What happened during Democrat Jennifer Carroll Foy’s run for Virginia governor?

When Jennifer Carroll Foy was crisscrossing the state on a tour bus in 2019, she seemed like the perfect candidate for governor.

Recently elected to a second term in the House of Delegates, representing Woodbridge, and the northern portion of Stafford, the Democrat won a landslide victory over her Republican challenger. Young, female, African-American — it seemed like she had it all, especially in 2020, a year that saw many calls to elevate more minority, progressive candidates to higher office.

On Tuesday, it was clear Carroll Foy was not the candidate Democrats wanted to be the state’s next governor. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is seeking a rare second term after leaving office in 2018 (Virginia law prohibits governor’s from serving two consecutive terms), beat Carroll Foy by more than 42 points — another landslide.

McAuliffe, 64, who’s white, and has a long political history in Virginia, doesn’t fit the mold of what many progressive voters had in mind.

“When you look at Terry, you might just see a white guy, but he had the support of a very broad range of individuals and elected officials across the commonwealth, and it’s very hard to compete with that,” said Trevor Southerland, the former Director of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.

McAuliffe racked up more than 300 endorsements in the days leading up to the Primary, including that of the current Gov. Ralph Northam. His campaign is led by three prominent black politicians — co-Chairs Senate President Pro-Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

“Very few Virginia governors run for a second term, but when they do, they have all the advantages,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at Mary Washington University. “They have all of the advantages — they’ve already won a statewide race, they have contacts all over the commonwealth, they have significant abilities to raise money, and they’ve built up political IOUs within the party.”

Carroll Foy campaigned on issues like banning the sale of assault rifles, making mail-in voting permanent, and forcing residents to stop using gas, oil, and coal to heat their homes by 2035. While McAuliffe won big across the state, a few precincts in her old House District voted for her. in Prince William County, they included Freedom, River Oaks, Library, and Swans Creek precincts in Woodbridge, and the Quantico precinct. In Stafford, she won the Griffis and Widewater precincts.

Carroll Foy stepped down from her HD2 seat in December in order to raise more cash for her gubernatorial run. Candidates can’t raise money while the General Assembly is in session, per state law.

Two other gubernatorial candidates on Tuesday’s ballot — Jennifer McClellan (D) and Lee Carter (D-Manassas, Bristow) kept their seats during the campaign. However, Carter was voted out and won’t be returning to Richmond in January.

“It would have been better for her to keep the seat the way Jennifer McClellan chose to do, so she could keep doing the good work in the Senate,” said Southerland. “Jennifer Carroll Foy, now, I’m not sure where she turns.”

Later this year, state legislators are set to redraw the political districts for the first time in more than 10 years. That could mean a U.S. congressional district, such as the 1st District now held by Rep. Rob Wittman (R) being redrawn and centered on or around Prince Willliam County, which has seen an explosion of the population over that time period.

If that comes to pass, Carroll Foy has the name recognition to run. And, if McAuliffe wins in his bid to beat Republican challenger and political newcomer Glenn Youngkin, there’s always the possibility she’ll be tapped for a cabinet position.

“What you saw with Jennifer Carroll Foy was a very talented candidate who might very well have been the nominee if McAuliffe had not decided to run again,” said Farnsworth. “But once he did, there was very little she could do. Her fate was effectively sealed.”


  • Uriah Kiser

    I'm the Founder and Publisher of Potomac Local News. Raised in Woodbridge, I'm now raising my family in Northern Virginia and care deeply about our community.

    View all posts

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