By Danny Restivo (Posted 6/14/17)
Former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam clinched their respective party’s nominations for Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race:
- Northam defeated his challenger from the left, former Congressman Tom Perriello with 57 percent of the vote, while Perriello grabbed 44 percent (303,846 to 239,505).
- Gillespie narrowly defeated Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart. He had 43.7 percent compared to Stewart’s 42.5 percent, while state Senator Jack Wagner came in a distant third with just under 14 percent.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Stewart did not concede defeat on election night. His performance shocked many pollsters who predicted a 20-point Gillespie victory. However, a low turnout among Republican voters—540,000 Democrats compared to 360,000 Republican—and a solid turnout among a galvanized base gave Stewart a much-needed boost.
In the Lieutenant governor’s race:
- Former assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Fairfax defeated Gene Rossi, a retired federal prosecutor and Susan Platt, a former Democratic operative and lobbyist to win the Democratic nomination. Fairfax grabbed nearly 58 percent of the vote while Platt and Rossi each had 30 and 12 percent, respectively.
- On the Republican side, State Senator Jill Vogel earned 43 percent of Virginia GOP voters, while her closest competition, State Senator Bryan Reeves, garnered 40 percent.
In Virginia, the Lieutenant governor is a part-time position that includes presides over the state senate and breaking tied votes.
General Election- Preview
The 2017 Virginia general election will be held on November 7 and following this very contested primary, Democrats appear to be starting out with the advantage. A Northam-vs.-Gillespie general election may look surprisingly similar to other states. Early analysis of turnout suggests that the Virginia primary looked similar to the NJ primary held last week; Democrats had turnout and enthusiasm on their side with approximately 540,000 votes to the GOP’s 366,000 votes.
Analysts are not on yet betting on Gillespie and are convinced that Virginia may no longer be a “purple” state. Republicans have gone 1-9 in major VA statewide races since 2004, and if turnout in this primary shows anything, the Democrats may out perform once again. It is also worth noting that while Gillespie eked out a a win, his win was not without a major fight between the establishment and outsider wings of the republican party. With five months to go until the general election, both Gillespie and Northam have their work cut out for them in what will no doubt be an indicator of things to come in 2018.
For a complete breakdown of the Virginia gubernatorial candidates, please read our Primary Preview published on June 2.
Democratic Primary- Recap
Ralph Northam– As Lieutenant Governor to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Northam usurped the role of heir apparent until Perriello announced his candidacy in January. Many of dubbed the race as an extension of the Clinton-Sanders fight in Virginian. Northam has received endorsements from state party leaders like McAuliffe, and Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Additionally, every Democrat in the state legislature has backed Northam and every Democratic congressman except one has supported him. While his opponent rides a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, Northam remains a centrist Democrat who admitted supporting George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. However, the former U.S. Army doctor has shuffled further to the left since becoming state senator in a rural district in 2007. As a Virginia legislator and a lieutenant governor, he helped ban smoking in restaurants, worked with victim’s families of the Virginia Tech shooting to curb gun control and helped legalize cannabis oils. As Governor, Northam said he wants to offer tax credits to businesses with paid family leave. He also wants to revise the state’s grocery tax, which he says would cost $67 million. He’s also suggested decriminalizing possession of marijuana. During a debate with Perriello, Northam touted his relationship with Republican legislator saying “I look forward to the relationships I already have in Richmond and continuing that process in the upcoming four years.” As of March 31, Northam had $3.3 million in campaign funds.
Tom Perriello- The former congressman was elected to represent Virginia’s fifth congressional district in 2008. However, his support for the Affordable Care Act cost him his seat two years later. Following his term, he worked for a progressive nonprofit before heading to the State Department in 2014. After announcing his candidacy in January, he quickly aligned himself with the party’s liberal messaging. Perriello has positioned himself as a policy-oriented progressive who supports free community college, paid family leave and universal pre-kindergarten. He’s also railed against a gas pipeline through Virginia. Meanwhile, Perriello has received outside support from Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass-D), Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt-I) and several Obama aides. Their support comes in a state where Hillary Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the Democratic electorate against Sanders in 2016. Furthermore, more than half of Perriello’s $2.2 million in campaign funding has come from massive donors outside the state, including contributions from George Soros. While Perriello has championed progressive causes, his voting record on abortion issues and gun rights while in congress has come under fire.
Republican Primary- Recap
Ed Gillespie– The former counselor to George W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee ran against Senator Mark Warner in 2014. Gillespie’s performance surprised many (he lost by less than one percentage point). Prior to his run, he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and provide government affairs service for Tyson Foods. His critics from the right have said he helped push legislation friendly to illegal immigrants. As part of his platform, Gillespie aims to cut income taxes by 10 percent over three years, improve government efficiency and ethics oversight, ban personal use of campaign funds, while strengthening second amendment rights and abortion restrictions. According to a May poll by Washington Post-Schar School, Gillespie has strong support among all registered Republicans. With $3.3 million in campaign funding, the former RNC chair has 38 percent support while a quarter remain undecided.
Corey Stewart- Known more for his pro-Confederate antics rather than his policy chops, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors promises to crack down on illegal immigration while protecting Virginia’s Confederate symbols. As Chair of President Trump’s Campaign in Virginia, Stewart was fired for staging a protest at the State’s GOP headquarters. The anti-establishment Stewart wants to phase out the income tax, outlaw abortion without exception and slash state spending. The firebrand Stewart has attacked Gillespie repeatedly for receiving more than $1 million to lobby for Tyson Foods when allegations of smuggling illegal immigrants to arose. With slightly more than $400,000 in campaign funding, Stewart has 18 percent support among Virginia Republicans.
Jack Wagner- Originally elected to the Virginia House in 1992, then to the State Senate in 2000, Wagner has a significant level of experience in Virginia politics. As a Virginia Beach resident representing the 7th district, he sits on the Commerce and Labor, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Social Services, and Transportation committees. While Stewart and Gillespie want to cut state spending, Wagner maintains the budget is lean enough—citing a $1.2 billion shortfall in 2016. Wagner wants to increase the gasoline tax to subsidize infrastructure projects. He also wants to create accredited vocational programs in high schools that will support technical training for new jobs. Similar to his opponents, he opposes abortion in all instances except in the case of rape or if the mother’s life is endangered. With $178,000 in campaign funds, Wagner has 15 percent support among registered Republican voters.