Aneesh Chopra, tapped to serve as the first White House chief technology officer, is stepping down and is widely expected to announce that he will run for lieutenant governor in Virginia, according to Democrats familiar with his plan, but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Chopra, who has kept his home in Richmond, has flirted with running for statewide office in Virginia for years, building up support among Democratic activists and serving on President Obama’s transition team in 2008.
The timing of his resignation allows Chopra to campaign this year for his two former bosses — former governor Tim Kaine (D), who is running to replace retiring Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) this year — and Obama, who will face a tough fight in the swing state of Virginia. He is expected to attend Virginia Democrats’ biggest fundraiser of the year, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, Feb. 11 in Richmond, where those who are looking to run statewide host parties and mingle with more than 1,500 activists.
In a statement released by the White House shortly before the news of his planned campaign surfaced, Obama said Chopra “did groundbreaking work to bring our government into the 21st century. Aneesh found countless ways to engage the American people using technology, from electronic health records for veterans, to expanding access to broadband for rural communities, to modernizing government records. His legacy of leadership and innovation will benefit Americans for years to come, and I thank him for his outstanding service.”
Chopra was part of a trio of D.C.-area tech and business heavyweights tapped by Obama at the start of his term to address government management and technological concerns.
In the span of a few days in 2009, Obama named Chopra, Virginia’s former secretary of technology, to oversee the government’s tech upgrades and Jeffrey Zients, a D.C.-area business veteran, to serve as the first White House chief performance officer. Zients is now acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. The pair worked with Vivek Kundra, a former District government official, who stepped down in June after serving as the first White House chief information officer.
Other Democrats being mentioned as candidates for lieutenant governor are: Former House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, state Sen. Ralph S. Northam (Norfolk) and Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (Norfolk).
Several Republicans have said they are exploring running for lieutenant governor, including Corey A. Stewart, the Prince William Board chairman who has drawn attention for his controversial actions to combat illegal immigration, and Oakton businessman Keith Fimian, who lost back-to-back congressional races to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D) in 2008 and 2010 in a district that includes much of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Update, 3:30 p.m.
. Chopra told the Post in an email: “After an incredible three years as the nation’s first chief technology officer, I am returning to my home state of Virginia to continue my work using innovative new technologies and platforms to improve healthcare, education and energy – and to grow the jobs and industries of the future. I want to thank the President for entrusting me with the task of fostering an innovation culture in government, and for his direction, engagement, and leadership on applying technology for the betterment of all Americans.”
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