Government | Politics
DELEGATE, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES; DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR,PRINCE WILLIAM County
Part of the new guard of Democratic state lawmakers, Ayala won her seat in the House of Delegates in 2017 by defeating a five-term GOP incumbent. This spring, she beat a full field of opponents to win the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. If elected, Ayala would be the first woman to hold the job and the first woman of color ever elected to statewide office in Virginia.
Before entering electoral politics, Ayala was a cybersecurity specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for 17 years. She also has spoken about being on public assistance twice in her life, including when she was pregnant. “I understand the struggles so many Virginia families face because I’ve lived them,” Ayala says.
After the Democrats regained power over both statehouses in 2019’s elections, Ayala rose to chief deputy whip and helped marshal votes for legalizing marijuana and abolishing the death penalty.
Ayala received an endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam during the Democratic primary but also met with controversy when she accepted a $100,000 donation from Dominion Energy after promising in previous years to refuse money from the utility. She faces GOP nominee Winsome Sears on the November ballot.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
Fairfax took a bold gamble running for the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but it didn’t pay off.
The former federal prosecutor and civil litigator was a rising star of the state Democratic Party when he won the lieutenant governorship in 2017, becoming only the second Black candidate to be elected to statewide office in Virginia. At that time, his prospects to run for governor looked good, but in 2019 two women accused him of sexual assault. The married father of two has said he was “falsely accused” of the alleged assaults, which date back to the early 2000s, and resisted calls to resign. No legal charges were brought against him, but his gubernatorial ambitions suffered irreparable damage. Fairfax finished a distant fourth in the crowded June 8 primary and will be out of office in January.
In June, a lawsuit he brought against CBS for what he characterized as a reckless disregard in airing interviews with his accusers was dismissed by a federal appeals court.
SPEAKER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES, FAIRFAX
Filler-Corn has come a long way in a short time. In 2010, she won her Fairfax County delegate seat by just 37 votes, but 10 years later, she was sworn in as the 56th speaker of Virginia’s House, the first woman and first Jew to hold the position. “Being the first is a privilege, and it comes with responsibility that I take with great seriousness,” she said at the ceremony.
Throughout her legislative career, Filler-Corn has been an advocate for gun control. Last year, she convened the House for a special summer session focusing partly on racial justice. She also shepherded through the House several gun-control bills, including a measure requiring universal background checks.
In 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a threshold that the amendment had to reach to become part of the U.S. Constitution, although the matter of whether the vote came too late is under court consideration.
Filler-Corn resigned from her position as government relations director at Albers & Co. before becoming speaker in 2020 and previously worked for Govs. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
C. TODD GILBERT
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES, SHENANDOAH
In an interview with Virginia Business this year, Gilbert said that one of his aims is to protect Virginia’s business climate and to oppose Democrats’ repeal of the state’s “almost sacred right-to-work law.” An attorney and former majority leader before party control flipped in 2020, Gilbert has served in the House since 2006.
The Republican has a reputation for sometimes combative rhetoric and made headlines in 2019 when he confronted Democratic Del. Kathy Tran on the House floor over her proposal to repeal some restrictions on abortions. The bill was subsequently tabled.
Gilbert is a rock-steady supporter of conservative values. The Family Foundation named him “Legislator of the Year” in 2013, and he received the same honor from the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Virginia State Police Association.
He has an ‘A’ rating from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce in recognition of his pro-business voting record and an ‘A-Plus’ career rating from the National Rifle Association.
The University of Virginia and Southern Methodist University alum is in private law practice in the Shenandoah Valley. Previously, he was lead prosecutor in the Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA LOTTERY, RICHMOND
As executive director of the Virginia Lottery since 2018, Hall has overseen three record years of sales and profits, partly with the introduction of online ticket sales in 2020. In fiscal year 2021, the lottery brought in a record $3.26 billion in revenue, a 52% increase over the previous year, and contributed $765 million to public schools.
“Online players have shattered all of our expectations and allowed the Virginia Lottery to set the standard as the nation’s most successful online lottery launch,” Hall said.
A former news director and anchor at radio station WRVA in Richmond, Hall was a spokesman and adviser to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner from 2009 to 2017 and served as press secretary to Govs. Warner and Tim Kaine.
In the last couple years, the lottery has been given regulatory responsibility over newly legal commercial casinos and sports betting enterprises in Virginia, expanding Hall’s authority. In the first five months of this year, Virginia bettors made more than $1 billion in online sports wagers. And casinos are under development in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth, with Richmond voters considering a fifth casino in a November referendum.
CHARNIELE L. HERRING
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES, ALEXANDRIA
In 2009, Herring (no relation to Attorney General Mark Herring) became the first Black woman elected to represent a Northern Virginia district in the House of Delegates. She now holds the second most powerful seat in the statehouse, which has been under Democratic leadership since 2020. In addition to serving as house majority leader, Herring chairs the Courts of Justice Committee, after advocating for criminal justice reforms during her tenure on the state Crime Commission.
Born into a U.S. Army family, Herring was a ballet student and also found herself in a homeless shelter for six months after her mother was laid off from her job. She then earned an economics degree from George Mason University and a law degree from Catholic University. Before entering electoral politics, Herring started her own law firm and is now general counsel to Admin & Logistics Inc., a government contractor.
Among her legislative accomplishments are the state’s newly enacted voting rights laws, including automatic voter registration for anyone who gets a Virginia driver’s license, repeal of the state’s voter ID law and making Election Day a state holiday. In an interview with The New York Times, Herring said, “This is what my ancestors fought hard for.”
ATTORNEY GENERAL, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
If reelected in November, Herring would be the first Virginia attorney general to serve a third term. In June, he defeated up-and-comer Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones in the Democratic primary, despite Gov. Ralph Northam’s endorsement of Jones.
A University of Virginia and University of Richmond School of Law alum, Herring started his political career as a Loudoun County supervisor and served as a state senator from 2006 to 2014. He also was the Lovettsville town attorney. Herring has been a consistent proponent of Democratic values during his time as attorney general, refusing in 2014 to defend the Virginia Marriage Amendment, which outlawed same-sex marriage.
Herring also has defended the federal Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Supreme Court, joined 25 other state attorneys general in calling for a federal law to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and has pushed for the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, a matter that has been in civil court since 2020.
In 2019, he was entangled in Northam’s blackface photo controversy after Herring apologized for wearing blackface to a party as a U.Va. undergraduate.
JANET D. HOWELL
CHAIR, SENATE FINANCE AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, SENATE OF VIRGINIA, RESTON
First elected in 1991, Howell is Virginia’s longest-serving female legislator. She also was the first woman to be seated on the Senate’s finance and courts committees.
A former legislative assistant in the state Senate, Howell chaired the State Board of Social Services before her election to the Senate seat representing parts of Fairfax and Arlington counties.
In 2020, as the Democratic party took power in the General Assembly, Howell passed several personally significant bills, including allowing no-excuse in-person absentee voting, reforming early childhood programs, requiring licensure of student loan services and reorganizing the state’s economic development agencies. During the McDonnell administration, Howell gained some notoriety when, in protest of a law to require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, she attached an amendment requiring men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test if they wanted to get erectile dysfunction medication. In 2020, the Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House repealed the mandatory ultrasound.
This year, Howell has thrown her support behind increasing funding for underfunded historically Black colleges and universities. “Righting this historic wrong [is] not only possible but essential,” she says.
SENATOR, UNITED STATES SENATE, RICHMOND
Virginia’s junior senator started out as a Harvard-trained lawyer, mainly representing clients who faced housing discrimination. Then, starting in 1994, he won election to a series of public offices of escalating importance, starting with a seat on the Richmond City Council, then moving on to become mayor and lieutenant governor.
In 2006, Kaine became Virginia’s 70th governor. His administration had to grapple with the Great Recession, as well as the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which claimed 32 lives and remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013, Kaine sits on the armed services, budget and foreign relations committees. Known for his “dad” persona and Spanish language skills, he was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election.
A devout Catholic, Kaine is married to former state Secretary of Education Anne Holton, the daughter of Republican Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr. In 2021, Kaine was part of a group of senators crafting an immigration reform bill that would likely include a path to citizenship.
FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR; DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, McLEAN
Ever since he was introduced as the “once and future governor of Virginia” by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in March 2020, McAuliffe has been viewed as likely to win a second, nonconsecutive term as governor.
McAuliffe won the Democratic nomination handily over four other primary candidates. In this fall’s gubernatorial race, the state’s 72nd governor faces Republican political newcomer Glenn Youngkin in what experts predict will be the most expensive race in Virginia history.
If he wins, McAuliffe will have a friendlier state legislature in his second term, with both houses currently controlled by the Democratic Party. During his first term, McAuliffe says, he functioned as a “brick wall” against abortion restrictions by the then-GOP-controlled legislature while also promoting the state’s trade and business climate.
If elected governor again, McAuliffe has promised to pursue a $15 per hour minimum wage and invest $2 billion in education.
The co-founder of Federal City National Bank, McAuliffe has spent much of the past two years campaigning for other Democrats, including Biden, who returned the favor in July with an appearance for McAuliffe.
DELEGATE, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES; REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA BEACH
A delegate since 2016, Miyares is the Republican nominee for attorney general and faces incumbent Democrat Mark Herring on November ballots. He graduated from James Madison University and William & Mary Law School and then worked as a local prosecutor in Virginia Beach, where he grew up. His mother is a Cuban immigrant, and if elected, Miyares would be the first Cuban American attorney general in Virginia.
A staunch conservative, Miyares criticized police reforms passed by Democratic legislators last year, and he opposed Medicaid expansion in 2019. The same year, Miyares proposed a so-called Red Flag bill that would allow the removal of firearms from a person under an emergency order of protection, a bill introduced weeks after the May 2019 Virginia Beach mass shooting. The bill failed in committee. In 2021, he was the only GOP co-sponsor of a bill requiring casino operators to be trained in spotting human trafficking before receiving a state license.
Debating Herring in June, Miyares attempted to link the two-term AG to a rise in crime rates and controversial decisions made by the Virginia Parole Board, which caught flak for improperly paroling the convicted killer of a police officer.
THOMAS K. ‘TOMMY’ NORMENT JR.
SENATE MINORITY LEADER, SENATE OF VIRGINIA, WILLIAMSBURG
Norment has been a member of the state Senate since 1992 and has led its Republican caucus for 13 years. He sits on several powerful committees, including finance and appropriations, commerce and labor, and judiciary. He is a strong proponent of Virginia’s right-to-work laws and backed marijuana decriminalization, although he stopped short of supporting this year’s measures legalizing recreational use.
In 2021, Norment was one of four legislators who named citizen members to the state redistricting commission to draw new districts based on the 2020 U.S. Census. He also joined three Republican senators in voting to censure state Sen. Amanda Chase for “conduct unbecoming of a senator” in January.
Norment himself is no stranger to controversy, having been charged with a DUI in 2001, and in 2013, his affair with a lobbyist became public. Late last year, Norment, a Virginia Military Institute alum, compared scrutiny of the school and its superintendent’s resignation to a “lynching,” amid extensive allegations of racist incidents at VMI. Norment also holds a law degree from William & Mary.
GOVERNOR, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND
An Eastern Shore native, Northam graduated from Virginia Military Institute and Eastern Virginia Medical School, becoming a pediatric neurologist
and serving as an Army surgeon during the first Gulf War. In 2007, he won the first of his two terms as state senator, then won the 2013 lieutenant governor’s race. In 2018, he became Virginia’s 73rd governor.
Northam’s term can be divided into two parts: before the blackface photo and after. Although the governor says he wasn’t in the offensive yearbook photo, which was made public in 2019, many in his own party called for his resignation.
Northam remained in office and dedicated himself to doing more to promote racial equity and inclusion. With a Democratic-controlled legislature, he has led the state’s efforts to eliminate the death penalty, legalize marijuana, increase Virginia’s minimum wage and bolster voting rights protections. He also appointed the state’s first diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
Northam was a steady voice during the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging Virginians to wear masks and get vaccinated. In January, he will end a four-year term that many consider the most progressive in Virginia’s history.
ROBERT KENT GOOCH PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, CHARLOTTESVILLE
Sabato has been a high-profile figure at the University of Virginia for half a century. As far back as 1974, U.Va.’s newspaper reported that Sabato, then president of the student government, was better known on campus than the university’s own president.
Now a political pundit known to millions, Sabato has taught more than 20,000 students and authored more than two dozen books. In 1998, he founded U.Va.’s Center for Politics.
Although his Crystal Ball website continues to have a strong following, Sabato incorrectly predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidency. He gamely admitted to the misstep in the Crystal Ball article, “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.”
Sabato, who didn’t hold back on criticism of President Donald Trump, was recently targeted by the Republican Party of Virginia, which called for the university to investigate Sabato’s tweets lambasting Trump.
A Rhodes scholar in his youth, Sabato told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Trump’s behavior and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection led to a change in his tone, as did witnessing neo-Nazis marching through U.Va. during the 2017 Unite the Right Rally.
RICHARD ‘DICK’ SASLAW
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, SENATE OF VIRGINIA, FAIRFAX
One of the Virginia legislature’s longest-serving members, Saslaw is now the senior member in the Senate, where he’s served since 1980.
He’s also the legislature’s top recipient of funding from Dominion Energy, and more progressive Democrats have accused him of supporting bills favorable to the utility. In 2021, the Saslaw-led Senate Commerce and Labor Committee killed bills to reform the state’s electric utility rate review system.
Saslaw is known as one of the more moderate members of his party, which is now back in control after two decades in the minority.
The business-friendly Saslaw is a prominent voice for gun control, and in 2019, he proposed raising the age for gun purchases, as well as banning the sale of rifle “bump stocks,” which increase firing rates. His bill was short-lived in the then-Republican-led Senate, but it earned him an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association. He also supported law enforcement reforms last year during the summer special session of the General Assembly.
In 2018, for his support of affordable health care and the expansion of Medicaid benefits, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association named Saslaw a “Healthcare Hero.”
REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, WINCHESTER
“I am running because there are adult decisions that need to be made,” says Sears. The Jamaica-born former state delegate and U.S. Marine who later ran a homeless shelter now has a shot at making some of those decisions after beating five other candidates for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
If successful, Sears, who faces Del. Hala Ayala in the general election this November, would be the first woman to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor and the first woman of color elected to statewide office in Virginia.
Sears served one term in the Virginia House from 2002 to 2004, representing Norfolk, then failed in her 2004 congressional bid. In 2018, she called on GOP voters to choose her as a write-in candidate for U.S. senator in place of nominee Corey Stewart, calling out his past association with white supremacists and his support for the Confederate flag.
Sears, whose campaign photo shows her holding a rifle, is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. She owns an appliance and plumbing repair business in Winchester.
CHAIR, HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
One of Virginia’s political stalwarts, Torian has been elected six times to represent Prince William County in the House of Delegates, mostly without opposition. This year, he has a challenger, Republican Maria Martin, but Torian had $577,738 in his campaign war chest as of June 30, compared to $9,640 for Martin.
In 2020, when Democrats gained control of the General Assembly, Torian became the first Black chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. The pastor of First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, Torian holds degrees from Virginia Union University and Howard University. He has sponsored dozens of successful bills, many in the areas of education, housing and criminal justice. The Virginia Education Association has given him its Solid as a Rock Award five times, and the Virginia Governmental Employees Association named him its 2020 Legislator of the Year.
In 2021, Torian introduced what would become the Virginia Community Policing Act, requiring police to collect demographic information on all drivers they stop, as well as the reason for the stop and whether a warning or citation was issued, data that will be analyzed by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services to investigate racial bias.
SENATOR, UNITED STATES SENATE, ALEXANDRIA
Virginia’s 69th governor, Warner is now the state’s senior senator, serving his third term in the U.S. Senate. Known as a moderate who often works with colleagues across the aisle, Warner is chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and serves on the finance subcommittees governing energy, natural resources and infrastructure, as well as international trade.
He is one of just a few Senate Democrats to oppose President Joe Biden’s bid to raise the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%. As governor, he promoted the state as business friendly. He lowered some taxes while increasing sales and cigarette taxes, adding about $1.5 billion annually to state coffers. After he left office, CNBC named Virginia the best state for business in 2007, the first year the cable business news network began ranking the states.
Before holding public office, Warner co-founded the company that became Nextel and invested in hundreds of startups. His net worth reportedly exceeds $200 million.
Most recently, Warner has been in the news for the pivotal role he played in gathering bipartisan support for Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package proposal.
REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, GREAT FALLS
A newcomer to state politics, Youngkin is the wealthiest major party candidate to run for governor and has staked millions of his own money in his campaign, beginning with the six-way battle he won for the gubernatorial nomination this spring. A former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group private equity firm, Youngkin is reportedly worth $300 million.
A graduate of Rice University and Harvard Business School, Youngkin grew up in Richmond and Virginia Beach. He started a career in finance with First Boston and worked for management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
A Republican in an increasingly blue-voting state, Youngkin is trying to appeal to both Trump devotees (he has received support tweets from the former president) and undecided suburban voters. In a leaked video, Youngkin said he would limit his comments about abortion because it could alienate moderate voters. He has acknowledged that Joe Biden is the rightful president but also participated in an “election integrity” rally at Liberty University in August.
Youngkin touts his business experience and says he will prioritize job creation and manufacturing if he defeats his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, this fall.