- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2021

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he is endorsing his predecessor Terry McAuliffe among a field of diverse candidates for the state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in two months.

“Let’s all get behind him. Let’s keep Virginia blue, and let’s win in November,” Mr. Northam said during an event at the Norfolk waterfront.

Mr. Northam said in a press release that Mr. McAuliffe, who governed the commonwealth from 2014 to 2018, has the “plans and experience” to keep building on Democrats’ progress and orchestrate the state’s post-pandemic recovery.

Mr. McAuliffe, who is a major Democratic fundraiser and confidant of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said he was honored to add Mr. Northam to his growing list of more than 250 endorsements.

“The road of our continued recovery is long, but with our unmatched coalition and bold plans, I know we will get it done,” he said in a statement. “We will accelerate Virginia’s minimum wage increase to $15 by 2024, make sure all Virginians have access to paid sick, family, and medical leave, invest in small businesses, and give every child access to a world-class education.”

The 64-year-old former chairman of the Democratic National Committee appears to be the front-runner among the five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the June primary. His rivals are Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Delegate Lee Carter and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy.

If elected, either Ms. McClellan or Ms. Carroll Foy would become Virginia’s female governor, and they or Mr. Fairfax would be the state’s second Black chief executive. L. Douglas Wilder served as governor from 1990 to 1994.

Delegate Kirk Cox, a Republican who is running for governor, criticized Mr. Northam’s decision.

“If Virginians had any doubt about what they could expect from a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion, Ralph Northam just eliminated it with his endorsement of Terry McAuliffe,” Mr. Cox said in a statement. “Northam’s time as Governor has been marked by scandal and poor leadership.”

He pointed out that Mr. McAuliffe called for Mr. Northam to resign in 2019 amid a controversy over a photo of a person in a blackface and another in Klan garb in his school medical yearbook.

Mr. Northam initially said he was in the photo then retracted the statement. He did admit, however, that he wore blackface when he entered a dance contest in the 1980s.

Mr. Northam apologized but declined to step down, saying he would dedicate the rest of his tenure to addressing problems related to inequity.

Mark Bergman, senior political adviser for Mr. Northam, told The Associated Press that the governor met with all but one of the candidates before making his decision. Mr. Carter, the sole socialist in the state House, reportedly did not seek his support.

Earlier this week, the Democratic candidates squared off in their first televised debate, with Mr. McAuliffe highlighting his successes during his term as governor and some of the other contenders taking jabs at him.

Both Ms. Carroll Foy and Ms. McClellan attacked Mr. McAuliffe’s record on gun legislation, criticizing a 2016 compromise deal that strengthened some gun control measures while reversing a policy that would have invalidated concealed handgun permits in Virginia held by residents of 25 other states.

Mr. McAuliffe responded that the bill was a bipartisan attempt at progress on gun control when Republicans controlled the legislature.

The Democratic primary is set for June 8. The general election will be held Nov. 2.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide