Attorney General Mark Herring survives primary challenge; Hala Ayala’s victory sets up all-female contest for lieutenant governor
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Terry McAuliffe has won a chance to reclaim Virginia’s governorship, easily winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary to set up what is likely to be a bruising general election campaign against Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin.
Attorney General Mark Herring also saw off a challenge from the left in his quest to win a third term, and State Delegate Hala Ayala made history by winning the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor.
Ayala, who identifies as an Afro-Latina, is the first Hispanic woman to win nomination to statewide office, and her win also insures that Virginia will have its first female lieutenant governor, as Republicans chose Winsome Sears, an African-American woman, in a nominating convention in May.
McAuliffe coasted to an easy win in the governor’s race, taking 62% and carrying every county and independent city in the commonwealth. Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy came in second at 20%.
Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, whose once promising political career crashed amid allegations from two women that he sexually assaulted them, mustered less than 4% in his bid for the state’s top job.
McAuliffe, 64, a Clinton confidante and prolific Democratic fundraiser, served as governor from 2014 to 2018 but was forced from office by a rule unique to Virginia that doesn’t allow governors to run for a second term.
If his comeback is successful, it will mark only the second time that a former governor has reclaimed the office (the other was Democrat Mills Godwin elected in 1965 and 1973).
Youngkin, 57, a wealthy private equity executive from the Washington D.C. suburbs, is trying to become the first Republican since 2009 to break the Democrats’ lock on the state’s top office.
In the attorney general’s race, Herring faced a stiff primary challenge from Delegate Jay Jones from Norfolk, who centered his campaign on criminal justice reform, including repealing qualified immunity for police officers.
Jones’s upstart campaign was boosted by endorsements from term-limited Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker, along with support from Democracy for America, a grassroots advocacy group on the Democratic left. But in the end, Jones could only muster 43% of the primary vote, to 57% for Herring.
Herring will face Republican Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach in November.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Ayala, from Prince William County, snagged endorsements from Northam and much of the Democratic establishment. She took 39% of the vote, defeating Delegates Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, with 26%, and Mark Levine from Alexandria, with 12% and Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan with 11%
Rasoul, who led the race in fundraising, was trying to become the first Muslim to win statewide office. Levine would have been the first openly gay and Jewish nominee.
Sears, 57, who served a single term in the legislature nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t held office since, was the biggest surprise to come out of the Republican convention, dispatching five rivals.
A Jamaican immigrant and former Marine from Winchester, she served as national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump in 2020, and her campaign posters and Twitter feed showed her carrying an assault rifle.
Since the lieutenant governorship became an elected office in the 1850s, all of its occupants have been men and all but two have been white. The incumbent, Justin Fairfax, is one of the two, along with Douglas Wilder, who went on to become governor.
Because of the single-term limit for governors, the lieutenant governorship is often a stepping stone to that office, as it was for Northam, who served under McAuliffle.