northam[1]RICHMOND — Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam said Tuesday that he intends to run for governor in 2017, setting up a possible primary battle with another likely candidate, Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

In a state where the governor cannot serve back-to-back terms, Northam and Herring were both widely assumed to have their eyes on the governor’s mansion from the moment in 2013 when they won their current offices on a ticket with now-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). But neither had definitively said he planned to run — until now.

Several Democrats said they welcomed the news that Northam — a Virginia Military Institute graduate, Gulf War veteran and pediatric neurologist who hunts, fishes and speaks with the folksy drawl of an Eastern Shore native — was entering the race. They said his biography and collegial manner could play well across an increasingly polarized state, where Democrats have dominated Northern Virginia and other urban centers but have little following elsewhere.