RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s signature exuberance was on full display as he campaigned on Memorial Day weekend in downtown Petersburg, cracking jokes in a beauty salon, leading a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” and breaking into a dance on a sidewalk.
“I want everybody to know we are back here in Virginia, and we’re going to be stronger than we’ve ever been. We are going to lead the nation out of this COVID crisis,” he told a crowd of supporters and spectators that began chanting his name.
In his quest for a second term, McAuliffe heads into Tuesday’s five-way Democratic primary with an undeniable lead in public polling, name recognition, endorsements and money. But the question facing voters in the primary election is whether the political veteran with decades of experience is the right man for the moment in a state and nation deeply divided and in the throes of unsettling change.
In Virginia, Democrats assumed full control of state government in 2020, two years after McAuliffe left office, and pushed through sweeping change, from gun control to police reform to marijuana legalization to an increase in the minimum wage, transforming what was once a reliably red state into an outlier in the South.