise Lucas, one of the most influential black politicians in Virginia, also chose Herring over Jones. And the limited polling seen has had Herring getting a majority of the vote, with Jones struggling with name recognition.
There are certainly a few scenarios where Jones pulls a slight upset. But those scenarios are incredibly unlikely, and Herring definitely has a geographical advantage with heavy support in Northern Virginia. This race isn’t as safe for Herring as the Governor race is safe for McAuliffe, but it’s close to that mark. Herring will be set to go for a third term for Attorney General.
The Final Matchup
If all of these predictions come true the Democratic ticket will be McAuliffe/Rasoul/Herring. Three men, with only one who can be considered a minority. Certainly not the diverse ticket some expected from Virginia democrats in 2019 or even 2020, but it’s still a good ticket. McAuliffe and Herring have done this before, and Rasoul has shown a very strong ability to fundraise. The matchups will be interesting, especially the race between Rasoul and Sears for Lieutenant Governor, since both would arguably be the most left-wing and right-wing members of the ticket, respectively. The votes still have to be counted however, and we will see you, hopefully, with us at Elections Daily on June 8th for our live coverage of the results of the Virginia Democratic primary.