Record number of Black candidates enter statewide races

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/11/2021, 6 p.m.
A record 11 Black candidates are competing for the Democratic or Republican nomination for statewide office.

A record 11 Black candidates are competing for the Democratic or Republican nomination for statewide office.

Five are running for governor, four for lieutenant governor and three for attorney general from the major parties.

Whether any of the Black candidates in the race are nominated or will win will be determined in the coming months. But the influx of candidates speaks to how far the state has come since 1985 when L. Douglas Wilder ran and won election as the state’s first elected Black lieutenant governor.

Though all face what appear to be uphill climbs to join Mr. Wilder and current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax as statewide winners, one candidate already has gotten an unexpected boost to his prospects.

In a surprise move, Democratic Gov. Ralph S. Northam last week endorsed Norfolk Delegate Jay Jones for attorney general. Delegate Jones is going head-to-head in the June 8 Democratic primary against incumbent Mark R. Herring, who is seeking a third term as the state’s lawyer. The governor’s action last week raised Delegate Jones’ profile as a serious and substantial challenger.

Mr. Herring countered quickly with an endorsement from House Majority Leader Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who, like Delegate Jones, is a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

The attorney general previously has been endorsed by other members of the VLBC, including Sen. L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, the president pro tempore of the Senate.

In the contest for governor, the number of Black candidates rose to five after former Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson entered the race for the Republican nomination last week.

Though the state GOP is still wrestling with how to hold its planned May 8 nominating convention, Ms. Johnson is now part of a crowded field that includes Chesterfield state Sen. Amanda F. Chase; former House Speaker M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox of Colonial Heights; retired Army Col. Sergio de la Pena of Fairfax County; and three businessmen, Peter Doran ofArlington, Pete Snyder of Charlottesville and Glenn Youngkin of Falls Church.

On the Democratic side, three of the candidates are Black, including Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Richmond state Sen. Jennifer Mc- Clellan, former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William County.

To gain victory in the June 8 Democratic primary and the right to carry the party’s banner into the November general election, though, each faces the task of getting past the acknowledged front-runner, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Northern Virginia, who has outstripped them all in fundraising and endorsements. The field also includes Manassas Delegate Lee Carter.

Activist Princess Blanding of Middlesex County, sister of the late Marcus-David Peters, who was shot to death by a Richmond Police officer in 2018 while experiencing what has been described as a mental health crisis, is running under the Liberation Party.

Among the eight Democrats vying to replace Lt. Gov. Fairfax, two are Black candidates from Northern Virginia, Samuel Perryman, counsel to a technology lobbying group, and Xavier Warren, a lobbyist for nonprofits and an agent for NFL players.

Also in the mix are Delegate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, the son of Palestinian immigrants who joined the VLBC; two Latinas from Northern Virginia, Delegates Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman; Fairfax County Delegate Mark Levine; former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman of Richmond and Norfolk City Councilwoman Adrian McClellan, no relation to the Richmond state senator.

On the Republican side, the lieutenant governor candidates include one Black person, former Delegate Winsome E. Sears of Norfolk. Her competition includes businessman and former Delegate Tim Hugo of Fairfax County, Virginia Beach Delegate Glenn R. Davis Jr. and two Northern Vir- ginia businessmen, Puneet Ahluwalia and Lance Allen.

For attorney general, the GOP features two Black candidates, Chuck Smith of Virginia Beach, a retired Navy attorney with the Judge Advocate General Corps, and Northern Virginia attorney Jack White.

Also seeking the GOP nomination are Virginia Beach Delegate Jason Miyares and attorney and Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley.