(NOTE: This editorial has been updated to add the paragraphs about Paul Goldman and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. They were not referenced in the original version of the editorial.)
First it was Jennifer Carroll Foy.
The member of the Virginia House of Delegates who represents portions of eastern Prince William and Stafford counties had always been assumed to be interested in statewide office. Sure enough, at the end of May, she announced she is running for nothing less than governor next year.
Then it was Elizabeth Guzman. Another local delegate, representing Prince William and Fauquier counties, she announced in late June she is considering running for lieutenant governor, the state’s second highest office.
Not to be outdone, next came Hala Ayala. The Prince William delegate announced last week that she’s not just considering running for lieutenant governor – she is running.
What do these three women have in common?
They were all elected in the “blue wave” of anti-Trump sentiment in 2017, and Guzman and Ayala ousted longtime Republican delegates. Thanks in part to their victories, Democrats came within a vote of seizing control of the House of Delegates that year, and they finished the job in 2019.
And they are diverse. Carroll Foy would be the first Black woman governor in the country, Guzman would be Virginia’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor, and Ayala, whose family roots lie in El Salvador, North Africa, Lebanon and Ireland, would be the state’s first female lieutenant governor.
But what the three women delegates also have in common is a lack of experience and a lack of a track record of accomplishments that demonstrate an ability to forge coalitions, reach compromises, and lead others.
There is no doubt we need more women in statewide office and no doubt we need more diverse elected officials at all levels of government. All three of these delegates have bright futures. But they are doing themselves a disservice by letting their ambition take charge. We would argue the same if they were white men.
For example, we are duly unimpressed by the candidacy of Paul Goldman, a Democratic political strategist from Richmond who is also running for lieutenant governor.
The first woman to seek statewide office in Virginia was Mary Sue Terry, who was elected attorney general in 1985 and re-elected in 1989 before losing the race for governor in 1993. Before her first statewide run, she served eight years in the House of Delegates and another four years as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney. Carroll Foy, Guzman and Ayala would do well to learn from her example.
Indeed, the background of the only other announced Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond, is also impressive. McClellan served 11 years in the House of Delegates before winning her Senate seat in 2017.
We understand that experience in public office isn’t everything. The three local delegates do have plenty of real-life experiences, and they bring different and important perspectives to the table. But they are newcomers to public life and to state politics. They are barely known locally, let alone statewide.
They need to lead committees in the General Assembly and successfully carry significant pieces of challenging legislation. They need to develop and demonstrate expertise in policy issues, both local and statewide, not just spout Democratic talking points.
Then, and only then, will they be ready to run for higher office.