The state GOP will gather in Richmond in five weeks to winnow the crowded field down to a nominee. The winner will face either former U.S. chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra or state Sen. Ralph S. Northam (Norfolk) after the Democrats crown their choice in a June 11 primary.
Although the state’s gubernatorial race between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and businessman Terry McAuliffe (D) is bound to overshadow the contest, whoever is elected lieutenant governor will preside over the evenly divided Senate and be a leading contender for governor in four years.
“Normally Virginia’s lieutenant governor” post is a “one-way ticket to oblivion,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “This election cycle, the lieutenant-governor race is likely to be vital to the future direction of the commonwealth. The lieutenant governor breaks the ties for most legislation in the Senate, and senators do not face the voters for two years.”
Each of the seven candidates is targeting slightly different geographical or ideological niches. And because Republicans decided to forgo a primary for a convention, the race will turn on the whims of a few thousand Virginians on May 18 rather than the larger statewide electorate.
“I would say [the race is] almost impossible to quantify,” said former state senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (Fairfax).
Davis is joined in the race by Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson; Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (Prince William); state Sen. Stephen H. Martin (Chesterfield); technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder; Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; and Susan Stimpson, chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
Their hurdles are not insignificant. Stewart and Lingamfelter are dividing the same county. Davis, the wife of former congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), has to beat back conservatives, who say she is too moderate. Martin, Jackson and Stimpson have fundraising ground to make up. And Snyder is positioning himself as an “outsider” even though he is a former political consultant with close ties to state and national Republicans.
Davis said she is right-leaning enough while “understanding that you have to have a balanced ticket” given Cuccinelli’s stance as a solid conservative. Davis also said her campaign has been “targeting ethnic minority delegates,” particularly among Northern Virginia’s sizable Asian American population.
Stimpson, meanwhile, said she is the only conservative woman in the race, emphasizing her fiscal record in Stafford and appealing to tea party activists. She said the upside of holding a convention is that “you can’t dodge with millions of dollars on TV or a slick campaign brochure. The people who attend this convention are going to do their research.”