Community activist and mental health advocate Princess Blanding, whose brother was fatally shot by Richmond Police in 2018, announced her entrance into the 2021 Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday as a third-party candidate, joining a group of hopefuls featuring former and current state politicians.
Blanding, 38, will be running as an independent candidate under the Liberation Party, whose mission to advance equity by uplifting traditionally underserved and oppressed communities, according to a press release.
“For too long, the two-party system has failed to listen to everyday, working-class Virginians. In the midst of COVID-19 and calls to end systemic racism, Virginia is in need of courageous, progressive leadership that can lead us out of these uncertain times,” Blanding wrote in a Facebook post for her campaign announcement video. “That’s why I, Princess Blanding, am running to be the next Governor of Virginia under the newly-formed Liberation Party.”
According to her website, Blanding’s policy stances include criminal and racial justice, food sovereignty, housing, environmental justice, education as well as healthcare and COVID-19.
“Virginia, together we will address our broken criminal injustice system and the racial inequalities that ensure liberty and justice for some, but not all,” Blanding said in the video.
Blanding is the sister of Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old former high school biology teacher, who was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer in May of 2018 as he ran nude on Interstate-95 while experiencing a mental health crisis.
Back in early November, current Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, Colette McEachin, released a report on an investigation into the incident and determined that the deadly use of force by the officer was justified.
In the two years since Peters’ death, Blanding maintains her brother just needed help from the officer and has become an advocate in the Richmond area for mental health and policing reforms.
Blanding founded Justice and Reformation, a community group calling for more accountability from elected officials and police, in honor of Peters and worked with members of the General Assembly to help introduce and pass the “Marcus Alert” bill, which establishes a response system across the Commonwealth and creates teams of law enforcement and mental health specialists to respond to situations where people are in crisis or having breakdowns.
At the ceremonial signing of the bill in mid-December, Blanding slammed Virginia Democrats and Governor Ralph Northam who were in attendance over the final version. During short remarks, she called the bill ineffective and watered down.
Having no experience running for political office, Blanding is facing tough competition for the Executive Mansion.
The Democrats vying for the party nomination are former governor Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City), the current Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and former legislator Jennifer Carroll Foy – who resigned from the House of Delegates earlier this month to focus on the gubernatorial race.
Another Democratic hopeful is Del. Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas), who has filed paperwork to raise money for a campaign, but has not officially joined the race yet.
So far only two Republican candidates have declared: former House Speaker Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield). Northern Virginia businessman and entrepreneur Pete Snyder as well as Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) are expected to announce bids in the coming days.
The Republican candidate will be selected through a convention instead of a primary after the state party chose to change the nomination process for the 2021 races in December.
“I look forward to working alongside you as we move toward a party that elevates the voices, priorities and needs of the people,” Blanding said in the video. “Virginia, we are stronger together and with your support we will reshape and build a diverse, inclusive [and] liberated Virginia for all.”
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