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McClellan Starts PAC Amid Speculation on 2021 Run for Governor

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) announced that she’s formed a new political action committee with a $50,000 in seed money on Tuesday amid speculation that she will run for governor in 2021.

McClellan says the goal for her new Virginia United PAC is to help Democrats take back the statehouse this November and pass legislation that has been held up by the GOP majority.

“As for after that, I’m thinking about where and how I can best serve,” McClellan said on Tuesday. “But my priority is 2019 and [the] 2020 session.”

The Verizon corporate attorney was a little more direct in July 2018 interview with WCVE.

“Any Virginia politician who tells you they don’t want to be governor is a liar,” McClellan said. “And I’ll leave it at that.”

McClellan is one of a handful of Democrats who’ve been mentioned as possible 2021 contenders. That list also includes Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William William County.

The Democratic field has opened up in the aftermath of Virginia’s leadership scandals that affected two presumed frontrunners, although neither has ruled out a 2021 bid. Attorney General Mark Herring announced a run for governor before he admitted to wearing blackface in college and hasn’t formally backed out of the race since then. A spokeswoman for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax said last month that Fairfax was focused on clearing his name of sexual assault allegations but also didn’t rule out a run for governor. Both men have continued to fundraise for their PACs.

Former governor Terry McAuliffe dodged questions about whether he would run for governor in a CNN interview last month.

McClellan described the so-called leadership PAC as an extension of her campaign PAC, which has given $4,195 to candidates to date. Virginia United will take corporate donations, but won’t accept contributions from regulated energy monopolies like Dominion Energy, McClellan said.

Leadership PACs are a common way for senior lawmakers to exert influence in the legislature but also crop up among politicians seeking higher office.

Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said the scandals affecting top state leaders make a widely respected black lawmaker like McClellan an attractive candidate for higher office.

“A lot of people are now thinking that a woman and an African American has to be somewhere on the ticket,” Kidd said.

Citing polling done by the Wasn Center, Kidd said Herring had a better shot than Fairfax of overcoming the scandals and staging a run. And he said McAuliffe could be well-positioned to reclaim his old perch.

“He’s sort of the surrogate governor when it comes to campaigning and fundraising for Democrats because Ralph Northam is out of the picture in many ways,” Kidd said.

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Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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