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Princess Blanding Announces Third-Party Run for Governor

Woman smiling
Princess Blanding has spent the over two years since her brother, Marcus-David Peters, died advocating for criminal justice reform in Virginia. Disappointed by the bills passed by state Democrats, who controlled both chambers of the legislature and the governorship, Blanding is now mounting a third-party campaign for governor. (Photo: Keshia Eugene/Provided by Blanding campaign)

Criminal justice activist Princess Blanding announced a bid to become Virginia’s next governor Tuesday as a member of the new Liberation Party. Her announcement comes two and a half years after her brother, Marcus-David Peters, was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer.

Blanding spent the time since her brother’s death pushing for criminal justice reforms. But she said Democrats in the General Assembly passed only watered-down legislation this fall.

“We cannot continue to vote blue and expect that we’re going to get any results different than what we have been getting, which is crumbs,” Blanding said in an interview.

The 38 year-old science teacher from Middlesex County is targeting her message at voters who see the Democratic Party as the lesser of two evils. She says her new Liberation Party brings something fresh to the table--“a third party that is going to be inclusive and not exclusive, across all lines.”

Blanding, who has no prior political experience, faces stiff competition from better known candidates. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe threw his hat into the ring last month. State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also announced bids for the Democratic nomination.

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) and former state Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) are seeking the Republican nomination. 

Blanding’s advocacy helped push Democrats to create the so-called “Marcus Alert” earlier this year. The system, named after her brother, is designed to send mental health professionals on service calls involving mental or behavioral health crises. But Blanding was sharply critical of the final bill, calling it the product of a “racist, corrupt system” at a ceremonial bill signing held by Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this month.

Peters was killed along an entrance ramp to Interstate 95 in the midst of what appeared to be a psychiatric episode. The unarmed 24-year-old struck three vehicles before emerging from his car, running naked and charging an officer.

Rich Meagher, an associate political science professor at Randolph-Macon College, called an independent bid in Virginia “next to impossible.” Democrat-leaning voters are unlikely to cast a “protest vote” for Blanding in a year with a broad field and high stakes, he predicted.

“It’s a kind of the classic let’s-bring-attention-to-an-issue campaign,” Meagher said. “The worst-case scenario is that you’ve brought some attention to an issue that some other candidates may not go for.”


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