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McAuliffe announces bid for second term as Virginia governor

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Wednesday he will jump into the race for his old job, shaking up an already crowded primary field. 

McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s chief executive from 2014-2018, officially launched his campaign in the state capital of Richmond, sending out an email to supporters ahead of an event in which he was expected to make the announcement.

Virginia is the only state in the country that bars governors from serving consecutive terms, and a McAuliffe victory would make him just the second Virginian since the Civil War to win a second stint as governor. 

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The former governor left office in early 2018 with high approval ratings and low unemployment, and he remains a towering figure in the commonwealth’s politics. McAuliffe also has a national profile as a major fundraiser for Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts CBC would back Young for OMB if Tanden falls Hillary Clinton to co-write political thriller MORE and an ally of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE, and is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

In a show of the support he retains from state legislators in Richmond, including some of Virginia’s top Black lawmakers, McAuliffe named state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney as campaign co-chairs.

McAuliffe and his allies noted that the election is taking place during the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which they said elevated the need for experienced leadership.

“What I know about Terry McAuliffe is not only his work ethic, but also, we need someone with the experience to guide us through the crisis we experience, and … allow for any of us, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your gender, who you pray to or who you choose to love, to live to their God-given talent in this great state,” said Stoney.

“This pandemic has given us big, tremendous challenges, but folks, it’s also given us a big opportunity, and it’s up to us to make it count. I am running for governor again to think big and to be bold and to take the Commonwealth of Virginia to the next level and to lift up all Virginians,” McAuliffe added.

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The former governor said he plans to roll out a list of policies during his campaign on a range of issues, including civil and voting rights, access to health care and more, starting off with an education platform Wednesday that would invest $2 billion a year to boost teacher pay and ensure every public school student has internet access.

“To build a strong post-COVID economy, the best workforce in the world and to create a clear path for the middle class, we need to make an unprecedented investment in education. The time is now to ensure a world class education for every single Virginia child. Our future and our children cannot wait,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe is jumping into a primary to win the nomination of a party that has pivoted to the left since he left office in a state that has grown more reliably blue, fueling calls by some for a more liberal candidate to emerge over the centrist power broker.

Three Democrats are already running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. All are Black, and Foy and McClellan are women. 

Other gubernatorial candidates have indicated in recent weeks that McAuliffe’s candidacy will not clear the primary field, hinting they’ll cast the former governor as a party boss who represents the past.

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In a statement ahead of McAuliffe’s announcement, Foy labelled the former governor as one of the “career politicians” who “are interested in maintaining the status quo.”

“While I respect Terry McAuliffe’s service, he doesn’t understand the problems Virginians face,” she said. “A former political party boss and multi-millionaire, Terry McAuliffe is simply out of touch with everyday Virginians.” 

“We respect his service to Virginia, but our campaign is about moving this Commonwealth forward, not back,” McClellan also said in a November fundraising appeal. 

McAuliffe tacitly pushed back against that criticism at his campaign launch, saying he fought against the “old Richmond approach” during his first term and will do so again.

“We need that kind of big thinking and bold action now more than ever. If this pandemic has told us anything, we cannot tinker around the edges. We cannot put Virginians through another storm,” he said. “The old Richmond approach just doesn’t work anymore. Folks, it’s time for a new Virginia way. And I know that old way of thinking because I fought against it constantly as governor.”

Del. Kirk Cox, the former speaker of the House of Delegates, is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and state Sen. Amanda Chase said Saturday she will run as an independent.