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2021 Nomination Contest Unusually Crowded

The lack of an heir-apparent to the governorship and the Democrats holding all statewide office wins could be driving the abnormally high numbers of candidates seeking the most powerful positions in Virginia this election.

Statewide offices in Virginia include the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General.

Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, Delegate Lee Carter, Lt Gov Justin Fairfax, former Governor Terry McAuliffe, and State Senator Jennifer McClellan are the five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. In 2017, Governor Ralph Northam ran against Tom Perriello, a former congressman.

Bob Holsworth, a Richmond based political analyst, said the lack of an heir-apparent makes the race appealing to more candidates.

“The attorney general, Mark Herring, decides that in fact, he’d rather run for a third term as attorney general. And you have Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who is running for governor, but having an extraordinarily difficult time raising money,” Holsworth said. “So you have this very unusual situation in which neither the sitting lieutenant governor, nor the sitting attorney general, are either running for governor or are the favorite to be the nominee.”

The Republicans have even more candidates seeking their party’s nomination. The Virginia Public Access Project lists seven, including Del. Kirk Cox, State Senator Amanda Chase, and businessmen Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkin. Holsworth sees the absence of a Republican in the lieutenant governorship or the attorney general’s office as encouraging would-be governors.

He also said the number of candidates didn’t translate necessarily into diverse platforms on the Republican side.

“You might say they're all embracing, in some fashion or another, Donald Trump,” he said. “They recognize that the Republican base is often a Trump base.”

The race for Lieutenant Governor is even bigger. The Virginia Public Access Project lists eight Democrats, and five Republicans seeking that office.

The Republicans are holding a convention to pick their candidate on May 8th. The Democrats are holding a primary on June 8th.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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