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Spanberger, Stoney split Charlottesville endorsements

If endorsements decided elections, Abigail Spanberger would be well on her way to securing the Democratic nomination for governor, picking up a large chunk of the Charlottesville vote along the way.

Luckily for her opponent Levar Stoney, they don’t.

The Democratic primary for the Virginia governor’s race is more than a year away, but Spanberger and Stoney are already courting Charlottesville voters, each securing endorsements from some of the area’s most prominent politicians.

Recently, Spanberger, a centrist Democrat and former CIA agent who represents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, a constituency that includes portions of Culpeper, Orange, Greene and Madison counties, received the support of Charlottesville native and former congressman Tom Perriello, who once ran for the Democratic nomination himself.

“She’s an exceptional leader and public servant who’s shown an ability to get things done on key issues that matter to people in Virginia,” Perriello, a well-known progressive who once represented Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in the House, told The Daily Progress. “I think Spanberger has set herself apart as someone who even in a very polarized time is able to focus on getting things done that makes life a little more affordable for folks.”

Perriello isn’t alone. Among the others who have endorsed Spanberger are outgoing Del. Sally Hudson, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania and revenue commissioner Todd Divers.

“Abigail has earned a reputation for showing up everywhere and building broad coalitions to take on big problems,” reads a statement from Hudson on Spanberger’s website. “As Governor, I know she will defend abortion access, strengthen our public schools, and expand economic opportunities in all corners of our Commonwealth.”

Ever since announcing, the congresswoman has been racking up endorsements from big names across the commonwealth, including members of Congress and former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Stoney’s list is certainly shorter, but the Richmond mayor is not without some influential backers, including a former governor of his own.

Stoney served as the secretary of the commonwealth under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who mentioned the mayor’s eight years of executive experience when endorsing Stoney earlier this month.

“I know he will hit the ground running the minute he is sworn is as Governor to deliver on the values that we all care deeply about,” McAuliffe wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Another former boss is backing Stoney, this one a familiar name in Charlottesville and Virginia politics.

“It’s not even a decision. I know Levar. I know what he’s made of. I know he’s ready to be governor,” state Sen. Creigh Deeds, a centrist who has represented Charlottesville in the General Assembly for decades, told The Daily Progress. “There’s no decision at all. We’re close, and we’ve been friends for a long, long time.”

While Stoney is often associated with McAuliffe, his relationship with Deeds stretches back even further. He served as political director for Deeds’ unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2009 and was on Deeds’ team in 2005 during a run for attorney general, a race Deeds lost by just a few hundred votes.

“I’ve known Creigh for nearly 20 years,” Stoney told The Daily Progress in a statement. “He’s made a career out of sticking his neck out for the most vulnerable communities in Virginia — both urban and rural. Throughout the last two decades, he’s been my boss, my friend, and my mentor and I’m honored to have his endorsement and have him stand with me on this journey.”

Deeds too highlighted the pair’s longtime relationship, saying Stoney has been there for him time and again, including when Deeds’ son died in 2013 and during a hotly contested Democratic Primary against Hudson last summer.

“In politics, loyalty is an incredibly important currency. It certainly is with me. And Levar has always been loyal with me, and I’m loyal with Levar,” Deeds said.

The senator has confidence Levar would surround himself with good people in the role and believes the time spent as mayor will enable him to be an effective executive, despite his failure to steward development in Richmond’s Navy Hill neighborhood and a recent loss at the polls for a casino development he has championed for years.

“I think Levar will understand the precious nature of the four-year term. You can’t waste time. You’ve got to make every day count, because you won’t get it back,” Deeds said.

That’s not to say Deeds isn’t also a fan of Spanberger. He doesn’t know the congresswoman nearly as well as he knows Stoney but said he likes her independence and willingness to speak for her constituents.

“And if she’s the nominee, I’m going to be all for her. But I’m for Levar right now,” he said.

Both Spanberger and her husband are University of Virginia alumni, and her campaign says the region is a special place to the candidate, noting that she represented surrounding counties and a small portion of Albemarle.

“Virginians in these areas know that Abigail has been focused on lowering costs, expanding access to high-speed broadband internet, supporting local veterans, and listening directly to their concerns — including as the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee,” her campaign said in a statement. “They know that Abigail shows up, listens, and responds with results.”

According to Perriello, Spanberger cares about substance and policy. And while she’s made a reputation for herself being able to work across the aisle, he expects her to have even more success in an executive role.

“I think we’re going to see her leadership skills flourish even more as a governor where she has the executive authority to bring people together and solve problems,” Perriello said.

He also had kind words for Stoney.

“Great guy. Compelling story and really cares about the commonwealth. We’re lucky to be in a situation having good choices,” he said.

With so long to go before the election, it’s not clear how much value the early endorsements actually offer a campaign. Spanberger’s team came out swinging, claiming one big endorsement after another upon announcing her candidacy. That may have been a strategic decision by her team: enter the race first and snatch as many endorsements as possible to give the appearance the party is coalescing around her, thus discouraging others from entering the race.

“It’s a thing a campaign can roll out on rolling basis to give the impression they have momentum and people in the party are supportive of them,” Kyle Kondik, director of communications at the UVa Center for Politics, told The Daily Progress. “With endorsements you can try to make it appear as though there’s no oxygen for another candidate.”

If that was the message, Stoney apparently didn’t receive it. While the slew of Spanberger endorsements may be a sign that she’s the early favorite, and will have a broad base of support from politicians at the national, state and local level, that wasn’t enough to dissuade the mayor from taking a shot at Virginia’s highest office.

“If they were super concerned about it, maybe he wouldn’t have run,” Kondik said. “Stoney was long rumored to be running and now is, so it’s not like Spanberger was able to scare him off.”


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