Virginia Statewide Races Closely Fought Over Ahead Of Primaries
In addition to the race in New Jersey, the statewide races in Virginia are also being looked to as a barometer of American politics in the first year of the Trump Administration.
In addition to the Governor’s race in New Jersey, there’s also a race in Virginia that will decide three statewide races. Current Governor Terry McAuliffe is barred from running again thanks to a rather archaic provision in the state Constitution that forbids Governors from serving consecutive terms, but places no similar limitations on either the Lt. Governor or Attorney General. In addition, the lower chamber of the state legislature, the House of Delegates, is up for re-election.
On the Democratic side, the race in the Old Dominion is between current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and former Congressman Tom Perriello. That race is being characterized by many analysts as a battle between the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented Perriello, and the so-called “establishment” wing of the party represented by the Lt. Governor. Perriello has won out-of-state endorsements from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders thanks largely to the fact that he largely mirrors the progressive wing of the party, while Northam has the support of the more establishment wing of the party. Lt, Governor Northam has also received the endorsement of The Washington Post, which has been influential in Democratic primaries in the past. Governor McAuliffe has not endorsed either candidate and seems likely to remain neutral ahead of the June 13th Primary. Current polling shows Perriello and Northam in a tight race, with as many as 20% of self-identified Democrats still saying they are undecided ahead of next Tuesday’s primary
On the Republican side, the former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, who previously took on Democratic Mark Warner in the 2014 Senate election and lost to Warner by only ~20,000 votes in a race that Warner had been expected to win easily, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who came to national attention several years ago due to the fact that he took a lead on a crackdown on illegal immigrants, and State Senator Frank Wagner. In recent months, though the race has come down to a battle between Gillespie and Stewart, with Wagner trailing in third place. Gillespie’s narrow loss to Warner three years ago has actually helped him among Republicans since it is seen as a sign that he has a good chance against whoever the Democrats may nominate next week. As for Stewart, he has made his name during his campaign largely due to his vigorous defense of symbols of the Confederacy even as those stances have forced him to deal with the fact that those positions have put him in the embarrassing position of being supported by representatives of the racist ‘alt-right’ movement and cost him several endorsements. Wagner, meanwhile, received the endorsement of the Washington Post, but that endorsement has not proven to be influential among Republican voters in the past. Current polling shows Gillespie leading Stewart by a healthy margin, although the combined support for Wagner and people still saying they are undecided suggests that the outcome on the GOP side will likely come down to turnout. As far as the fall is concerned, polling shows Gillespie doing far better against either Stewart or
As far as the fall is concerned in the Commonwealth, polling shows Gillespie doing far better against either Perriello or Northam than Stewart or Wagner, but there is a large undecided vote here as well. As things stand, it might seem that Democrats are favored in this race both because McAuliffe remains a relatively popular Governor and due to the fact that the state has gone Democratic in each of the past three Presidential elections. Barack Obama, of course, became the first Democrat to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 when he won the state in 2008, and then repeated that win in 2012. Last year, Hillary Clinton won the Old Dominion by roughly 200,000 votes over Donald Trump. It’s also worth noting that President Trump’s job approval among Virginians stands at 57% disapprove and 36% approve, which is worse than his numbers nationwide. Given this, it would appear that Republicans have an uphil battle ahead of them in Virginia in November, although Gillespie could end up surprising everyone as he did with his much stronger than expected performance in 2014.
In addition to the Governor’s race, there are also statewide races for Lt. Governor and Attorney General. The Democratic race pits three relatively unknown candidates against one another for the spot that has traditionally been the launching pad for a Gubernatorial run in 2021. The Republican race also pits three candidates, one member of the House of Delegates and two State Senators, against each other. Polling in both races has been far too sparse to make any real prediction. In the Attorney General’s race, there are only two candidates, Republican John Adams and Democratic incumbent Mark Herring, who unlike Governor McAuliffe is not barred from running for re-election. Herring won the 2013 race for this position by one of the narrowest margins in Virginia history. In the House of Delegates races, Republicans enter the race with a more than 30 seat majority in the legislatures lower chamber and seem likely to hold that lead after the dust settles on Election Night regardless of who wins the three statewide races.
As already stated, Virginia voters head to the polls next Tuesday to pick the nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. Much like the race in New Jersey, this will be a race worth watching.