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Levar Stoney drops out of 2025 governor’s race

The Mayor speaks at a podium
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Mayor Levar Stoney deliver his proposed budget to the City Council on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at City Hall in Richmond.

The two-term Richmond mayor says he’s instead running for lieutenant governor.

In December 2023, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced his run for governor. He made it a two-person contest with U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA–7), who had entered the race a month earlier.

Tuesday morning, Stoney changed course, saying he’d now pursue the lieutenant governor’s post.

"The greatest thing to happen to me was the birth of my daughter, Sunday, this past March,” he wrote on the social media platform X, adding that the decision was best for his family and the commonwealth as a whole.

In a brief phone call Tuesday afternoon, Stoney reiterated his reticence to engage in a potentially difficult gubernatorial primary.

“I don't believe that a bruising campaign for governor between me and Abigail Spanberger will be beneficial to her candidacy, my candidacy — but also overall — the Democratic Party of Virginia,” the mayor said.

In the run for governor, Stoney had secured the endorsements of a number of high-ranking officials across Virginia, including Senate President Pro-Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D–Portsmouth); state Sen. Mamie Locke (D–Hampton), chairperson of the Senate Democratic Caucus; and state Sen. Lamont Bagby (D–Henrico), chairperson of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Former-Gov. Terry McAuliffe also backed Stoney, who served as his secretary of the commonwealth.

“I think it's pretty shrewd,” Alex Keena, a VCU political science professor, said Tuesday about Stoney’s announcement. “He [was] probably going to lose the governor's primary election … . So, either he drops out altogether or he runs for lieutenant governor. Anybody can really win that race, and nobody's really the clear front-runner there. I think it makes sense.”

Lieutenant governor candidates

The two-term mayor is now in a three-way race for lieutenant governor along with Democrats Babur Lateef, chairperson of the Prince William County School Board, and state Sen. Aaron Rouse — who also announced his candidacy Tuesday.

Stoney said he wasn’t aware that Rouse was entering the race on the same day as his pivot.

Prior to the mayor’s Tuesday announcement, McAullife had endorsed Lateef for the post, creating a potentially confusing situation.

“Of course he’s supporting Babur and of course he’ll support Levar,” a McAullife spokesperson told The Washington Post after Stoney’s announcement.

State Sen. Ghazala F. Hashmi (D–Chesterfield) has also been discussed as a possible candidate for the lieutenant governor’s position. A spokesperson for the senator declined to comment on the race following Stoney’s announcement, but said “big news is coming soon.”

As Richmond mayor

While leading Richmond’s government, Stoney oversaw the removal of the city’s Confederate statues and helped direct Richmond police during 2020 social justice protests. There’s currently no plan to redevelop Monument Avenue following the statues’ removal, and Stoney has publicly apologized for city police using tear gas on protesters.

RPD in 2022 settled a civil rights lawsuit — which included a former VPM News reporter — connected to the use of tear gas in 2020.

Stoney’s administration was unsuccessful in a few development projects, but has set in motion the $2.4-billion Diamond District redevelopment.

The mayor offered up other accomplishments he said would make the case for his occupying statewide office.

“I think they would need to recognize that Richmond's growing, and people are choosing Richmond,” Stoney said. “Over the course of the last nearly eight years, we've seen population growth, economic and cultural growth. ... The skyline is changing under my watch, poverty has dropped.”

City officials are currently hammering out a Fiscal Year 2025 budget — the last Stoney will preside over as mayor. It’s an opportunity to leave a final mark on Richmond and show potential voters how he functions as an executive.

Stoney said education and housing continue to be central to his work.

“Those from the [District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia region] are moving south to Richmond, but we have to ensure that those who've been here for a long, long time can remain in Richmond as well,” he said. “Those have to be the two top priorities of not just this administration, but the next administration as well.”

Spanberger, possible GOP contenders

Spanberger, who’s raised about $3.6 million so far this cycle, is currently the only candidate running in either party for governor. The three-term representative for Virginia’s 7th District was recently endorsed by the progressive nonprofit Clean Virginia, which also pledged $250,000 to her campaign.

“In political science, we call this ‘the invisible primary,’ because long before any votes are actually cast, there's this race to get money,” Keena said. “And in Virginia, we don't have any campaign finance limits.”

By January, Stoney’s gubernatorial campaign had collected about $760,000.

“Virginians know that Abigail is the right choice to strengthen Virginia's public schools, lower costs for working families, grow the economy, and protect the rights of all Virginians — including the right to choose,” a Spanberger spokesperson told VPM News after being asked for comment on Stoney’s Tuesday announcement.

The general election for both governor and lieutenant governor is still more than a year away — and primaries will take place in June 2025.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate in either race, though current Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares have been floated as potential candidates for the state’s top post.

Disclosure: Clean Virginia is a VPM sponsor.

Updated: April 23, 2024 at 5:12 PM EDT
Adds comment from Mayor Levar Stoney and VCU professor Alex Keena, as well as statements from U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger and state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi.
Dave Cantor has been an editor with VPM News since 2022, juggling daily digital and broadcast stories.
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