Former Virginia Gov. McAuliffe launches comeback

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday officially kicked off his bid to return to the governor’s mansion with a nod to the racial and gender dynamics at play in his commonwealth and across the country.

“We have a huge opportunity to address the inequities of the past,” McAuliffe said. “But it’s going to take big, bold, proven leadership to get it done.”

McAuliffe enters a Democratic field that already has two candidates vying to become the first Black woman elected governor in the United States. Virginia’s Black lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, also intends to run, and McAuliffe’s comeback bid has unsettled political groups hoping to elect candidates more reflective of the commonwealth’s diversity.

McAuliffe launched his campaign outside of an elementary school named after Richmond’s first African American school board chair and was flanked exclusively by Black supporters, including a former member of his cabinet — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney — and Louise Lucas, the first Black woman to serve as president pro tempore of the Virginia Senate.

“We need him to lift the Black community from the crippling pandemic because he knows that it has hit Black communities and brown communities harder than anyone else,” Lucas said, “We need him to bring his energy and bold vision for Virginia for our post-Covid recovery.”

McAuliffe, who served from 2014 to 2018, is seeking to become the first Virginia governor to serve a second term in nearly a half century. Virginia does not allow its governors to serve consecutive terms, and the state is one of only two — New Jersey being the other — that holds its quadrennial gubernatiorial election in the year after presidential contests.

McAuliffe highlighted his experience leading the commonwealth for four years while simultaneously railing against “the old Richmond approach.”

“Folks, it’s time for a new Virginia way,” he said.

McAuliffe has a reputation as a prodigious fundraiser and has some built-in advantages given his long history in Democratic circles, including a close friendship with the Bill and Hillary Clinton. He also decided against a 2020 presidential bid and said he would not seek a post in the Biden administration, opening him up to run for governor.

McAuliffe also promoted his education platform, promising to ensure universal internet access for Virginia students and to raise teacher pay above the national average.