Mayor Stoney drops Va. governor bid, will run for lieutenant governor

Associated Press | 4/25/2024, 6 p.m.
Mayor Levar Stoney announced Tuesday he is dropping his bid for Virginia governor in 2025, avoiding a nomination contest with …
Mayor Stoney

Mayor Levar Stoney announced Tuesday he is dropping his bid for Virginia governor in 2025, avoiding a nomination contest with U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and will run for lieutenant governor instead.

Mayor Stoney said he had wrestled with the decision since he and his wife welcomed their first child in March. While his campaign sought to make the case in a memo just weeks ago that a Stoney-Spanberger primary would be competitive, he said Tuesday that “while there was a path to victory it was a narrow path.”

“After careful consideration with my family, I believe that the best way to ensure that all Virginia families do get the change they deserve is for our party to come together, avoid a costly and damaging primary and for me to run instead for lieutenant governor,” Mayor Stoney said in a statement.

With the gubernatorial primary more than a year away, there’s still time for another Democratic candidate to emerge.

But Rep. Spanberger, a former CIA officer who launched her campaign in November, is seen by Democrats and Republicans alike as a formidable candidate, with strong name recognition, a record of winning tough races and a centrist identity in a state that’s tended to reward moderate candidates. Her bid could also be a history-making one: Virginia has never had a female governor

Rep. Spanberger, who was first elected to Congress in 2018 as part of a wave of female candidates who helped Democrats retake the U.S. House that year, recently secured the nomination of Clean Virginia.

The big-spending advocacy group founded by a wealthy investor to counter the influence of Dominion Energy at the state Capitol has given enormous sums to candidates it has backed in recent years and pledged aninitial contribution of $250,000.

Her campaign said in a statement that Virginians were uniting behind her candidacy “because they know she has the experience to bring people together, get things done, and lead the Commonwealth forward.”

All three of Virginia’s statewide state government offices — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — are currently held by Republicans and will be on the ballot next year. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, like all Virginia governors, is prohibited from seeking a second term.

While no Republicans have formally announced statewide campaigns yet, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears are seen as likely contenders in the gubernatorial race.

Mayor Stoney will join what’s shaping up to be a crowded race for lieutenant governor, a role that involves presiding over the state Senate and is often a stepping stone to higher office.

Shortly after Mayor Stoney announced his decision, Democratic state Sen. Aaron Rouse formally announced his own candidacy for lieutenant governor. Sen. Rouse, a retired NFL player and former Virginia Beach councilman, said he has secured the support of more than two dozen elected officials around the state, including the state Senate budget committee chairwoman, Sen. L. Louise Lucas, and Sen. Mamie Locke, the Senate Democratic caucus chair.

“I’ve built my career on winning in tough spots when it matters — whether it be under the glare of NFL lights or flipping the State Senate seat needed to ensure we blocked Republicans’ assaults on reproductive freedom and voting rights,” said Sen. Rouse, who had a hand in some of this year’s high-profile legislation.

Dr. Babur Lateef, an ophthalmologist and surgeon who serves as chairman of the Prince William County School Board, entered the race last month and other candidates from both parties are expected to join.

Mayor Stoney, who launched his gubernatorial campaign in a video that highlighted his modest upbringing and the struggles he overcame to become the first in his family to graduate from high school and college, said he would use the lieutenant governor post to ensure every Virginia family gets the same “fair shot at success.”