Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, a Democrat, is poised to run for Virginia governor in 2025.
Although Stoney hasn’t officially announced his candidacy, a source close to the mayor leaked his gubernatorial run to POLITICO. The outlet was tipped off similarly in July as a soft launch of Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s gubernatorial run.
Unlike other states, Virginia doesn’t allow its governors to serve consecutive terms.
The red wave that caused Governor Glenn Youngkin to prevail over McAuliffe’s re-election bid in 2021 — led by a unique coalition of suburban voters — has since fizzled out and dissipated. This week’s election results turned out big wins for Democrats, whose focused messaging on abortion flipped the House of Delegates and held the Senate.
Stoney recognized the power of the issue, amplifying more explicit messaging offered by his party. In an X repost by Stoney, State Sen. Louise Lucas urged Virginians to vote Democrat to prevent Youngkin from passing an abortion ban bill.
“You heard him,” posted Lucas on X. “Vote today or he will have his hands on every p**n**** in Virginia.”
Prior to being mayor, Stoney served as former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s controversial top operative and protégé. Over the last four years, he’s been suspected as the source behind the debunked sexual assault allegations against a former chief political rival, former Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Fairfax lost in the primary for the 2021 gubernatorial race, plagued by sexual assault allegations leaked in early 2019 shortly after photos of then-Gov. Ralph Northam wearing a KKK uniform and blackface emerged. McAuliffe wasted no time in calling for Fairfax’s resignation; pundits reported that the scandals involving Northam and Fairfax helped McAuliffe secure the primary win.
Immediately after the allegations dropped and in the years since then, Fairfax has publicly accused Stoney and McAuliffe of being behind them.
Last year, the FBI began investigating whether Stoney played a role in the sexual assault allegations. Through it all, Stoney has categorically denied any involvement.
The sexual assault allegations weren’t Stoney’s first major controversy with political rivals. In 2004, several months after graduating college, Stoney lied to police to cover up for five of his Democratic campaign worker colleagues who had slashed the tires of a van transporting Republican voters to the polls.
Stoney served as the political director and then executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, where he helped secure Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential win.
Stoney aligned with McAuliffe several years later, working for McAuliffe’s scandal-ridden, now-shuttered automotive company, GreenTech Automotive, as a consultant. McAuliffe then brought Stoney onto his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, where Stoney worked under campaign manager Robby Mook (later the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign).
As governor, McAuliffe appointed Stoney as the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Stoney was first elected as Richmond mayor in 2016, and won reelection in 2020.
A major part of media focus on Stoney’s second term involved the removal of all Confederate statues from Richmond — about a dozen — following the 2020 George Floyd riots.