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Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe enters governor’s race

December 9, 2020 GMT
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Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, announces that he is running for the Democratic nomination for governor during a press conference in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Mcauliffe was joined by several backers, including Mayor of Richmond Levar Stoney, right. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
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Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, announces that he is running for the Democratic nomination for governor during a press conference in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Mcauliffe was joined by several backers, including Mayor of Richmond Levar Stoney, right. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has formally announced his candidacy for next year’s gubernatorial contest in a race that will serve as a barometer of voter sentiment during President-elect Joe Biden’s first year in office.

McAuliffe held a news conference Wednesday outside an elementary school in Richmond, promising that increased education spending would be his top priority if elected. Once best known as a top Democratic money man and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018.

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He focused his remarks Wednesday on the need for “bold” action to address Virginia’s lagging teacher pay and inequities in education funding.

“We do not have to limit ourselves to small-ball proposals,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe enjoys broad support among many sitting lawmakers and will be able to raise huge amounts of money for his campaign.

Other announced Democratic candidates for governor include state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, either of whom would be the nation’s first African American woman to lead a state. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is also running.

Virginia law bars governors from seeking consecutive terms. Only former Gov. Mills Godwin has served twice in the last century. Others who served nonconsecutive gubernatorial terms include founding father Patrick Henry and former President James Monroe.

State election officials released information Wednesday showing that Del. Lee Carter, a Democratic socialist who was first elected to the state House in 2017, has formed a committee that allows him to raise money for a potential gubernatorial contest.

Carter said he’s still deciding whether to run in the Democratic primary but needed to file paperwork to keep his options open. He said he will make a final decision “soon” and will base his decision on whether the current candidates commit to “actually making the rich pay their fair share in taxes” and other changes he said are needed.

Carter’s entrance into the race could make the contest much more volatile. He has a large online following and is not shy about criticizing other Democrats, including party leaders like McAuliffe.

“Former Gov. McAuliffe is the embodiment of everything that needs to change in this commonwealth. He’s a multi-millionaire who is funded by big corporate interests.” Carter said.