State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) will formally announce his bid for lieutenant governor Thursday afternoon, promoting himself as someone who would help steer an evenly split Senate away from the social agenda pushed by Republicans in the last General Assembly session.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, a role that became crucial after the 2011 elections, which left the chamber with 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who is not seeking reelection and canceled plans to run for governor, cast a record 28 tie-breaking votes in the last session, tipping the balance on bills and amendments related to voter ID, mandatory ultrasounds before abortions, property rights, school vouchers, right-to-work laws and — perhaps most consequentially — the organization of the Senate.
In an interview earlier this week, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said he would bring a different perspective to the Senate rostrum.
“The last session started with a 20-20 split, with the Republicans coming in and rearranging the committees and really getting us off. . . to a very divisive start,” he said. “And that kind of carried on through the session.The different social issues that seemed to be a big part of their agenda really bothered me a lot. That ultrasound bill — to mandate to women that they should have this test and also to mandate to providers, physicians such as myself, what tests we should and shouldn’t be doing — that is nowhere for the legislature to go.”
Northam, 53, who describes himself as someone who is fiscally conservative and “open minded” on social issues, named transportation, education, the environment and healthcare as his priorities.
He intends to keep his hand in his medical practice during the campaign and, should he win, as lieutenant governor. In Virginia, the lieutenant governor’s position is a part-time job that pays $36,000 a year. Bolling has continued to moonlight at an insurance firm while in office.
One other Democrat is seeking the office: Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first chief technology officer.
Seven Republicans are in the race: Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, a former delegate and state senator; Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter of Prince William; state Sen. Stephen H. Martin of Chesterfield; Pete Snyder, a technology entrepreneur and former Fox news commentator; Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors; Susan Stimpson, chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors; and E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake minister who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in this year’s U.S. Senate race.