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Stoney drops out of Virginia governor race, will run for LG instead


Stoney drops out of Virginia governor race, will run for LG instead

Apr 23, 2024 | 12:00 pm ET
By Graham Moomaw
Stoney drops out of Virginia governor race, will run for LG instead
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney outside a meeting of the Richmond Branch of the NAACP. (2019 Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced Tuesday that he’s no longer seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2025 and will instead run for lieutenant governor next year.

Stoney’s downshift appears to put Democratic congresswoman Abigail Spanberger on a clear path to become her party’s next pick for governor, making her the lone Democrat officially running for the seat.

After serving as Richmond’s mayor since 2017, Stoney seemed to acknowledge Spanberger’s solid frontrunner status in a statement announcing his decision, saying he only had a “narrow path” to victory.

“I believe this is a time when Democrats must stand united and avoid an ugly primary for governor,” Stoney said, adding that he and his wife also welcomed the birth of a daughter in March.

Stoney said that running for lieutenant governor — a largely ceremonial position that’s nevertheless seen as a launchpad for aspiring governors — is “the right move for me and my family, the right move for the Democratic Party, the right move for the future of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

A former executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia who served as Virginia’s secretary of the commonwealth under former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Stoney was long expected to make a move for higher office. His second term as mayor of Virginia’s capital city expires at the end of the year. 

Despite running for a less prestigious position, Stoney will still face primary competition for the lieutenant governor job.

Shortly after Stoney’s announcement Tuesday morning, Sen. Aaron Rouse, D-Virginia Beach, formally announced he too is running for lieutenant governor. A former professional football player, Rouse flipped a Hampton Roads-area seat in the Virginia Senate in early 2023, a Democratic win that ensured Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his Republican allies wouldn’t be able to pass a bill rolling back abortion access that year.

“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,” Rouse said in a statement. “Virginia is ready for a new generation of leaders to step up.”

Babur Lateef, an ophthalmologist who serves as chairman of the Prince William County School Board, announced last month that he’s running a Democratic campaign for lieutenant governor.

Several other Virginia Democrats are thought to be considering runs for lieutenant governor, and the field could continue to grow as 2025 approaches.

If no other Democrat files to run for governor against Spanberger, she is expected to face either Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears or Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares in the 2025 general election. 

No Republicans have officially announced bids for the seat yet, but Earle-Sears and Miyares are considered top contenders to try to succeed current Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Any primaries for Virginia’s Executive Branch offices would take place in June of 2025.