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Charlottesville-based Clean Virginia PAC endorses Spanberger in Virginia governor's race

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger collected a big endorsement for her 2025 campaign for Virginia governor Monday from Clean Virginia, a deep-pocketed advocacy organization in Charlottesville that played a prominent role in legislative elections last fall that gave Democrats majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The Clean Virginia Fund, the organization’s political action committee, also pledged "an initial contribution" of $250,000 to Spanberger, who represents Virginia’s 7th District in Congress and is running for the Democratic nomination against Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. No Republican candidates have jumped into the race yet, but Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears are potential contenders.

Clean Virginia, founded by Charlottesville financier Michael Bills, spent $11.8 million on legislative campaigns last fall, primarily for Democrats, and its candidates prevailed in 53 of 75 races.

"It’s a considerable boost for her," said Larry Sabato, president of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, of the Spanberger endorsement. "I think it’s fair to call her the front-runner."

Sabato said Clean Virginia’s support will help Spanberger with political progressives who may play a big role in the primary next year.

"They pay attention to the organization and the issues for which it stands," he said.

The endorsement was not a surprise to Stoney, who won a second term as mayor in 2020 in an election against a field that included Alexsis Rodgers, a Democratic activist whose campaign received $25,000 from Bills and $100,000 from Sonjia Smith, Bills’ wife. Stoney’s campaign considers the race "neck-and-neck," citing internal polling and the endorsements of more than 100 elected officials at various levels of government.

"While their endorsement of our opponent is disappointing, it is unsurprising and has been a foregone conclusion for some time," said Kevin Zeithaml, a senior adviser to Stoney. "Despite knowing this, the mayor thoughtfully engaged in their process because he firmly believes that we need to get money out of politics and is committed to a clean energy future."

"As mayor, he has made significant investments in combating the climate crisis, and he will continue to advocate for these issues regardless of their endorsement," Zeithaml said.

Stoney is also a political protégé of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. His standing with the party’s progressive wing fell with his support of the ultimately doomed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion Energy, the archrival of Clean Virginia, had proposed through Virginia to supply natural gas to Hampton Roads and North Carolina.

McAuliffe has endorsed Stoney, while former Gov. Ralph Northam has endorsed Spanberger. The three-term representative also has endorsements from three fellow Democratic representatives — Don Beyer of the 8th District, Gerry Connolly of the 11th and Jennifer Wexton of the 10th — as well as former Rep. Elaine Luria of the 2nd and former Rep. Tom Perriello of the 5th.

Stoney has strong support from many Black Democratic elected leaders, such as Senate Finance Chair Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, Sen. Mamie Locke of Hampton and Sen. Lamont Bagby of Henrico, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Democratic Reps. Jennifer McClellan of the 4th District and Bobby Scott of the 3rd, both Black members of Congress from Virginia, have not endorsed anyone in the race.

Clean Virginia spokeswoman Kendl Kobbervig said the organization focused on Spanberger’s efforts in Congress to control pollution linked to climate change, especially her vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, and her refusal to accept donations from corporations, including Dominion. Refusal to accept money from the Richmond-based energy company has been a litmus test for Clean Virginia’s financial support of candidates.

"Her track record of refusing corporate money and her consistent push for ethics reforms and elimination of conflicts of interest in government definitely played a significant role in our decision," Kobbervig said in an interview.

Spanberger carried a substantial fundraising advantage into this year, with $3.6 million through Dec. 31, compared with $758,000 for Stoney. With the primary more than a year away, the candidates will not file updated financing reports until July 15 for the first six months of this year.

"I’m honored to receive the endorsement of Clean Virginia, which joins thousands of Virginians from across our commonwealth in supporting our campaign," Spanberger said in a statement included in the organization’s announcement. "As our next governor, I look forward to working with all Virginians to make our commonwealth a true leader in cleaner and more affordable energy — as well as an economic powerhouse when it comes to securing the jobs of the future."


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