Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe makes it official: He wants another 4 years

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/10/2020, 6 p.m.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been saying for months he wants his old job back. On Wednesday, Mr. McAuliffe made …
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, center, vows to raise teacher pay as he launches his campaign Wednesday outside Miles Jones Elementary School in South Side. Joining him are, from left, Richmond educator Dr. Milondra b. Coleman, Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele L. Herring of Alexandria, state Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth and Mayor Levar M. Stoney. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been saying for months he wants his old job back.

On Wednesday, Mr. McAuliffe made his bid official.

He formally jumped into the crowded field of Democratic rivals as he launched his bid to win the party’s nomination to run for a second, four-year term and take on energized Republicans who are expected to choose a candidate who can strongly vie for the state’s top office.

Accompanied by several Black elected officials, including his protégé, Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Mr. McAuliffe stood in front of Miles Jones Elementary School in South Side to begin pitching voters to reinstate him as the state’s chief executive.

A generally popular figure while in office, Mr. McAuliffe vowed to “think big and be bold” and emphasized his plan to raise teacher pay and recruit more people to be educators.

If elected, he said his top goals would be to increase Virginia teacher pay above the national average and to provide free college tuition for students who make a five-year commitment to educating schoolchildren in the state.

Mr. McAuliffe said he also would continue efforts from his first term to attract new businesses, ensure affordable health care, build a clean energy economy and address the need for affordable housing.

Known for his campaign energy and fund-raising prowess, the former governor already is considered the front-runner in a contest that is expected to be among the most expensive ever for Virginia.

Still, he faces an uphill climb to win the party’s nomination in next June’s Democratic primary election.

His opponents include two Black women, state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan of Richmond and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William County, who resigned her office this week to run full time; and Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, who also is African-American.

Seeking to show his own strong support among the most loyal bloc of the Democratic Party, Mr. McAuliffe was accompanied during his announcement Wednesday not only by Mayor Stoney, but also by two ranking members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, House Majority Leader Charniele L. Herring of Alexandria and state Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, who described Mr. McAuliffe as “tested leadership.”

Also joining in endorsing him was Dr. Milondra B. Coleman, a history teacher at John Marshall High School and a past president of the Richmond Education Association.

All three of his rivals remain undaunted.

In a statement, Sen. McClellan stated she has built a 15-year record of progressive leadership and is prepared to go toe to toe with Mr. McAuliffe to give voters an opportunity to decide who is most qualified to lead them.

“I am running for governor because of the power and courage” that Virginians have shown during the pandemic in education, business and other aspects of life, she stated.

“This campaign is about them. Throughout my decades in public service, I’ve fought for a brighter future and more opportunities for every Virginian — and that’s what I’ll do as governor,” she stated.

Separately, Ms. Carroll Foy was more direct in delivering her first shot.

“While I respect Terry McAuliffe’s service, he doesn’t understand the problems Virginians face,” she said. “A former political party boss and multimillionaire, Terry McAuliffe is simply out of touch with everyday Virginians.”

In her view, “politicians like Terry McAuliffe are interested in maintaining the status quo. But Virginians want someone who understands their problems as I do because I have lived them.

“Our future demands someone with vision, creativity and the tenacity to fight for what is right,” stated Ms. Carroll Foy, an attorney who has worked as a public defender and magistrate judge. “We need a leader who is willing to solve problems.”

Lt. Gov. Fairfax also is ready to take on the former governor based on the record of legislation that has passed during his tenure as the No. 2 elected official to current Gov. Ralph S. Northam, who served as Mr. McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past three years to provide health insurance to more than 400,000 Virginians” through the expansion of Medicaid, Lt. Gov. Fairfax stated.

He also noted the successful passage of legislation that will raise the minimum wage next year and touted approved increases in teacher pay and the efforts “to reform our racially discriminatory criminal justice system.”

“The future of our politics,” the lieutenant governor said, “must be about lifting up all Virginians” and about providing “justice, fairness, opportunity and hope to those who have been denied them too long.”

Taking on Mr. McAuliffe is expected to be a bit tougher for Lt. Gov. Fairfax, who has spent much of the past two years trying to eliminate the tarnish from uncorroborated and unsubstantiated claims from two women that he sexually assaulted them two decades ago. Lt. Gov. Fairfax has strongly denied the allegations, but his calls for law enforcement investigations have gone nowhere.

Even as his Democratic rivals sought to blunt his entry into the race, Mr. McAuliffe also drew expected criticism from Republicans.

In a statement, the state GOP described Mr. McAuliffe’s first term as governor “as the definition of style over substance” and described him as a leader “who stands for himself.”

“Virginians need a leader who will sacrifice for them and not put their own egos and ambitions above the public good,” the statement continued.

Former House Speaker Kirk, a front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, stated that Virginians need to understand that Mr. McAuliffe is running because his ambitions for president collapsed.

“The governorship should not be a consolation prize for a failed national politician,” Mr. Cox stated.

A retired teacher, Mr. Cox stated that if Mr. McAuliffe were sincere about his efforts to invest more in teachers and education, he would “have done more during his first term. In fact, the Republican legislature invested more in our schools than Mr. McAuliffe proposed during each year of his first term. The people of Virginia deserve better.”