Seven Democrats and six Republicans are trying to secure their parties' nomination to be the candidate for lieutenant governor on the November ballot. Republicans will choose their candidate in a May 8 unassembled caucus, which will take place at 37 locations across Virginia. Democrats will choose their candidate in a June 8 statewide primary. Who are the candidates and why are they running?
The job of lieutenant governor is often overlooked, but it plays an important role in Virginia politics. Although many people view it as a stepping stone to running for governor, the lieutenant governor has a critical role in the day-to-day proceedings of the General Assembly.
He or she presides over the Senate, which often means making procedural rulings about whether motions can proceed or not. Perhaps more importantly, though, the lieutenant governor gets to break tie votes in a chamber where Democrats hold a two-vote majority. Because the chamber is home to some conservative-leaning Democrats, the lieutenant governor has many opportunities to step in and break a tie vote.
Earlier this month, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax broke a tie vote on legalizing marijuana after two Senate Democrats voted with Republicans. The next election for senators isn't until 2023, so the next lieutenant governor will walk into a Senate chamber where he or she could end up being a tie-breaking vote on almost any issue.
Democratic Candidates for Lieutenant Governor
Democrats will choose their nominee for lieutenant governor in a June 8 statewide primary. (Absentee voting begins April 23.) Seven candidates will be on the ballot. The seat will be open because incumbent Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is running for governor.
Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11) was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2013 to fill the seat vacated by Onzlee Ware. He's raised more money than any of the other Democrats in the race, and his campaign contributors include donations from the health-care sector, physicians, pharmacists and dentists. On the campaign trail, he talks about how his experience as a Muslim has informed his view of politics.
"Look, we've all had some vulnerable moments over the past several years," said Rasoul in a candidate forum. "And a big vulnerable moment for me was in December of 2015 when a then-candidate for president said people who worship like me are not welcome in this country."
Del. Hala Ayala (D-51) was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2017, defeating incumbent Republican Rich Anderson. Campaign-finance records show she's received $25,000 from the environmental group Clean Virginia, and she also was able to transfer $60,000 from her House campaign. On the campaign trail, she talks about how being an Afro-Latina-Lebanese-Irish has informed her view of politics.
"For a long time, I did not feel like politicians looked like me or had a lived experience like mine," said Ayala in a candidate forum. "My family struggled growing up, and I lost my father to gun violence.
Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan was first elected in 2016, and as an at-large member of the council represents more people than anybody else in the race. Her biggest contributor is the Norfolk-based PAC Access for Virginia. On the campaign trail, she talks about how her experience in local government would inform her performance as lieutenant governor.
"We need a statewide database of affordable housing, where people can search and find opportunities," said McClellan in a candidate forum. "It needs to be searchable and available for all throughout the commonwealth."
Sean Perryman is the former president of the Fairfax NAACP, a role that's put him at the center of the debate on ending qualified immunity and defelonizing drugs. A significant portion of his campaign contributions come from lawyers and lobbyists, and he's taken $25,000 from Clean Virginia. On the campaign trail, he's called for allowing incarcerated people to vote, abolishing qualified immunity for police and limiting campaign contributions.
"I don't think corporate donations are a problem. I think the problem is contribution limits," said Perryman in a candidate forum. "Whether you're getting $100,000 from an LLC or from Joe Smith down the block, they are still having influence over you. And so we absolutely need to have limits on our contributions."
Del. Mark Levine (D-45) was first elected in 2015, filling a seat vacated by Democrat Rob Krupicka. Campaign-finance records show his largest donation is $40,000 from his House of Delegates campaign, and he also received $25,000 from Clean Virginia. On the campaign trail, he advocates for banning assault weapons, joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and abolishing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes.
"I support no prison sentences for people who are addicted to drugs, period," said Levine in a candidate forum. "Because if you're an addict, you need help. You need health care. You don't need to go to prison."
Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31) was first elected in 2017, defeating Republican incumbent Scott Lingamfelter. Campaign-finance records show she's taken large campaign contributions from several unions, and she's also taken $25,000 from Clean Virginia. On the campaign trail, she's styled herself as the Bernie Sanders candidate in the race who will abolish Virginia's so-called right-to-work law.
"I'm ready to go to the Senate and to be the voice to educate the senators on how it's important to repeal the right to work," said Guzman in a candidate forum. "Repealing the right to work is providing workers a voice at the table, to fight for better equipment, to better their salary and for training purposes as well."
Xavier Warren is an NFL player agent and lobbyist for nonprofits. Campaign-finance records show he's taken money from people who work in sports management, and he received a $10,000 in-kind contribution from communications firm Capture Create Media. On the campaign trail, he advocates for ending the cash-bail system and investing in solar farms.
"Virginia is in a covid crisis, a climate crisis and an economic crisis," said Warren in a candidate forum. "I want to be the leader in technology, healthcare innovation and also clean energy and helping families to build generational wealth."
Republican Candidates for Lieutenant Governor
Republicans will choose their nominee in an unassembled convention on May 8, which will be at 37 locations throughout Virginia. To vote in the convention, voters must register as delegates to the convention. Voters will be asked to rank the candidates from first to sixth, and if no one wins a majority on the first round the last-place candidate will be dropped.
Former Del. Tim Hugo (R-40) was first elected in a 2002 special election to fill the seat vacated by Jay O'Brien when he was elected to the state Senate. As a longtime member of the House, he served as chairman of the House Republican Caucus and was able to raise large amounts of money to help candidates across Virginia. On the campaign trail, his pitch to Republican delegates is that he's a Republican who has a history of winning in Northern Virginia, where he was reelected eight times before being unseated by Dan Helmer in 2019.
"You never thought a decade ago or 15 years ago that you would have Democrats talking casually about infanticide,” said Hugo in a candidate forum. “You never thought you'd have Beto O'Rourke going door to door against us to talk about taking our guns, and you never thought you'd be talking about defunding the police. But that's what Democrats are doing now."
Del. Glenn Davis (R-84) is a former member of the Virginia Beach City Council who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2013. Campaign-finance records show he was able to transfer about $350,000 from his House campaign account, giving him an early edge over other other candidates. As a member of the House, he has a voting record that’s a bit more moderate on issues involving gay rights and labor issues. On the campaign trail, he's positioning himself as a moderate alternative to the other candidates who are more closely aligned with former President Donald Trump.
"I want to go to the middle because the middle is where you win elections," said Davis in a candidate forum. "The middle is where a lot of Republicans have gotten way too uncomfortable being, and what's why we lose."
Former Del. Winsome Sears (R-90) served one term in the House of Delegates 20 years ago. Since that time, she waged an unsuccessful campaign in 2004 against Congressman Bobby Scott and an unsuccessful write-in candidacy in 2018 as an alternative to Corey Stewart, whom she called a "charlatan." Sears has the endorsement of state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-11), and on the campaign trail she accuses Democrats of race baiting.
"They're pitting the races against each other," said Sears in a candidate forum. "You're heard the constant Black, white, now it's Asian. They're speaking against Thomas Jefferson kids and their successes, and they want quotas."
Lance Allen is a first-time candidate who is trying to use his lack of political experience as an asset, framing his campaign as an attempt to do something about his frustration with politics. He doesn't have any big name endorsements, and he hasn't raised much money. But on the campaign trail, he's trying to connect with voters by tapping into their frustration with Republican leadership in the General Assembly.
"We caved on issue after issue, and I'm tired of compromising my values just so we can have a little bit of power," said Allen in a candidate forum. "It's time to stand up and say the things we know as Republicans that we need to say."
Puneet Ahluwalia is an activist who has been involved in Northern Virginia politics for years trying to build an immigrant base for the Republican Party. As a first-generation immigrant, he's hoping his personal story might resonate with voters who want to expand the range of the party. On the campaign trail, he talks about how critical race theory is a threat to Virginia schools.
"All it does is teach children to divide, to hate, to see themselves as victims of oppressors," said Ahluwalia in a video posted to YouTube. "It leads to lower achievement and more quotas. America can't lead when we don't even believe in our own values."
Maeve Rigler is a lawyer who wanted to run as a Republican candidate against U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) but she was unsuccessful in securing the nomination in the convention. She’s now positioning herself as the candidate who will fight for election security, arguing that she’ll fight against voter fraud.
“We need a candidate who will stand up against voter fraud,” said Rigler in a YouTube video. “The Democrats stole the election from the Republicans. I’ve been expecting Virginia Republicans to stand up and speak out while the Democrats keep spewing their socialist agenda, I’ve heard nothing but silence from Republicans.”