RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney officially joined the 2025 race for Virginia governor on Monday, touting his executive experience over two terms in office and pledging to be a pragmatic voice for equality and progress.
Stoney, 42, made his formal announcement in a video that highlighted his modest upbringing and the struggles he overcame to become the first in his family to graduate from high school and college.
“That’s why I’m running for governor. For families like mine that just need an opportunity. For kids like me, who will thrive in school if they just get the right chance,” he said. “And for parents like my dad, who work multiple jobs and still struggle to live a secure, middle-class life.”
Stoney’s entrance into the race sets up a Democratic nomination contest with U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who has cultivated an identity as a bipartisan consensus builder over three terms in Congress. Spanberger, who if elected would be the state’s first female governor, announced her bid last month, and others could still enter the field.
No Republicans have announced campaigns yet, though Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears are seen as likely contenders. Under state law, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin cannot seek a second consecutive term.
In his video announcement and an interview Monday morning, Stoney criticized Youngkin’s leadership as out of step with voters’ values.
“I think many Virginians are sick of a governor who was out there focused on banning abortion and banning books and making it harder for people to vote instead of actually focused on how do they climb the economic ladder into the middle class,” he said.
Youngkin’s press office defended his record in a statement that noted his solid approval ratings. And the Republican Party of Virginia criticized Stoney as a “far-left radical,” saying he failed Richmond as mayor and would be a “a disaster for Virginia.”
Stoney, who has two decades of experience in Virginia politics, served as the first Black Secretary of the Commonwealth — a cabinet position — under former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, with whom Stoney is close.
In that role, Stoney oversaw the process of restoring the voting and other civil rights of felons who had completed their sentences, an effort that McAuliffe accelerated and called the most important legacy of his term.
Stoney went on to win a competitive race in 2016 to become the youngest person to serve as mayor of the state’s capital city. He was re-elected in 2020.
In his gubernatorial campaign launch, he also touted his efforts to improve Richmond residents’ lives by tackling what he called “generational problems” — improving the city’s finances, fixing its roads, building new schools and reducing the poverty rate.
Stoney, who is Black and if elected would be the second African American person to serve as governor, said at the time that the statues’ removal would send a message that the onetime capital of the Confederacy was no longer a place with symbols of oppression and white supremacy.
“Those statues stood high for over 100 years for a reason, and it was to intimidate and to show Black and brown people in this city who was in charge,” he said in the summer of 2020.
Stoney has been involved in Virginia politics since his college days at James Madison University. He worked as a fellow in the office of then-Gov. Mark Warner, then joined John Kerry’s campaign for president. He’s since worked on several other statewide campaigns and at the Democratic Party of Virginia, serving as political director and then executive director.
While Stoney said he sees his current base of support in the central Virginia African American community, he thinks his work, executive experience and life story will help him connect with voters around Virginia, arguing he’s the “only candidate that can campaign everywhere.”
“I truly believe that the voters, the Democratic voters, want someone who has run something, and I’m going to lay out that record at that vision over the course of the next 18 months” ahead of the primary, he said.
Connor Joseph, a spokesperson for Spanberger, said in a written statement that “Virginians know and trust Abigail’s record of public service, her commitment to bringing people together, and her track record of getting things done against tremendous odds — while winning tough races.”
Stoney lives in Richmond with his wife, Brandy. The two are expecting their first child in March.
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