Who's Running (or Might Be Running) for Virginia LG in 2017 on the Democratic Side?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

by Lowell

As opposed to the Republican side of the aisle, things have been kinda quiet regarding possible and/or likely Democratic candidates for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2017, so I thought I'd share what I'm hearing. Note that the following are in alphabetical order; definitely not a ranking in terms of preference or predictions as to who might be the strongest candidate.

Justin FairfaxRan an impressive campaign for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in 2013, coming out of nowhere to nearly defeat Mark Herring, winning 48.3% of the vote. Highly articulate and charismatic, I keenly remember feeling very nervous, as a Mark Herring supporter and consultant, watching Justin Fairfax electrify crowds at straw poll events in the spring of 2013. My understanding has been that Fairfax wants to be Virginia Attorney General, and would wait until that position is vacant, probably in 2021. However, I'm now hearing that he might be considering a run for Lt. Governor in 2017, in part because 2021 is a long time to wait (can't blame him for that). Anyway, it definitely will be interesting to see what he decides, as he'd be a formidable candidate if he decides to run.
Sen. Barbara Favola:  I've heard that Favola -- who has represented the 31st State Senate district (parts of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties) since 2012 -- is seriously thinking about running for LG in 2017, but I've also heard that this might not be the case. So who knows, but Favola would certainly be a strong candidate for the job if she runs.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn: Has represented the 41st House of Delegates district (Burke, Springfield, Fairfax Station) since 2010. In November 2015, Filler-Corn was elected Vice Chair for Outreach of the House Democratic Caucus. She previously served as the House Democratic Whip. A potentially strong candidate for LG from vote-rich Fairfax County.
Mike Hamlar: Was the Democratic nominee for State Senate in the overwhelmingly "red" 19th district; received 31% of the vote despite running a strong campaign, at least in my view, and overall acquitting himself very well. A potentially strong candidate for Lt. Governor, although as you can see from this list, the competition could be fierce for the Democratic nomination!
Del. Charniele Herring:  Has represented the 46th House of Delegates district (Alexandria) since January 2009, when she narrowly won a special election following the resignation of Brian Moran, who was running for governor at the time. Also served as DPVA Chair and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014, following Jim Moran's announcement that he'd be retiring.
Del. Jennifer McClellan: My understanding is that if/when Sen. Donald McEachin is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, McClellan intends to run for (and presumably win) McEachin's State Senate seat. That would be in late 2016 or early 2017, presumably, leaving McClellan theoretically enough time to run for Lt. Governor in 2017, althought that certainly would be a quick turnaround. My gut feeling tells me she'd stay in the State Senate for a while, but if she does decide to run for LG, she'd be a formidable candidate, no doubt.
Gene Rossi:  I actually sat down for lunch yesterday with Rossi, an Assistant U.S. Attorney (who, he notes, has "participated in 110 federal trials"). Rossi had approached me out of the blue; I'd never heard of him previously. Based on our conversation, Rossi seems to be a strong progressive on most social issues (e.g., a woman's right to choose; LGBT equality), strong on the environment, and passionate about criminal justice reform and voting right of ex felons. He appears to be somewhat less progressive when it comes to certain economic issues, like regulations on small businesses, and what appears to be somewhat of a "law-and-order" philosophy towards crime, the police, etc. Rossi is not officially in the race yet, as he will be retiring from the government in June, but he is talking to a lot of people and sounds like he's an almost certain candidate at that point. Interesting side note: in 2013, Rossi was one of several possibilities for the Eastern District of Virginia, along with former AG candidate Steve Shannon and current Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. Overall, I found him to be a likeable, gregarious, smart, confident (even brash -- definitely what you'd think of as a "star federal prosecutor," as he calls himself, perhaps partly tongue-in-cheek?) guy. Would certainly be an interesting candidate for LG.

If all these candidates (or more) run for LG, it would be very hard to handicap who might win. One question would be whether Dems would opt for a primary or convention. Also, I'm not sure how voters would break down in the above field, which is a mix in terms of race (four African Americans, three whites); gender (four women, three men), geography (five from Northern Virginia; one from Richmond; one from Roanoke/Franklin), and possibly ideology (from super progressive to more "moderate"). I'm also not sure to what extent the "powers that be" (e.g., Gov. McAuliffe, presumptive 2017 gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam) would put their fingers on the scale for any of these candidates. Anyway, it should be interesting. I personally look forward to hearing from these potential/actual candidates, and at this point am mostly looking for the candidate, ideally a strong progressive, who will best help the Democratic ticket win in 2017.