Sam Rasoul Officially Launches Campaign for LG

It’s been widely known that Sam Rasoul was going to run for Lt. Governor in 2021, but he officially launched his campaign this morning. The Democrat from Roanoke is one of the more progressive members of the House of Delegates and could provide some regional balance to a statewide ticket since he’s from Southwest Virginia.

With Virginia being a state with extremely lax campaign finance laws that places no limits on donations made to candidates for state and local office, there’s been a lot of discussion about the influence money has in the state’s elections. In recent years, this has resulted in many candidates committing to not taking contributions from Dominion Energy since it’s a state regulated company. This has been a noteworthy trend since Dominion has been one of the largest contributors to candidates.

Del. Rasoul has taken it a step further by making a “commitment to not take any PAC money.” He continued by saying he’s “committed to only accepting cash contributions from individual donors because I believe it’s the only way we can create a truly transparent government that is responsive to the needs of working Virginians.”

“People want to be able to vote for leaders who aren’t beholden to special interests,” the delegate added while pointing out he had a goal of getting 500 individual donors by Friday. “If a politician is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel industry groups or pharmaceutical companies, it’s hard to believe they are actually going to represent my interests. We’re taking all the special interest money out of the equation. No PACs, only people.”

Del. Rasoul’s entering a relatively crowded field of candidates in the Democratic primary that includes fellow delegates Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman in addition to Sean Perryman (the president of the Fairfax County NAACP) and Paul Goldman. It’ll therefore be interesting to see if only accepting donations from individuals will hinder his ability to garner attention in a climate where even popular “election experts” like Rachel Bitecofer are ignorant enough about what’s going on in Virginia state politics that they thought there was only one person running for Lt. Governor.

However the primary turns out, Sam Rasoul’s announcement this morning helps emphasize how Virginia has elections every year and we’re already seeing candidates hitting the campaign trail for 2021.

Elizabeth Guzman Reacts to Election Results

With the presidential election being called over the weekend, Virginia’s leaders have been expressing their support of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. While I highlighted some of the statements folks had already been making, I also wanted to highlight the video Elizabeth Guzman posted on twitter.

While the sentiment Del. Guzman expressed has been shared by many other elected officials, I wanted to highlight her remarks as a reminder of how Virginia has an active race for statewide offices coming up in 2021. On the Democratic side, we’ve already seen strong candidates like Guzman, Hala Ayla, and Sean Perryman enter the Lt. Governor race and providing a diverse field of folks running for statewide office. Women of color such as Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy have also entered the gubernatorial race.

If you’re actively following the social media accounts of leading figures in Virginia politics, however, you probably noticed that there are some Republicans trying to completely dismiss the statewide campaigns of people of color and women. In a thread that ran dozens of tweets long, Rachel Bitcofer, a GOP consultant, completely ignored the people of color who’ve entered the race for statewide offices and claimed the only hope for Democrats is Terry McAuliffe.

As if that weren’t bad enough, she went on to suggest progressives shouldn’t criticize her because she was involved with the Lincoln Project. Understandably, there was significant backlash from active Virginia politicos after her long winded rant that wasn’t based on actual facts.

“If you can’t tweet about VA politics without erasing black women, getting gov candidates wrong, [and] claiming to be saving America, then maybe you shouldn’t be tweeting about VA politics,” David Broder of SEIU said.

Ben Tribbett added “I’ve been blocked by Rachel Bitcofer for awhile now, but glad to see everyone else is finally getting to see her idiocy showing.”

Even after Bitcofer finally admitted she didn’t even know what office Mark Herring was running for, she claimed he “snuck” his decision in without her being aware of it. She went on to insist this meant another white man was going to win the nomination and never even mention several prominent women of color running for governor. On top of that, she proceeded to block anybody who called her out on this.

While one Republican operative’s lengthy rant on social media isn’t the end all be all, it does help to illustrate the tremendous work that still needs to be done. If someone who claims to be in the know and makes a living in the world of politics doesn’t even know who’s running for statewide office, after all, then it’s very likely many voters aren’t familiar with the candidates. It also emphasizes the battle to end the assumption that only straight white male politicians should be discussed as leading contenders for elected office.

Terry McAuliffe Sparks Talk of a Gubernatorial Campaign By Hiring Staff

Terry McAuliffeFormer Governor Terry McAuliffe has made his way into the news as he’s started staffing his political action committee. Common Good VA PAC hadn’t had any full time staff since it became clear T-Mac wouldn’t be running for president, but he’s now hired Chris Bolling, who had been serving as the Executive Director for the state Democratic Party.

If the goal is to have an impact on the Virginia electorate, this is a good hire since Bolling has a long history in Virginia politics. He’s been DPVA’s Executive Director since July of 2017 and served in other roles with the party before heading up the organization. He even had a previous stint on McAuliffe’s staff during his campaign for governor and worked on Tim Kaine and Mark Warner’s campaigns as well.

There’s been talk for awhile that McAuliffe might be interested in running for governor again in 2021. He created a lot of buzz when he campaigned all across the Commonwealth for Democrats running in state and local elections and raised a significant amount of money. And when Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring started facing some controversy, Terry’s name started being mentioned as a potential alternative.

Virginia’s constitution prevents governors from serving in consecutive terms, but there’s nothing that says he can’t run again after taking some time away from office. While it’s not something that happens often, it has been done as Mills Godwin served from 1966 to 1970 as a Democratic before switching parties and serving again from 1974 to 1978 as a Republican.

Since the current Lt. Governor has expressed interest in running for governor and he’s been trying to rehab his image in preparation for a potential campaign, it’s worth noting that McAuliffe was the first prominent Virginia Democrat to call upon Justin Fairfax to resign after allegations that he sexually assaulted two different women surfaced earlier this year. Considering all this, it shouldn’t be surprising that Fairfax has publicly said he wouldn’t support a McAuliffe candidacy.

Attorney General Mark Herring had announced last year that he would be running for governor and it was largely thought that he would face Fairfax in the primary. As Fairfax’s popularity has sharply declined as he’s dealing with the sexual assault allegations, Herring has largely been able to recover after he admitted to wearing black face decades ago after the controversy surrounding Ralph Northam’s yearbook surfaced. Ask just weeks after the admission if he was still planning on running, Herring said he had no intention of dropping out of the race.

Now that McAuliffe is likely going to be getting into the race, however, it will be interesting to see if that impacts Herring’s decision. His tenure as AG has been extremely well received, after all, and folks might be excited to see him seek another term in that position.

In addition to the sparks the staff hiring generated in the gubernatorial campaign, it also meant some moves had to be made at DPVA. The Party decided to replace Bolling with Andrew Whitley, who’s from Southwest Virginia and had previously been leading the Take the Majority coordinated campaign that helped Democrats gain control of both the House of Delegates and the state senate.

While many people have good things to say about Whitley, there was some controversy about the process. The staff change came before many people even knew Bolling was leaving and therefore wasn’t conducted in a very open manner. This has caused some concern with folks, especially as there are efforts to make sure the Party does a better job at increasing diversity and outreach to communities that are traditionally ignored in the political process.

“Jobs at [the Democratic Party of Virginia] are not political appointments and when positions become available there should be a search process,” well known Virginia political staffer Alexsis Rodgers tweeted. “Unfortunately, there was not an open search for the next ED or multiple recent job openings at DPVA.”

All in all, it appears as though we’re starting to get a clear picture of who’s going to be involved in the political discussion in Virginia over the course of the next few years. That being said, everyone should be focused in on lobbying the General Assembly to help ensure our values are truly represented by the folks who were just elected a couple weeks ago.