Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, conceding that “it takes money to reach voters,” on Saturday suspended her campaign for the Democratic nomination to become lieutenant governor.
Guzman, who could have become the first Hispanic elected to statewide office, said a close look at fundraising by her rivals made her campaign a long-shot bid. Guzman made her decision late Friday and called key supporters on Saturday morning, before issuing a long, emotional statement to the public.
“I did not know how I would be received outside my district, but Virginia Democrats in every corner of the commonwealth were absolutely ready to elect an immigrant with an accent to statewide office,” said Guzman, who immigrated to the U.S. from Peru as a young, poor single mother.
“But it takes money to reach voters, and the limited time we had to fundraise coupled with the fact that I do not have the capacity to self-fund this primary put us at a stark disadvantage.”
Guzman is withdrawing from a crowded June 8 Democratic primary that before her departure included seven candidates for lieutenant governor. Guzman and three others are members of the General Assembly.
Guzman reported raising $186,000 in the first quarter of the year, according to disclosures made public Friday, more than three of her rivals. But Guzman had comparatively little spending cash — $118,000 — to compete with the race’s biggest fundraiser, Del. Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, who reported having nearly $1 million in cash on hand as of March 31.
Guzman cast her decision as a choice between her personal political ambition and a sense of duty to working-class and Hispanic Virginians to have her voice at least in the assembly. She opted to seek to retain her House seat.
“If my political future were the only thing at stake, I would roll the dice and hope for the best, as I think our campaign had a lot going for us and that there are many variables in a seven-person race,” Guzman said. “But the communities I represent need my voice in the General Assembly.”
When she launched her bid for lieutenant governor, Guzman pitched herself as the progressive voice missing from the Democratic-controlled Senate, which tends to be more business-friendly on legislation affecting workers. (The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate.)
She said Democrats’ control of the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion have so far failed to deliver “on what should be our core defining value: economic justice and workers’ rights.”
Guzman is a prominent advocate for paid sick and family leave, and supports repealing the state’s “right-to-work” law, under which union membership may not be a condition of employment.
Three other Democrats are running in the primary for the House of Delegates seat Guzman holds in the 31st District: Rod Hall, Idris O’Connor and Kara Pitek. Guzman’s fundraising in the lieutenant governor’s race could be significant in this primary.
Hall raised $128,000 in the first quarter and had $103,000 in cash on hand as of March 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Hall focuses on transportation and infrastructure as government affairs adviser at a Washington law firm, and is chairman of the Virginia Aviation Board.
Contributors to Hall’s campaign for the House include Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William; state Sens. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, and Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax; and two other candidates for lieutenant governor, Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, and Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan.
The Democrats still running for lieutenant governor are Rasoul; Ayala; McClellan; Xavier Warren, a lobbyist for nonprofits and an NFL player agent; Sean Perryman, former head of the Fairfax County NAACP; and Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria.
On the GOP side, the candidates are Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach; former Del. Tim Hugo; Northern Virginia business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia; Air Force veteran Lance Allen of Fauquier County; finance sector CEO Maeve Rigler; and former Del. Winsome Sears.