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Virginia Cabinet secretary quits to run for Richmond mayoralty

Virginia's controversial Secretary of the Commonwealth, Levar Stoney, has resigned his position to join a crowded field running to be the next mayor of Richmond.

Thirty-five-year-old Stoney, who began his political rise under former Gov. Mark Warner, says he will focus on improving public education, noting that "it is the right thing to do."

"I was the first in my family to graduate from high school," Stoney said, adding "we need to ensure that each and every child in the city of Richmond has a ladder to opportunity, and a foundation for success."

As Secretary of the Commonwealth under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Stoney oversaw the vast array of patronage appointments available to Virginia's governors.

Stoney's ties to McAullife, though, could resurrect questions about his links to McAuliffe's failed Chinese alternative energy car manufacturer, GreenTech Automotive, where Stoney was an executive.

GreenTech came under federal scrutiny for alleged abused of the federal foreign investor visa program, known as EB-5.

Neither Stoney nor McAuliffe, who divested himself of his stake in the company, were ever charged with wrongdoing.

Stoney did have a brush with the law related to his political activism.

During the 2004 presidential race, Stoney admitted lying to Milwaukee police about the identities of four men charged with criminal damage to property. The four slashed the tires of vans rented to ferry Republican voters to the Milwaukee polls in advance of the November 2004 election.

According to news reports at the time of the trial, Stoney was quoted as saying he "wasn’t going to try and get my friends, my colleagues, in trouble. Nor was I going to get the Democratic Party in trouble as well."

Stoney was not charged in the incident.

The contest for Richmond's mayor features a dozen candidates, including city council member Jon Baliles, the son of former Virginia Gov. Jerry Baliles, and former House of Delegates member Joe Morrissey, who served six months in jail on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The city's current mayor, Dwight Jones, is term limited.

The Virginia State Police and the FBI are currently investigating allegedly improper ties between Richmond's government and the First Baptist Church of South Richmond, where Jones is senior pastor.