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Politics, Virginia

Stoney drops out of governor’s race, leaving Spanberger as presumptive Dem nominee

Chris Graham

levar stoney Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has dropped out of the Democratic Party governor’s race, leaving Seventh District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger as the party’s presumptive 2025 nominee.

“After careful consideration with my family, I believe that the best way to ensure that all Virginia families do get the change they deserve is for our party to come together, avoid a costly and damaging primary and, for me to run instead for lieutenant governor,” Stoney said in a statement on Tuesday.

Spanberger, who has been elected three times in the toss-up Seventh District, which stretches from Greene County to Central Virginia and into the Northern Virginia exurbs, had already gotten out to a commanding advantage in the fundraising race, collecting more than $3.6 million in campaign contributions in November and December, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

Stoney, who had announced his candidacy for the gubernatorial nomination in December, had raised $760,000 for his campaign in the final four weeks of December, which isn’t bad, honestly, considering how far out we are from the June 2025 primary.

The lieutenant governor nomination race on the Democratic Party side is itself a crowded field. Two state senators, Ghazala F. Hashmi and Aaron Rouse, have announced their intentions, and Babur B. Lateef, the chairman of the Prince William County School Board, already has the endorsement of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The lieutenant governor post is largely ceremonial, but it’s often a steppingstone to the governor’s job. Tim Kaine, elected lieutenant governor in 2001, was elected governor in 2005, and is now a United States senator; Ralph Northam was elected lieutenant governor in 2013 and then won election as governor in 2017.

The sitting lieutenant governor is a Republican, Winsome Earle-Sears. Earle-Sears has not yet entered the race for the 2025 Republican gubernatorial nomination, but she is expected to.

It’s also expected that the sitting attorney general, Jason Miyares, would be interested in mounting a campaign for the GOP nomination.

We’ve seen intraparty fights over who gets to run for governor hurt the eventual nominee before, most recently in the 2013 cycle, when Bill Bolling, the Republican lieutenant governor, and Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican attorney general, maneuvered, largely behind the scenes, for the GOP nomination, before Bolling dropped out of the race and declined to endorse Cuccinelli, saying he had “serious reservations about his ability to effectively and responsibly lead our state.”

Cuccinelli lost in the 2013 general election to McAuliffe, who led a Democratic sweep in that fall’s statewide races.

It’s this recent history that you have to think factored into Stoney’s decision to step aside in favor of Spanberger.

“This was not an easy decision, especially given that my campaign has received a lot of support from all corners of the Commonwealth, and I am so appreciative of that support. And while there was a path to victory it was a narrow path and, after consideration, I firmly believe that running for LG 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,” Stoney said Tuesday.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].