| VirginiaTourism Corp.; BernieSanders.com; WhiteHouse.gov

Bernie Sanders first Democrat to file for Virginia presidential ballot

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders became the first Democratic presidential candidate to file petition signatures for Virginia's March 1 primary ballot.

In a news release Friday, the Sanders campaign said it had filed 17,882 petition signatures with the State Board of Elections on Friday.

"The volunteers here in Virginia collected over three times the required 5,000 signatures,” according to Sanders' Virginia campaign director, Peter Clerkin.

“It’s a testament to the excitement and enthusiasm Bernie is generating in Virginia and across the country," he said.

That enthusiasm hasn't translated into a lead in the polls -- either nationally or in Virginia.

In the RealClear Politics polling average, Sanders trails former secretary of state Hillary Clinton by 24.7 percentage points. In the Nov. 16 University of Mary Washington poll of likely Democratic primary voters, Sanders had the support of 27 percent while Clinton claimed 63 percent. 

Both Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as the state's three Democratic congressmen, have endorsed Clinton. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton friend and former Democratic National Committee chairman, is part of her leadership committee in the state. Robby Mook, who managed McAuliffe's 2013 gubernatorial campaign, serves as Clinton's campaign manager.

The Nov. 16 University of Mary Washington poll found that in head-to-head match-ups with Republicans, Ben Carson defeats Sanders with 42 percent versus 33 percent.

Against Donald Trump, Sanders fared a bit better but still trailed with 33 percent compared with Trump's 38 percent.

All presidential campaigns must file a minimum of 5,000 signatures, with 200 collected from each of the state's 11 congressional districts, by Thursday.