ANNANDAL, VA. – Katherine White has spent countless hours this year organizing voters to endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr. as President.
As one of the millions of suburban women who first became politically active after Donald J. Trump’s election in 2016, Ms. White is one of those Biden voters who process his victory by thinking about what’s next.
You won’t have to wait long – the Virginia Governor’s contest for 2021 is already underway. Three major Democratic candidates have been declared and two more are planning to start next week. The big question Ms. White and other Democrats in the suburbs of Washington, northern Virginia are now asking is whether the political submission from Biden – a steadfast, seasoned white man – is what they think of Democrats in the post- Trump era want.
Mr Biden’s victory was driven by local voters, especially women like Ms. White, who during the primaries and general election were motivated by what they perceived as an existential threat to a second term for the president. Without Mr Trump, Ms. White and other liberal suburban women want the Democratic Party to propose more candidates who look like them – and they are not interested in waiting much longer.
“We’re beyond what the nation was looking for when they voted for Biden. I think Virginia is beyond that,” said Ms. White, 56, of their organization Network NoVA, serves as a collective for dozen of liberal groups in the Washington suburbs. “That’s where we have to lead. That we don’t need a white man to bring us back to be elected. We can do that in Virginia.”
Fairfax County, which includes Ms. White’s hometown of Annandale, has moved in a generation from a place worn by George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election to one of the country’s most trusted democratic strongholds. Fairfax gave Mr. Biden 70 percent of his vote, a higher percentage than the party’s traditional strongholds in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin or Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit.
In nearby Arlington and Alexandria, more than 80 percent of voters voted for Mr Biden. Loudoun County, a battlefield in 2016, gave Mr. Biden 61 percent of his vote, and Mr. Biden promoted the suburb of Stafford County, a first-time Democratic presidential candidate won there since 1976.
Northern Virginia is expected to cast about half of the votes in the June Democratic primary for the governor of Virginia, a race two black women have been participating in for months – Jennifer McClellan, a 15 year old lawmaker;; and Jennifer Carroll Foy, a member of the House of Representatives elected for the first time in 2017 – and Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s lieutenant governor who is also black.
Virginia law prohibits governors from seeking consecutive terms. The outgoing governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, served as Lieutenant Governor of Mr McAuliffe and was involved in a cascade scandal in February 2019 when he apologized and later denied posing in black in a photo that appeared in his medical school yearbook. At the same time, Mr. Fairfax had been charged with sexual assault by two women years earlier. He denied the allegations.
In interviews with more than a dozen Democratic activists in Northern Virginia last week, a group of voters were ecstatic about Mr Biden’s success and his longing to keep campaign promises to stop the spread of the coronavirus, income disparities, and racial justice differences to eliminate trump environment administration policies.
But it also found an electorate hungry to go beyond Mr. Biden’s policy of healing the soul of America and set a progressive policy marker in a Virginia that Mr. Biden carried by more than 10 percentage points. That result gave every Democrat polled confidence that anyone who wins the primary will win next November’s general election.
The two announced Republican candidates in the running are Kirk Cox, a former House of Delegates Speaker, and Amanda Chase, a state senator in the shape of Mr. Trump.
“I never doubted that there would be a problem voting Joe Biden in Virginia,” said Joanne Collins of Reston, Virginia, who heads a local chapter of Indivisible, the grassroots progressive organization that started after the 2016 election It didn’t even cross my mind. And I think the governor’s race will be similar. “
Robbin Warner, the founded an organization that sent more than 460,000 postcards Speaking to voters that fall, their volunteers said their volunteers were thrilled with the prospect of Virginia electing its first female governor after an unbroken line of 73 men that began with Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.
“We like our Jennifers and we’re really excited to have two wonderful women running,” she said. “They are capable, they are articulate, they are responsive, they understand Virginia. We were so excited to be working on coming up with more progressive ideas, more basic ideas that focus on women.”
The problem for both women running for governor is that, as in the presidential primaries, they are threatening to overturn one another, making Mr McAuliffe among voters who value his experience as governor at a time when the country is troubled has left a wide trail to fight the coronavirus and revitalize an economy that has been ravaged by the pandemic for more than a year at the time of the June primaries.
“Trump’s disappearance will not change the fact that people’s children are out of school and jobs are gone, and they will look for people who can solve these problems,” said Dan Helmer, a Democratic lawmaker of the represents western Fairfax County and is not aligned in the governor’s race.
Although Mr McAuliffe has not yet entered the race, advisors to candidates already in the race have long embraced his entry and wasted little time fulfilling his potential political commitments. The turnout in Virginia when Mr. McAuliffe was elected governor was just 43 percent in 2013. among the lowest voter turnout in the modern history of the state. When Virginia Democrats nominated a black candidate for governor in 1989, 67 percent of registered voters in the state voted L. Douglas Wilder, the country’s first elected black governor, in 1989.
And Mr McAuliffe, like Mr Biden, has a long political track record that will look different in 2021 than when he was governor. In 2015, Mr. McAuliffe stopped issuing Confederate flag Virginia license plates but, like many of the state’s leading Democrats at the time, refused to dismantle Confederate statues in Richmond, the state’s capital.
“It’s part of our heritage” he said then. “We’re in Virginia. And it’s an important part of our heritage. The flag is different.” In 2017, after White Nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Mr. McAuliffe changed his mind and demanded that the monuments come down.
Mr McAuliffe’s supporters describe him as the most steadfast hand to lead the state during an anticipated health and economic crisis. And his aides point out that his Political Action Committee was largest single donor to the Democratic State Party during the 2019 election when the Democrats took control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
And Mr. McAuliffe’s aides are sure to request assistance from Mr. Biden, who during a rally in Norfolk in March referred to Mr. McAuliffe as “the former and future governor of Virginia”. (A Biden aide declined to say whether the praise was endorsement.)
Monique Alcala, a former president of the Virginia Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus, supported Senator Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 presidential primaries before taking up a position as Mr Biden’s coalition director for Virginia. Now she said Mr. McAuliffe was the best choice because he knows how to run the Virginia government.
“As Covid is an unprecedented challenger and we are dealing with economic uncertainty, people will see his experience as governor,” said Ms. Alcala, who lives in Alexandria. “You will want someone with experience to lead in a time of crisis and I think Terry is the one to do that.”
Among the crowd of Democratic activists in Northern Virginia who have been women, Ms. Alcala’s appreciation for the experience is outweighed by the prospect of electing the first female governor of the Commonwealth.
“It would send a real message to Virginia and perhaps the country that Virginia is on a different path,” said Heidi Zollo, who began an indivisible chapter after the 2016 elections in Herndon, Virginia.
Ms. Zollo supported Mr. Biden in elementary school in 2020 because she saw that he had the best chance of beating Mr. Trump. Now she wants the Virginia Democrats to propose either Ms. McClellan or Ms. Carroll Foy to show that we take women and women of skin color seriously and that we are confident and satisfied in their leadership.
And Lisa Sales, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Commission for Women, said she “loved and adore” Mr. McAuliffe, but it was time Virginia elected a woman governor.
“The only way to address our problems is to have more women in office,” she said. “This notion that a white man is the most electoral is a false premise. The election of a governor is long overdue. White men must stand behind women, and men must stand behind women, especially women of color.”