Election preview: Virginia Democrats gear up for state executive primaries

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June 10, 2013


By Maresa Strano

RICHMOND, Virginia: Democratic voters in Virginia will head to the polls tomorrow to determine which two of their party’s candidates will appear on the general election ballot for the offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general, as well as finalize the nomination of former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe for governor.

All three state executive offices up for election this year in Virginia are occupied by Republicans, and none are seeking re-election to their current posts. Term-limited Governor Bob McDonnell cannot run, and Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli hopes to succeed him as the state's chief executive official. The combination of Cuccinelli's bid and the Republican Party's shift to a closed primary convention in 2013 compelled retiring Lt. Gov Bill Bolling, once considered the front runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, to opt out of the governor's race.

This year's election marks McAuliffe's second bid for the governorship in Virginia; he ran for the office in 2009, finishing a distant second in the Democratic primary behind Creigh Deeds, who lost to McDonnell in the general election. McAuliffe is running unopposed in Tuesday's primary, whereas the lieutenant governor and attorney general primary fields are both contested. Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer for President Obama until 2012 and state Sen. Ralph Northam filed for the open lieutenant governor seat. Two more - former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax and state Sen. Mark Herring - entered to replace Cuccinelli as attorney general by the March 28 candidate filing deadline.

Chopra wants to raise Virginia's education standards, create clean, alternative energy industry jobs, and make healthcare more available and affordable for state resident.[1] He also said he will not “wait for a permission slip” to advance initiatives he believes would boost Virginia's economy.[2]

Northam, a pediatric neurologist who was first elected to the state legislature's upper chamber in 2008, wants to win the lt. governor's office in order to restore Democratic control over the state senate. His campaign has also focused on improving education and creating jobs in energy efficiency, in addition to reversing the direction the Republican leadership has taken the state on women's health issues. "Their crusades to shut down reproductive health centers and to mandate costly and invasive medical procedures for women seeking abortions have embarrassed the Commonwealth, and have inserted government between doctors and their patients."[3][2]

In the attorney general ring, Fairfax and Herring both claim that Cuccinelli has abused his position in pursuit of a partisan agenda and called him an "extreme conservative."[2] The two Democratic hopefuls have similar priorities for the office, including reforming the state's gun laws, fighting GOP and Cuccinelli-led efforts to strengthen restrictions on abortions, as well as advocate for equal rights for same-sex couples.[2] Fairfax, 34, believes his background as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia gives him the edge, as does The Washington Post which endorsed him for the upcoming primary battle.[4] The most recent PPP poll, however, indicates that voters respond marginally better to Herring. This is perhaps owing to Herring's greater name-recognition, having served in the state Senate since 2006.[5] Fairfax and Herring said they would work to pass gun-reform legislation, protect the environment and fight elder and child abuse.

Cuccinelli will square off with presumptive Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe this fall for the governor's office. The winners of tomorrow's primaries for lt. governor and attorney general will face GOP convention picks E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain, respectively, in the general election on November 5, 2013.[6]

The following list of Democratic candidates has been certified official by the Virginia State Board of Elections. Candidates were required to submit signatures by the March 28 filing deadline.[7]

Lieutenant Governor:

Attorney General:

See also

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