Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is the second Democrat in the 2025 Virginia governor’s race, joining Seventh District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who had announced her candidacy for the party nomination last month.
Stoney, 42, made his name in Democratic Party circles as a protégé of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, serving as a top advisor to McAuliffe during his 2013 gubernatorial run, and then as Secretary of the Commonwealth in the McAuliffe administration before leaving to run for mayor in 2016.
He won that year’s mayoral race, and was re-elected in 2020.
Term-limited from being able to seek a third term as mayor, Stoney had been widely expected to make a run for the gubernatorial nomination in the 2025 cycle.
If you’re wondering, yes, it is indeed awfully early to already have two high-profile candidates for a primary that is still 18 months out.
What’s going on is, Democrats obviously smell the blood in the water after the stunning rebuke Virginia voters handed the Republican currently in the governor’s office, Glenn Youngkin, who raised millions in his failed bid to win control of the House of Delegates and State Senate in the November state midterms.
Stoney, in his campaign rollout on Monday, did his best to put another nail in the Youngkin political coffin, commenting that “many Virginians are sick of a governor who was out there focused on banning abortion and banning books and making it harder for people to vote instead of actually focused on how do they climb the economic ladder into the middle class.”
Republicans who wanted Youngkin to do all of those things are mad at him now because he said what should have been the quiet part out loud.
Massive strategic blunder there.
On the strategy front, Stoney will try to position himself to the left of left-of-center in the Democratic Party nomination contest to contrast himself from the more traditional slightly left-of-center Spanberger, 44, a former CIA officer who has not shied away from clashing with U.S. House Democratic leadership on issues, most notably her push for a ban on stock trading by members of Congress.
Stoney, in his campaign announcement on Monday, touted his key role in the removal of statues memorializing Confederate Civil War heroes that had lined Richmond’s Monument Avenue, and the efforts of his administration to bring jobs and economic opportunity across the state’s capital city.
He also played up the fact that, as mayor, he has the experience of being “someone who has run something,” a clear dig at Spanberger, who is in her third term in Congress, but members of Congress don’t actually run anything other than a small office with a modest budget.
“I truly believe that the voters, the Democratic voters, want someone who has run something, and I’m going to lay out that record at that vision over the course of the next 18 months,” Stoney said.