The Democratic contest for lieutenant governor is the most wide-open and uncertain statewide nomination to be decided in Tuesday’s primary.
With six candidates, there’s been no clear front-runner, although Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has raised significant money and started with a higher profile than the other candidates. And Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, received endorsements from Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.
For non-politicos who are wondering who these folks are, here’s a look at the six Democrats on the primary ballot and their messages to voters. The winner will face GOP nominee Winsome Sears in November for the right to bang the gavel in the state Senate, presiding over the chamber and breaking tie votes.
Del. Hala Ayala
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Ayala touts her endorsements from Northam and Filler-Corn. She also talks about her background as an Afro-Latina single mother who relied on Medicaid for health care for her family. Ayala’s mother was Lebanese and Irish, and her father was an immigrant from El Salvador with African roots.
“Medicaid saved my life and my son’s,” she said in a TV ad on health care and the Democrats’ expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. “So when I had the chance to expand affordable health care with one vote, I didn’t hesitate. Now 400,000 Virginians can see a doctor when they’re sick.”
Ayala was elected to the House of Delegates in the anti-Trump blue wave of 2017 and re-elected in 2019, both times defeating Rich Anderson, now chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Ayala is the favored candidate of mega-donor Dominion Energy, and she accepted $100,000 from the monopoly utility after previously saying she would never accept its donations. That led one of her supporters, Del. Josh Cole, D-Fredericksburg, to rescind his endorsement and back Rasoul.
On a statement of economic interest in January, she said she had been employed as a cybersecurity specialist at the Transportation Security Administration.
Website: halafor virginia.com
Del. Mark Levine
Stopping gun violence and domestic violence are the top issues for Levine, a member of the House of Delegates since 2016. His sister Janet Gail Levine March was killed by her husband in Tennessee in 1996. Levine helped persuade lawmakers in his home state of Tennessee to write a law allowing children to be taken from parents convicted of domestic violence.
Levine, a lawyer who holds degrees from Harvard and Yale universities, says he supports a more active role for the state’s lieutenant governor, which is a part-time position. In the legislature, he formed the Transparency Caucus with Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, which helped push for audio and video recording and archiving of legislative business.
In February 2020, a Senate committee blocked Levine’s proposed ban on sales, transfers and imports of assault-style weapons as four Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat the measure.
Levine has released a TV ad on gun violence.
“I’ve led the fight for universal background checks and keeping guns from people with severe mental illness,” he says in the ad. “As your lieutenant governor, I’ll never stop fighting to make Virginia a safer place to live, work and go to school. Because Virginia deserves active leadership. Thoughts and prayers just aren’t cutting it.”
He lives in Alexandria and represents parts of the city, Arlington County and Fairfax County.
Levine loaned himself $530,000 for his campaign and also received large donations from relatives, according to his most recent campaign finance filing.
He is also on the ballot seeking his House seat, and he faces Democratic challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in Tuesday’s primary.
Website: levinefor virginia.com
Norfolk Councilwoman Andria McClellan
McClellan defeated an entrenched incumbent on the Norfolk City Council in 2016 and represents half of the city in a superward. She’s making her first run for statewide office. She ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in Hampton Roads in 2013.
McClellan worked in sales for Dow Chemical and FINA Oil and Chemical, as well as serving as president of a CD and DVD packaging company. She says her business and nonprofit leadership experiences make her the most qualified candidate. She was vice chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2014 and 2015. Her top issue is expanding broadband internet access.
After campaigning mostly on Zoom during the pandemic, she has been traveling the state in person.
“It’s just been amazing to be out with people,” she said.
“I don’t think anybody is a slam dunk in this race, and that’s good for all of us; it just keeps all of us working hard.”
She said Democrats shouldn’t nominate three statewide candidates who are all from Northern Virginia, and that she brings geographic diversity to the ticket.
“I believe that I have more experience than anybody else running,” she said.
Website: andriafor virginia.com
Perryman was the youngest president of the Fairfax County NAACP and helped lead the effort to change the name of Springfield’s Robert E. Lee High School to John R. Lewis High School.
Among his top issues are police reform and campaign finance reform. He has announced a plan to stop police brutality that includes eliminating felony charges for all drugs. He supports an end to provisions in state law that protect police officers who have committed wrongdoing, as well as subpoena power for civilian police review boards.
“People are rightfully outraged. They are tired of seeing the same images of violence against Black people on the news and social media,” Perryman said in a campaign statement.
“There’s a reason that last year saw the largest demonstrations for racial justice in history. We have an obligation to not only act, but act in a way that listens to harmed communities and has the courage to take on the status quo.”
Perryman has a law degree from Vanderbilt University and worked with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland as counsel on the U.S. House Oversight Committee.
This is his first run for public office.
Website: perryman forvirginia.com
Del. Sam Rasoul
Rasoul is one of the most progressive members of the legislature, and his candidacy is not favored by the state’s Democratic establishment. Rasoul does not accept donations from the corporate interests that fuel Democratic fundraising in Virginia.
His parents moved to the U.S. from Palestine, and he was first elected to the legislature in 2014.
Rasoul is one of the most outspoken critics of Dominion Energy’s political influence on Virginia’s legislature. And while most Democrats backed legislation last year that requires Virginia electric utilities to operate carbon-free by 2050, Rasoul supports requiring it by 2036.
Topping Rasoul’s policy agenda are proposals to help women and mothers get jobs, earn higher wages, and get access to child care. He wants increased child care subsidies and funding for expansion of preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds, new laws for paid medical and family leave, and a tax credit for people caring for a family member. He backs requiring businesses to provide predictable schedules for service industry workers.
“The burden on moms has always been unfair, and the pandemic has only made it worse,” Rasoul says in a TV ad.
Rasoul is the Southwest Virginia director for Richmond-based Fahrenheit Advisors, a consulting company for businesses and nonprofits. He also is on the ballot running for his House seat and faces no opposition for the Democratic nomination.
Warren is a native of the Danville area who owns a small federal grants business, Congressional Partners, and lives in Arlington County.
He has made support for businesses and helping them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic his top issue.
He has a master’s degree from Georgetown University.
“As someone who comes from a middle-class family ... who knows how it feels to live paycheck to paycheck as a former restaurant server ... and who continues to overcome systemic injustices to achieve my dreams, I will keep you and your family in mind while leading Virginia into a new era where we can be proud to live and raise our children and grandchildren,” Warren wrote to voters in a letter on his campaign website.
Website: xavierfor virginia.com