Richmond Mayor Sets Virginia Gubernatorial Bid After Failed Casino Votes

Posted on: December 4, 2023, 09:45h. 

Last updated on: December 9, 2023, 02:55h.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) has formally announced his gubernatorial bid to succeed Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in January 2026. Virginia governors aren’t allowed to serve consecutive terms.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney casino Urban One
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hopes to become the next governor of Virginia. The mayor seeks to succeed Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and put a Democrat back in the state’s highest office. (Image: AP)

Stoney has served as Richmond’s 80th mayor since January 2017. His administration has governed some of the Virginia capital’s most challenging, pressing, and divided times, most notably the city’s June 2020 protests at the Robert E. Lee Statute in response to the murder of George Floyd.

Stoney takes credit for cleaning up the city’s finances and improving its infrastructure. The Democrat also believes he’s inextricably responsible for Richmond’s poverty rate decline of more than 20% since he assumed office.

His critics, however, say racial tensions have only worsened during his administration. He also misfired in thinking he could win over city voter support for a Las Vegas-style casino resort.

Richmonders voted “No” two times on casino referendums, with the second vote being scolded by gaming opponents and those who believed Stoney and the Richmond City Council violated the democratic process.

Self-Proclaimed Trailblazer

Stoney says he’s running for governor to ensure all Virginians have “a fair shot,” where success doesn’t depend on one’s zip code. He believes he’s qualified to bring people together, as he was the first Black person to serve as the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia and became the youngest mayor in Richmond’s history when he was elected at 35 years of age.

We made historic investments to uplift the city and to improve the lives of the people who live in it,” Stoney declared in his campaign launch video. “We fixed our crumbling roads and infrastructure. We reduced the poverty rate by 22%. We got our fiscal house in order and the city now has a budget surplus.”

Stoney added, “we brought down Confederate statues that don’t reflect our values,” and cited a Travel + Leisure Magazine story that ranked Richmond as the “Best Place to Live in Virginia.”

Stoney says Youngkin is dividing the commonwealth and is trying to roll back progress.

“We can’t afford to sit on our hands and do nothing,” Stoney concluded.

Stoney is already facing another Democratic primary challenger in U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia). The congresswoman won’t seek reelection so she can run for governor.

No Republican has yet declared their 2025 election candidacy.

Casino Blunders

Stoney adamantly supported Richmond’s bringing a casino resort to the capital metro. He tried to rally support for Urban One, a Black-focused media conglomerate, on each radio and TV company’s casino pitches.

The 2021 casino pitch was narrowly defeated, 51-49%. The difference was less than 1,500 votes. A vote of about 62%-38% more strongly rejected last month’s casino referendum.

Urban One was seeking permission to construct an integrated resort casino near the Philip Morris plant on the city’s Southside along Interstate 95. Both casino referendum votes were split, with more affluent neighborhoods primarily north of the James River opposing the project, and less-wealthy areas backing the casino initiative.

Stoney and the City Council had pledged to use the city’s casino tax revenues to better bankroll early childhood programs by establishing the Richmond Childcare and Education Trust Fund. Political activist Paul Goodman, who championed the successful casino opposition campaigns, countered that “we’re not lacking money in Richmond,” but “lacking a vision.”

“You can’t tell me the only way to help kids is to rip off their parents,” Goldman said.