Less than a week after the new composition of Virginia’s legislature was determined, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D, VA-07) has launched her 2025 bid for Virginia’s governorship. Spanberger is the first to officially put her name in the running; however, there are plenty of Democratic hopefuls expected to challenge her, alongside expected Republican contenders, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares.
Virginia’s state constitution bars Governor Youngkin from running for a second consecutive term- the only state in the nation with such a limit. If the Governor were to contemplate another term in office, he would have to launch a campaign for the 2029 election cycle to follow his own successor.
Spanberger, a Henrico resident, released her official announcement on X (formally Twitter) Monday morning, promoting her dedication to focus on “what matters most” amid the “chaos and division” of polarized politics in Virginia. She emphasized the importance of decreasing prescription drug prices, lowering inflation, retaining educators, and protecting women’s reproductive rights.
While making a few subtle jabs at Youngkin and the GOP, the Congresswoman highlighted her bipartisan nature, acknowledged her legislative record in D.C, and vowed to “serve all Virginians.” Her announcement comes days after Republicans lost control of the House of Delegates, ceding complete legislative strength of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly to Democrats.
A former member of law enforcement and CIA officer, Spanberger currently represents areas that include Culpeper, Fredericksburg, and Prince William in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, a seat that will be up for grabs come the 2024 elections for the United States House of Representatives. Her early announcement is suspected to be carefully timed so as to allow her successor to launch a successful campaign for the 2024 election cycle, rather than hold an early special election. Those contending for her seat will find themselves in a battleground district Republicans are hoping to pick up. With Rep. Spanberger not seeking reelection, Cook Political Report now rates VA-07 as “Lean Democrat,” a demotion from the district’s previous rating of “Likely Democrat.” In 2022, Spanberger defeated Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, capturing just over 52% of the vote.
The Congresswoman, however, is not the only candidate eyeing the Governor’s Mansion.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is expected to announce his run for governor in the coming weeks. POLITICO reports that Stoney is “assembling” his 2025 political force, having brought on a chief strategist, ad-maker, and pollster to his team, which already consists of various campaign advisors and staffers.
While Rep. Spanberger carries a resume of federal experience, Stoney is no newcomer to the political scene. A graduate of James Madison University, he served as former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Secretary of the Commonwealth from 2014-2016 before winning the mayorship in 2017 and again in 2020.
Mayor Stoney’s suspected bid for the Commonwealth’s executive role does not come as a surprise. During an interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch this past April, Stoney expressed interest in entering the governor’s race.
“I think I am young enough to still serve the public, and I am seriously considering my next step, and that would be taking a look at the governor’s race in 2025,” he voiced to the Dispatch. “I’m a firm believer that if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.”
A fiery primary season might emerge between the three-time congressional incumbent and one of the Commonwealth’s rising Democratic stars, with more potential candidates sure to enter the ring heading into 2024. Both Spanberger and Stoney would have to strategically balance the partisan line; opponents with more further-left stances could provide viable competition in a democratic primary, especially to the Congresswoman who is often described as a “centrist moderate.”
Virginians are also keeping an eye on the GOP hopefuls who are suspected to launch campaigns in the coming months.
Jason Miyares, Virginia’s first Latino Attorney General, is rumored to be considering a bid for Youngkin’s seat at the same time as Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, which would set the stage for another competitive primary for Virginia’s voters.
Virginia captured the nation’s attention in 2021 when the political stars aligned for the diverse GOP ticket. Miyares and Earle-Seares, a Jamaican-born Marine Corp veteran, threw their names into the ring after separate stints in the Virginia General Assembly. Campaigning alongside then-political newcomer Glenn Youngkin, the ticket found success in addressing kitchen table issues with voters, specifically focusing on education, an ideal that Youngkin was able to revolutionize into his “Parents Matter” movement.
While Miyares and Earle-Sears are expected to be the favored contenders to battle it out for Virginia’s top executive position, other conservative names haven’t ruled out candidacies either. In 2021, Youngkin faced current State Senator Amanda Chase, Pete Snyder, and Kirk Cox, former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, amongst other challengers in his gubernatorial primary.