Diverse slate of candidates vie for lieutenant governor and attorney general in Democratic primary

Reginald Stuart | 5/20/2021, 6 p.m.
Virginia government relies on an effective leadership team at the top — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Virginia government relies on an effective leadership team at the top — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The lieutenant governor, while a part-time official, serves the important function presiding over the state Senate and breaking any tie votes. The lieutenant governor also would ascend to the role of governor should the governor become unable to serve.

The attorney general represents the state in all legal matters. With more than 300 staffers, the Office of the Attorney General gets involved in a range of legal issues, from clarifying child support rules, sorting out hurricane, tornado and flood damage disputes, getting law enforcement agencies to do their jobs correctly and fairly to resolving wage and workers’ compensation differences.

The office also represents the state’s posture in dealing with federal issues ranging from health care to education aid to voting rights and equal rights to undocumented immigrants.

Six candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, while two are running for the attorney general nomination. They reflect a breadth of experience, age, gender and ethnic diversity.

The winners of the June 8 Democratic primary contests will face Republican Party challengers Winsome Sears of Winchester, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, for lieutenant governor and Delegate Jason Miyares, a Virginia Beach attorney, for attorney general in the November general election.

Here are brief looks at the Democratic primary candidates based on official campaign literature, official public statements and interviews.

6 in the running for No. 2 state post

Delegate Ayala

Delegate Ayala

Hala S. Ayala, 47, has represented Prince William County in the House of Delegates since January 2018.

A widow who lost her husband to gun violence, she is raising two children and worked for more than 20 years as a cybersecurity specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A native of Alexandria, she earned an associate degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was an immigrant from El Salvador.

Delegate Ayala worked with the PTA and statewide women’s advocacy groups. She was a founder of the Prince William chapter of the National Organization for Women and helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, which inspired her to run for elective office.

She is a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and pushed for the expansion of Medicaid health insurance in Virginia, which she said she relied on when her son was born and she had no health insurance through her job.

She also has advocated for raising teachers’ pay, tougher gun control measures, the abolition of the death penalty in Virginia and same-day voter registration.

If elected, Delegate Ayala said she would push for a program to allow Virginians to buy into the Medicaid program on the health care exchange and advocate for state financial support for families struggling with health care premiums.

Delegate Ayala reports raising more than $572,000 for her campaign.

Delegate Levine

Delegate Levine

Mark H. Levine, 55, has represented Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax in the House of Delegates since January 2016.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Delegate Levine earned a bachelor’s in economics from Harvard University and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Switzerland. He later earned a law degree from Yale Law School.

He worked briefly as a teacher before becoming a trial attorney in Los Angeles. In 1999, he was one of the four original founders of Marriage Equality California and he drafted the first law introduced in the United States to give gay couples equal rights at the state and federal levels.

When his sister was murdered in 1996, Delegate Levine drafted a measure in Tennessee to protect victims of domestic violence and their children. The measure was passed.

He said he has had four goals: To fight injustice, solve problems, increase transparency and improve people’s lives. He said his passion to fight injustice stems from the loss of his sister and his life as a gay man.

He served as assistant counsel to Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts before the congressman’s retirement in 2013.

In the House of Delegates, he started the Virginia Transparency Caucus, pushing for more transparency and livestreaming of committee proceedings.

If elected, Delegate Levine said he would work full time at the job of lieutenant governor working to bring people together and to solve problems.

Delegate Levine reports raising more than $705,000 for his campaign.

Ms. McClellan

Ms. McClellan

Andria P. McClellan, who has served on the Norfolk City Council since 2016, is the only person from Hampton Roads running for lieutenant governor.

Ms. McClellan, whose career in sales and marketing includes playing a leading role in two start-up ventures, has served on the Virginia Small Business Advisory Board, the Hampton Roads Technology Council and the Virginia Family & Children’s Trust Fund.

She was raised in Virginia Beach by a single mom and worked her way through college with a combination of PELL grants and work- study. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in 1991. She began a career in sales and marketing, working for two Fortune 500 companies. She then attended a two-year Wharton Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 before returning to Hampton Roads where she ran two small businesses.

She has lived in Norfolk since 2002 and serves on several boards and commissions. She is vice chair of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

Ms. McClellan plans to use her platform if elected lieutenant governor to help sup- port access to capital for small, women- and minority-owned businesses; boost funding for early childhood and K-12 education and workforce development training and bridge the digital divide.

Ms. McClellan reports raising more than $625,000 for her campaign.

Mr. Perryman

Mr. Perryman

Sean A. Perryman, 35, is the first in his immediate family to go to college. His father was an immigrant from Barbados and his mother grew up in segregated South Carolina.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Perryman moved with his family to Northern Virginia when he was in elementary school. He worked his way through college, earning a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College in New York. After internships at the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and the New York mayor’s office, he went on to earn a law degree from Vanderbilt University in 2011.

After law school, he went to work on Capitol Hill in Washington, noting in one interview that he quit his job with a law firm because he didn’t want to work with the firm’s client, former President Trump. He then joined the staff of the House Oversight Committee, working with the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland until the congressman’s death in 2018. Mr. Perryman helped manage the committee’s technology portfolio.

Since 2018, Mr. Perryman has served as director of social impact and diversity and inclusion policy for the Internet Association. He also served as president of the Fairfax County Branch NAACP and helped lead the effort to rename Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield to John R. Lewis High School.

If elected lieutenant governor, Mr. Perryman said he will work to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, cash bail and qualified immunity so that police and other officials can be held accountable.

Mr. Perryman reports raising more than $311,000 for his campaign.

Delegate Rasoul

Delegate Rasoul

S. “Sam” Rasoul, 39, is a native of Warren, Ohio. He grew up in the Roanoke Valley, where his family finally settled after fleeing war-torn Palestine and coming to America.

His family had three rules, he said: “Always tell the truth. Always be kind. Never give up.”

He has represented a largely Black Roanoke district in the House of Delegates since Janu- ary 2014.

Delegate Rasoul worked two jobs to earn a bachelor’s in business administration from Roa- noke College and a MBA from Hawaii Pacific University, an experience that he said opened his mind to how diverse the world is.

He works in health care, consulting with companies and nonprofit groups on health care issues.

Delegate Rasoul is one of two Muslims in the Virginia General Assembly and is a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the Rural Caucus. He has risen to become vice chairman of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Delegate Rasoul touts that he does not accept corporate PAC donations, and is running on a platform to create a Marshall Plan for Moms in Virginia that would help women, the group most affected by the pandemic, with univer- sal childcare and expanded pre-kindergarten programs, a new caregiver tax credit and paid family and medical leave.

Delegate Rasoul reports raising more than $1.2 million for his campaign, the highest amount of any of the Democrats seeking the nomination.

Mr. Warren

Mr. Warren

Xavier JaMar Warren, 32, is a partner in Congressional Partners, a Washington group that helps nonprofit organizations such as colleges, hospitals and local governments secure federal funding for a variety of ser- vices, including helping people in underserved communities.

A native of Danville, Mr. Warren earned a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, serving as a fellow at the U.S. State Department during the Obama administration.

He earned a master’s in sports management from Georgetown University, where he worked on player contracts for the Washington Football Team.

Mr. Warren, a resident of Northern Virginia, became a sports agent in 2011 and serves as a contract adviser for the NFL Players Association.

If elected, Mr. Warren said he would focus as lieutenant governor on creating jobs in the Commonwealth that pay a living wage. He would work on attracting new development while helping existing companies remain in the state and thrive.

He also said he would focus on addressing health disparities and how to better equip schools with state-of-the-art technology.

Mr. Warren reports raising more than $159,000 for his campaign.

2 face off for attorney general

Mark R. Herring, 59, is no stranger to tough challenges. In his nearly eight years as the state’s top lawyer, the native of Johnson City, Tenn., has grown a reputation as an activist attorney general taking on issues ranging from marriage equality and the opioid crisis to consumer protection.

Mr. Herring’s persistence is rooted in advice from his late mother, flight attendant Jane Waddell, who he says, in a biographical sketch, told him, “When you see a problem in your community, you have an obligation to try and fix it.”

Mr. Herring grew up in Loudoun County, on the rural outskirts of the nation’s capital. After getting a high school diploma from Loudoun Valley High School in 1979, he helped pay his way through college with part-time jobs. He earned a bachelor’s in foreign affairs and economics and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law.

After completing his studies, Mr. Herring established a law practice in Leesburg and then blended his mother’s advice about public service by working as town attorney in tiny Lovettsville in Loudoun County from 1992 to 1999. Later, he was elected to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and then the state Senate, where he represented parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties from 2006 to 2014, when he first became Virginia attorney general.

In his first bid for attorney general in 2013, he won a narrow Democratic primary victory over challenger Justin E. Fairfax, who is now Virginia’s lieutenant governor. Mr. Herring went on to win the general election in November 2013, and re-election to a second, four-year term in 2017.

In February 2019, after calling on Gov. Ralph S. Northam to resign during a blackface scandal, Mr. Herring was caught up in his own blackface scandal. He publicly acknowledged that he had dressed as rapper Kurtis Blow and wore blackface in 1980 to attend a party when he was a 19-year-old freshman at U.Va. He apologized publicly and in meetings with members of the legislature and others.

Mr. Herring had considered a run for governor this year, but announced that he would seek a third term as attorney general. If he wins the primary and the November election, he would be the longest serving attorney general in the state since Abram Penn Staples, who held the job from 1934 to late 1947.

Playing an active part in the state’s emerging progressive turns, Mr. Herring has championed diversity and social equity values as attorney general — from refusing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex-marriage to promoting and defending the state’s expansion of the Medicaid program.

Mr. Herring has won numerous endorsements during this primary contest, including from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady PAC, both gun violence prevention groups; several labor unions; and several members of the House of Delegates, including House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring; Delegate Betsy Carr of Richmond and Delegate Dawn Adams, who represents parts of Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond.

Mr. Herring’s campaign reported raising $650,000 during the first quarter of this year and having more than $1.3 million cash on hand by March 31.

Delegate Jones

Delegate Jones

Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, 32, has emerged as an eloquent and thoughtful speaker in the House of Delegates, where he has represented Norfolk since January 2018.

An attorney in private practice, he represents the same district his father did in the legislature from 1988 to 2002.

His parents, Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Jerrauld C. Jones and Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge Lyn M. Simmons, had a profound impact on his growing up and his understanding about the law and equal rights.

His grandfather, Hilary H. Jones, an attorney and advocate for civil rights and public education, was the first African-American member of the Norfolk School Board in 1963 and the first to serve on the state Board of Education in 1969.

That background helps explain Delegate Jones’ roots in the continuing fight to end racial segregation and to promote racial equity and economic progress. He campaigns for women’s rights, says he wants to fix a “broken justice system,” pledges to work to protect the state’s environment and waterways and overhaul the state’s code of ethics.

Born and raised in Norfolk, Delegate Jones graduated from Norfolk Collegiate School and earned a bachelor’s in gov- ernment and history from the College of William & Mary. He worked for two years as an associate with Goldman Sachs in New York before returning to Virginia to earn a law degree from the University of Virginia in 2015.

He followed in his father’s foot- steps, winning election to the House of Delegates in November 2017, and re-election unopposed in 2019. He serves on the influential House Appropriations Committee.

He pushed for expansion of the Medicaid health insurance program in Virginia, to increase minimum wage and championed a bill known as the “Ashanti Alert” that sends out alerts for missing adults like the Amber Alert does for children. He also worked for the removal of the statue of arch segregationist Harry F. Byrd from the State Capitol grounds and backs ending qualified immunity that protects police officers from being held responsibility for wrongdoing.

During two recent debates, he has criticized his Democratic primary opponent Attorney General Mark R. Herring for his support of the death penalty before recently changing his position; for only recently adding an Office of Civil Rights to the Attorney General’s Office; and for lacking empathy and compassion in his apology for wearing blackface as a college student in 1980.

Delegate Jones has seamlessly taken on community service leadership challenges, serving on several boards and commissions, including the Commission on Youth, the Criminal Justice Services Board and the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation.

If he wins the Democratic primary and the November general election, Delegate Jones would become Virginia’s first Black attorney general.

Delegate Jones has been endorsed in the primary by Gov. Ralph S. Northam and more than 30 members of the General Assembly. Other backers include former Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott and Congresswoman Elaine Luria.

Delegate Jones has reported raising $1.2 million for his campaign as of the end of March.