But Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria) said McAuliffe told her that he has ruled that out. “He told me he does not intend to seek an appointment in the Biden administration,” she said Monday.
McAuliffe spokesman Jake Rubenstein confirmed Herring’s account but declined to say whether the decision was related to any plans for a comeback bid. In a text message, Rubenstein would say only that the former governor “is focused on tackling the challenges as we defeat and recover from COVID-19 here in Virginia.”
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) cannot run for reelection because Virginia bars governors from seeking back-to-back terms. Only one Virginia governor has held the office for two terms since the Civil War: Mills Godwin, who served from 1966 to 1970 as a Democrat and from 1974 to 1978 as a Republican.
McAuliffe, 63, left office in January 2018 with his eye on the White House. But in April 2019, he opted against entering the crowded Democratic presidential primary. He has been publicly considering a run for governor ever since.
McAuliffe has staffed up his Common Good VA political action committee and this year raised more than $2 million — far more than any of the declared candidates in either party.
“I’m happy to hear that he’s not going to take a position, because we need him here as governor,” said L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), president pro tempore of the state Senate and one of Virginia’s most high-profile Black politicians. “We need Terry to lift the Black community from this crippling pandemic, which has hit the Black community and Brown communities harder than anyone else.”
McAuliffe, who is White, is socially liberal but friendly to business. Support from African Americans would be important if he decides to get into the Democratic gubernatorial primary. All three Democrats already in the race are Black: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William) and state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond).
Del. Alfonso H. Lopez (D-Arlington) said he’d be supportive of a McAuliffe comeback bid.
“I saw firsthand how Terry inherited a $2.4 billon budget deficit from his Republican predecessor in the midst of the Great Recession, and was then hit with sequestration, but he ended up leaving office with the largest budget surplus in Virginia history,” Lopez said. “In these challenging economic times, as a result of the pandemic, we need someone who understands getting folks to work and getting the economy moving.”
Among Republicans, the only declared gubernatorial candidate is state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield), an avid supporter of President Trump who alleged without evidence at a rally over the weekend that Biden had stolen the presidential election.
Other potential GOP contenders include Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), a former speaker of the House of Delegates; state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (Augusta); Pete Snyder, a Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur who unsuccessfully sought the 2013 GOP nomination for lieutenant governor; and Charles “Bill” Carrico, a retired state trooper and former state senator from Grayson County, in the state’s far southwest.
McAuliffe had spent a lifetime in politics and business but never held elective office before narrowly beating Republican Ken Cuccinelli, then the state’s attorney general, for the governorship in 2013. His election — one year after President Barack Obama won his second term — broke a streak going back to 1977, in which Virginians had always picked a governor from the party not occupying the White House.
Before his governorship, McAuliffe was best known as a former Democratic National Committee chairman and record-breaking fundraiser for two of his closest friends: Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In his second White House term, President Clinton briefly considered McAuliffe for commerce secretary before shifting to a coveted ambassadorial assignment, to the Court of St. James’s in London, McAuliffe wrote in his memoir. But McAuliffe bowed out to help Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign.
McAuliffe was widely thought to be in line for commerce secretary if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency four years ago.
After taking a pass on the presidential primary, McAuliffe spent much of 2019 campaigning and raising money to help Virginia Democrats win control of the state legislature.
He went on from there to campaign across Virginia and the country for Biden, a friend of more than 40 years. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, much of that campaigning turned into Zoom appearances. But in early March, just ahead of the Super Tuesday primary, he held a rally with Biden in Norfolk.
At that rally, Biden called him “the once and future governor of Virginia.”