Lee Carter Enters 2021 Virginia Gubernatorial Election

Friday, Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas) entered the race to become the next Governor of Virginia. Carter was swept into office in 2017 by a blue wave powered by animosity toward President Trump.

Carter, a Sophomore Delegate who was re-elected in 2019 by a narrower margin than he won by in his first election, is the only member of the Virginia legislature who calls himself a Socialist.

Without a doubt the most leftward member of the General Assembly, Carter’s entrance into the race kneecaps the odds of both former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) losing the Democratic primary and the odds of Jennifer Carroll Foy, who was widely viewed as progressives’ best chance to beat McAuliffe, winning the primary.

Carter is the 5th candidate on the Democratic side to run for Governor. State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax are also in the race.

With the progressive vote now split in the primary, former Governor Terry McAuliffe has likely opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. McAuliffe, holding both the most name recognition as a former Governor as well as the most endorsements from members in the General Assembly, is now incredibly likely to be the nominee.

Should McAuliffe become the nominee, he will face either former Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) or State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield). The Republican Party of Virginia will decide their statewide nominees by a convention rather than a statewide primary.

Carter has mentioned that he will continue to run for his House of Delegates seat while running for Governor, serving as a backup should he not win the nomination. Virginia allows candidates to double-file: Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) filed for re-election in his seat while running for Lieutenant Governor in 2017, though he ultimately lost the statewide primary.

The path for a Lee Carter gubernatorial nomination is as thin as thread: Virginia’s Democratic statewide primary electorate is largely moderate, with little appetite for a socialist nominee.

There are some areas, of course, where Carter may perform well in, with the most likely being his hometown of Manassas City. Other localities where he may perform stronger relative to his statewide vote share include those with many college students, including Montgomery County, Harrisonburg City, Williamsburg City, Radford City, and Charlottesville City.

It’s unlikely that Carter will win any localities outside of the aforementioned ones. Should he win the nomination, the word “upset” does not do justice to the level of how stunning such a result would be.