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Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe files paperwork to form campaign committee, but has not yet decided to seek a comeback, aide says

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — Former governor Terry McAuliffe has filed paperwork with the Virginia elections office to create a campaign committee to run for governor in 2021, but the Democrat's spokesman said that it's a technicality and that there's no candidacy. Yet.

“Governor McAuliffe is making no decisions on 2021 until after we defeat Donald Trump and his hateful ideology. This represents a paperwork change suggested by our accountant and lawyer,” spokesman Brennan Bilberry said via text message.

The state paperwork — filed Wednesday and first reported by the Virginia Public Access Project — converts McAuliffe’s existing political action committee, Common Good Virginia, into a candidate committee called Virginians for Common Good.

The new committee’s chairwoman is listed as state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who was charged with two felonies earlier this week in connection with her alleged role in the toppling of a Confederate statue. Lucas, the first African American woman to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate, has slammed the charges as political persecution over her efforts to pass legislation to overhaul police oversight.

McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, is a prodigious party fundraiser who has already banked almost $1.7 million in his political action committee this year. The filing change would make it easier for him to quickly switch to a gubernatorial campaign operation after the presidential election in November, associates close to McAuliffe said, but doesn’t commit him to such a decision.

McAuliffe has been fanning speculation all year, although he has also been mentioned as a possible Cabinet secretary in a potential Joe Biden administration.

Virginia Democrats have begun lining up for next year’s race to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D). The state Constitution prevents an incumbent governor from seeking a second consecutive four-year term, but does not stop a former governor from running again later.

McAuliffe left office highly popular among Democrats, but some in the party are committed to seeing a woman or minority candidate win the nomination next year.

Covid-19 puts crimp in 2021 race for Virginia governor

State Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond) and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (Prince William) have declared their intent to run. Carroll Foy has raised almost $800,000 and McClellan more than $400,000. Both are African American, and if successful would be only the second Black governor to win election in Virginia since Reconstruction. No woman has ever served as Virginia governor.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) have also signaled an intent to run, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) — a McAuliffe protege — has long harbored ambitions, but so far is running for reelection.

On the Republican side, only state Sen. Amanda Chase (Chesterfield) has declared. Delegate and former House speaker Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights) has said he is considering a run, as has Northern Virginia entrepreneur Pete Snyder, who unsuccessfully sought the 2013 GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, and former state senator Charles “Bill” Carrico of Grayson County in the state’s far southwest.