Olivia Mullaney of Alexandria, Virginia, voted for the first time two years ago, but Tuesday marked her first chance to choose a candidate for governor.
Mullaney, 20, sported a white T-shirt with the words “VOTE” on the front to cast her ballot for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the state’s primary Election Day.
“I think the economic and job growth throughout Virginia, especially a lot of infrastructure projects in more rural parts of Virginia is what Terry McAuliffe did well during his term,” said Mullaney, a rising senior who studies political science and public policy at Tulane University in New Orleans. “I also feel McAuliffe is the best candidate to beat [Republican Glenn] Youngkin. I still feel Virginia is a very blue state.”
The latest poll released Friday by Roanoke College showed nearly half of likely Democratic voters support McAuliffe, who touts on his campaign website to receive support by dozens of the state’s current and former Black lawmakers and community leaders.
The other four Democratic candidates include former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who came in second in the poll at 11% among likely Democratic voters. State Sen. Jennifer McClellan received 9%, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax fourth at 5% and Del. Lee Carter at 1%.
The state doesn’t allow governors to serve two consecutive terms, but they can seek reelection in the following election cycle.
McAuliffe, who served in office from 2014-18, received an endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam highlighted in a television commercial.
During various debates, McAuliffe, 64, has tied Youngkin to conservative policies aligned with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Youngkin.
Not all Virginia voters chose McAuliffe.
Rebecca Young-Marquardt of Alexandria said Carroll Foy’s accomplishments, such as becoming one of the first women to graduate from Virginia Military Institute, qualify her for the Democratic nomination.
“We need new blood,” she said. “We need a new person and a different perspective and a person of color and a woman.”
Carroll Foy, Fairfax and McClellan seek to become the state’s second Black governor elected since Douglas Wilder in 1990.
If Carroll Foy or McClellan receive the Democratic nomination and win in the Nov. 2 general election, either would become the state’s first Black woman elected governor and the nation’s first-ever woman chosen to the top position.
Carroll Foy, who greeted voters Tuesday outside Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy in Alexandria, said “inevitability” exists only if people allow it.
“When some people see me, a Black woman with bold ideas who’s running to be the next governor in the former capital of Confederacy, it may take some people by surprise,” said Carroll Foy, 39, a public defender who served in the House of Delegates from 2018-20. “You don’t get change by recycling the same ole policies and politicians of the past. I have a to offer for the people of Virginia. I want to fight for them and make sure that no community in Virginia is left behind.”
As of Tuesday morning, the Fairfax campaign and his office staff hadn’t responded to email requests for comment.
Besides televised debates, Carter used virtual programming, social media, phone calls and other means of communication to inform voters about his campaign with a focus on universal health care, continue the eviction moratorium and decrease law enforcement’s involvement in school discipline.
Carter, a Marine Corps veteran, said in an interview Monday he refused to do any in-person events to protect the health and safety of voters and his family, which includes four children not old enough to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“If you look at what the scientists are saying, even if you are vaccinated, you can still be a carrier,” he said. “You can have mildly symptomatic COVID, [or] asymptomatic COVID and pass it on to others. Even though I am vaccinated, I am still not taking any chances. I’ve got to keep my kids safe and I know that is the case for millions and millions of people across Virginia.”