Tonight, the Democratic Party of Virginia held their first debate for the 2021 statewide primaries. The five candidates running to become the next Governor of Virginia are former Governor Terry McAuliffe of Fairfax County, State Senator Jennifer McClellan of Richmond City, former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William County, Delegate Lee Carter of Manassas City, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of Fairfax County. The candidates discussed their plans for the pandemic, healthcare, the economy, cannabis legalization, gun violence, and racial justice.
This is the first debate/forum with all five candidates attending. On March 15, there was a debate with every candidate except McAuliffe, the definitive frontrunner in the race thanks to his ability to raise vast sums of money as well as his sky-high name recognition as the former Governor of the Commonwealth.
Initial gubernatorial primary debates are, of course, events that have small audiences, compared to a general election debate. Being this far out, it’s one of the least important debates of the gubernatorial election. Still, when you’re anybody but Terry McAuliffe, you need to do whatever you can to squeeze out a big, positive moment for you that could potentially go viral, drawing donations and supporters your way.
Both of the black women running for Governor, Carroll Foy and McClellan, attacked McAuliffe on gun violence, with Carroll Foy saying he made a “backroom deal” with the National Rifle Association in a bill McAuliffe signed during his time as Governor on concealed-carry permits. McAuliffe retorted noting that the bill he signed was bipartisan.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment of the debate though was when Lieutenant Governor Fairfax said former Governor McAuliffe treated him like Emmett Till and George Floyd when McAullife called on Fairfax to resign in February 2019 when he faced sexual assault allegations.
Overall, all of the candidates had at least a decent performance besides Fairfax, who better hope that last comment of his doesn’t go viral.