If the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor evolves into a race to the left, Mark Levine may have a fighting chance.
“I am the most progressive – by far the most progressive,” candidate in the race, Levine told members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee on April 7.
Others in the race may quibble with that assessment, but Levine – the only Arlington office-holder running for statewide office on the Democratic side this year – said he was pragmatic as well as progressive.
“I get into the details and get things done,” he said in kickoff remarks.
Concurrently with his run for lieutenant governor, Levine also is seeking to hold his 45th House District seat against a challenge from Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Both races will be decided in June 8 primaries.
The 45th District includes small portions of Arlington and Fairfax counties, but is centered on Alexandria, where both Levine and Bennett-Parker reside.
Running for two offices simultaneously may come back to bite Levine, but he said that if elected lieutenant governor, he would take his hard-charging work ethic to the new post.
“I want to bring that kind of full service to the lieutenant governor’s office,” he said. “I want to transform the whole office, bring new ideas in.”
In his remarks, Levine touted his efforts in the General Assembly to promote transparency, and noted his longstanding efforts to address issues of domestic and sexual violence.
While Levine is probably not viewed by most Democratic insiders as a likely victor in the statewide contest, he has surprised the political establishment before. He effectively came out of nowhere (fueled by aggressive campaign spending) to win the 45th District seat in 2015. In that race, Levine – an attorney – bested a crowd of Arlington and Alexandria political fixtures, who split the vote among themselves and gave the upstart a route to victory.
It was, however, something of a step down, aspiration-wise. In 2014, Levine had run (less successfully) in the Democratic primary for 8th Congressional District, a race won by Don Beyer.
Traditionally, the office of lieutenant governor in Virginia has been seen as the equivalent to the U.S. vice presidency, a job one occupant famously called not worth a “bucket of warm [spit].” The lieutenant governor spends two months a year presiding over the state Senate, then is free for the remainder of the year. The remuneration is decidedly part-time.
Many occupants of the post attempt to use it as a springboard to higher office. Among them is the current, embattled lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax, who is running what some see as a quixotic bid for the governorship while under a cloud of sexual-assault allegations, which he denies.
If Levine’s bid is successful and he does follow through on making the post a full-time job, he’ll probably have to do it on his own dime, as the General Assembly allots precious little funding in support of the No. 2 post.