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Republican Bill Stanley Says Run For Governor Hinges on Trump

Man speaking
Sen. Bill Stanley on the Senate floor (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM)

Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) said he’s considering running for governor in 2021, but will likely put off the bid if Pres. Donald Trump wins re-election this November.

“I’m going to talk to my wife about it,” Stanley told VPM on Sunday. “But it’s something that I think I wouldn’t even look at seriously until we get up on the national election for president.”

If Trump wins, “Northern Virginia may not be favorable to anyone that has an ‘R’ next to their name -- even someone who grew up in that region,” Stanley said, noting that he’ll consider a run “for something” in 2025 if he opts against a bid this year.

Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since 2009. Voter backlash to Trump’s 2016 victory helped Democrats narrow the GOP’s margins in the General Assembly in 2017 and ultimately take control of the body in elections last year.

Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) is so far the only prominent Republican to formally announce a gubernatorial bid

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William County), and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax have publicly indicated possible runs for the Democratic nomination. 

Stanley previously considered a 2018 run for the House of Representatives in the 5th district, which stretches from his current base in Southside and Southwest Virginia north through northern Virginia, but ultimately opted not to run. 

He serves as one of two Republican whips in the Senate, where he’s seen as an affable senator who “has that piss and vinegar going in him,” as a former seatmate put it to the Roanoke Times.

The attorney has focused his legislative efforts on criminal justice reform, sponsoring a bill passed by the General Assembly this year that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court fees.

He’s also made school modernization a focus, unsuccessfully pushing for the last two years for a statewide referendum on whether the state should issue $3 billion worth of bonds to pay for new K-12 school construction and repairs.

Stanley voted with two-thirds of his caucus 85 percent of the time this session, according to an analysis from the Virginia Public Access Project.

He’s sometimes clashed with Senate Minority leader Tommy Norment (R-James City), including a flare-up during last July’s special session on gun violence. Stanley briefly said he was resigning as whip after Norment proposed legislation banning guns in municipal buildings; Norment later said the bill was meant to embarrass Democrats and withdrew it.

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