Mayor Stoney jumps into governor’s race

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/7/2023, 6 p.m.
Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, after months of hinting, this week made it official that he will be in the ...
Mayor Stoney

Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, after months of hinting, this week made it official that he will be in the race for governor in 2025 and quickly began picking up endorsements.

Now in his final year as the city’s chief executive, the 42-year-old mayor filed paperwork and on Monday formally announced his bid in a video. In the video, he focused on the Horatio Alger-style narrative he plans to run on — his rise from humble beginnings in which he overcame challenges to become the first in his family to graduate from high school and college and become the leader of the state’s capital city.

“That’s why I’m running for governor. For families like mine that just need an opportunity. For kids like me who will thrive in school if they just get the right chance,” he said. “And for parents like my dad, who work multiple jobs and still struggle to live a secure, middle class life.

Mayor Stoney was raised by his father and grandmother in York County, graduated from James Madison University and served as the secretary of the commonwealth under former Gov. Terry McAuliffe before running successfully for his first term as mayor in 2016.

The Virginia Senate’s senior Democrat, L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth headed a list of initial endorsers along with Hampton state Sen. Mamie E. Locke, chair of the Senate Caucus, and Richmond state Sen. Lamont Bagby, a Senate whip and chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Other endorsers include Charlottesville state Sen. Creigh Deeds, current and incoming Richmond area delegates Destiny Bolling, Jeffrey M. Bourne, Michael J. Jones and Delores L. McQuinn and former Delegate Richard Cranwell of Roanoke.

Mayor Stoney, undeterred by polls showing him with less than 40% approval ratings in Richmond, is headed into a Democratic nomination contest that already features 7th District U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who has served three terms and is hoping to become Virginia’s first female governor.

Still a presidential election away, the race could attract more Democratic contenders.

On the Republican side, Attorney General Jason Y. Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears are expected to run, though neither has yet announced a bid to succeed current Republican Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin, who is barred by the state constitution from seeking a second term.

In opening his bid, Mayor Stoney did not refer to the development deals he backed and that ultimately were rebuffed by City Council or the voters, including the Navy Hill plan to overhaul Downtown and the proposed luxury casino-resort for South Side.

Instead, he claimed he had “transformed a city that had neglected schools, had a broken budget, and crumbling infrastructure and turned it around.” He cited the four school buildings built or underway during his tenure, without mentioning the more than 30 aged and crumbling schools that remain untouched.

He also cited as positives the creation of budget surpluses, the additional paving of streets that has taken place while in office and the decline in poverty from 26% to 19%, still among the highest levels in the state.

Along with introducing himself and mentioning that he and his wife, Brandy, are expecting their first child, Mayor Stoney also used his video to criticize the Youngkin administration.

“I think many Virginians are sick of a governor who was out there focused on banning abortion and banning books and making it harder for people to vote instead of actually focused on how do they climb the economic ladder into the middle class,” he said.

He quickly drew return fire.

The governor’s press office issued a retort citing Gov. Youngkin’s approval rating.

The state Republican Party went further, labeling Mayor Stoney a “far-left radical” who has failed as Richmond’s mayor and would be “a disaster for Virginia.”