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Excluded from debate, gubernatorial candidate Princess Blanding says she's focused on reaching all Virginians

Princess Blanding
FILE PHOTO: Princess Blanding speaking to Richmond City Council in 2019. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Patrick Larsen contributed to this report.

When Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates Glenn Youngkin and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe meet on the debate stage tonight, they won't be joined by Princess Blanding, who will appear on the ballot this year representing the Liberation Party.

Asked about the exclusion, Blanding said she's focused on reaching more people. “If I spend my energy dwelling on them excluding me, then I am not putting the energy that is needed in ensuring that we reach all Virginians to let them know about our campaign,” Blanding told VPM's Patrick Larsen earlier this week.

Blanding, who became known for activism around criminal and racial justice after a Richmond police officer killed  her brother Marcus-David Peters in 2018, had to petition for signatures to make the ballot. She found signatories while campaigning door-to-door and at the median around the now removed Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, which activists renamed in honor of her brother. 

Without major donors, she didn't have the funds to access voter rolls and said it was a struggle to make sure she got enough support from registered voters. But she says her message — which prioritizes racial and economic justice — resonated with voters.

“All of our legislation must be heavily based on the foundation of equity and humanity, and no legislation can go forward about us, without us,” Blanding said, while talking about the message she'd give to voters if she'd been included in tonight's debate.

Appalachian School of Law, which organized the debate, did not respond to inquiries about their selection process or criteria for inclusion by publication time.

The debate will air on multiple outlets, including VPM, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 16. Blanding’s campaign says she’ll appear before the public Sept. 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg.

In-person voting begins this Friday, Sept. 17. Early in-person voting ends Saturday, Oct. 30, at 5:00 p.m. People can also vote on Nov. 2, Election Day, or request an absentee ballot to vote by mail for any reason.

To cast your ballot, you must register to vote no later than Tuesday, Oct. 12. Voters can check their current registration status online.