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Crowded primary race for governor in Virginia

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Jeff Schapiro, political columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, joined "Red and Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano to break down the latest in the Virginia governor's race and discuss the political influence of former Senator John Warner, who died this week at 94.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Hampton, Virginia, Friday. That visit is coming less than two weeks before the state's Democratic primary for governor. Five Democrats are running.

They are former Governor Terry McAuliffe, former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, Delegate Lee Carter, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and state Senator Jennifer McClellan. Virginia is one of just two states that holds gubernatorial races the year after a presidential campaign. It is also often looked at as an early sign for where things are heading for the midterms.

Jeff Schapiro joins me now. He is a political columnist at "The Richmond Times Dispatch." Jeff, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us. So Terry McAuliffe is seen as the front-runner in this race. What is he running on? And how are other candidates campaigning in the final days of this primary?

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Terry McAuliffe is running as the governor Virginia had, the governor Virginia knows, and the governor Terry McAuliffe says he will be if restored to the governorship. Virginia is the only state in the country in which a governor cannot serve consecutive terms. So McAuliffe stood down for four years, succeeded by his hand-picked candidate Ralph Northam, and now hopes to succeed Northam. It's not clear whether this is a third McAuliffe term or a second Northam term.

But what McAuliffe brings to this campaign, beyond the notoriety, are considerable resources, about-- many millions of dollars. He spent $25 million the last time he ran for governor, successfully, in 2013, and he can easily raise and spend that this go-around. But of course, money is something we need to talk about, given that his Republican nominee is a man of considerable means and is a former investment banker, Glenn Youngkin, and is-- has made very clear that he's prepared to reach deeply into-- deep into his pockets to finance his candidacy.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, I want to talk about Mr. Youngkin in just a moment. But you mentioned that the current governor, Ralph Northam, has endorsed Terry McAuliffe. I'm curious, Jeff, how much weight does that endorsement carry, considering that the current governor was facing a scandal just a couple of years ago? Or have people largely moved on from that?

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Well, Governor Northam would like to think that people have largely moved on from that. And I guess public opinion polling as just a curiosity would suggest that people have. But clearly that Black face embarrassment of February 2019 has been a defining moment in his-- in his tenure and is an event to which many people attribute many of the significant advances that he has shepherded in terms of an overhaul of the criminal justice system, the-- the full-on legalization of marijuana, trying to do something about police accountability. Much of this is ultimately tied back to that unfortunate event, now over two years ago.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, you mentioned Glenn Youngkin. He is the nominee on the Republican side. Former President Trump endorsed him after he won the GOP convention. Is that an endorsement that can help Youngkin win in this race?

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Well, it's certainly an endorsement that will keep Republicans who are outnumbered in Virginia active and enthusiastic. One of the challenges that the Republicans face in a state in which politics has become increasingly national in its tone and texture is that any affiliation with Trump can be perilous, so Democrats believe, particularly in the areas where the votes are most abundant.

Virginia is now a suburban-dominated state. 7 in 10 Virginians live in that crescent that extends from south of Washington, DC, to Richmond, where I am, and then southeast to the seacoast at Virginia Beach. The majority of Virginians are non-natives. And this is a state that has gone solidly for Democrats even before Donald Trump gave the state an excuse to become even bluer.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, really has been such a transformation in the political and the demographic landscape in Virginia in the last decade or so. Finally, Jeff, former Virginia Republican Senator John Warner died this week. And you recently wrote that his republicanism was of a bygone era, one that demanded bipartisanship. That's, of course, not something we see a lot of in Washington anymore. But is that something Virginia voters are still looking for?

JEFF SCHAPIRO: It is becoming increasingly rare in our state politics. Warner clearly was the exception. It would have been interesting had he been alive in the thick of this gubernatorial campaign, what would he have done? Might he have stuck with his party and endorsed Glenn Youngkin?

Or might he have supported someone like Terry McAuliffe, Democratic pedigree notwithstanding, given some of the shared agendas that Warner and McAuliffe have? It was interesting that Terry McAuliffe was quick to post on his Twitter feed yesterday a photograph of himself and his-- his words-- "good friend, John Warner."

ELAINE QUIJANO: Oh, that really is interesting and quite telling of the kind of bipartisanship that clearly Senator Warner was known for. Jeff Schapiro for us. Jeff, really great to have you. Thank you very much.

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Thank you.