Virginia is a weird state for gubernatorial elections. The Governor is prohibited from serving consecutive terms. So a Governor cannot for re-election at the end of her first term. If a former Governor would want to, he could run for a non-consecutive term later. Of course, that rarely happens. Making it more strange, the elections for Governor are held the year following a Presidential election. So the election for Governor is held in 2017. Because of that, the party that does not hold the White House tends to win the Virginia gubernatorial elections with some notable exceptions. Terry McAuliffe, who was the former Democratic Party chairman, was able to win election in 2013 over Ken Cuccinelli. In a lot of ways, this election was the best case for the 2016 Presidential election. But that is for another day. McAuliffe has governed toward my policy preferences and tackled issues near and dear to my heart so I have been a fan of his tenure. Again, that is worthy of a different post for a different day. All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegtates are up for election, as well. Nobody really pays attention to those elections because people feel, wrongly, that they are not as important.
The primary election on the Democratic side has devolved into a rematch of the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary for some reason, possibly because we’re all dead and we’re actually in hell. Even though both John Podesta and Bernie Sanders both support the same candidate. The real intraparty fight is between the Virginia Democratic establishment compared to the national Democratic Party. Ralph Northam is the choice of the establishment Virginian Democrats. Northam is the current lieutenant governor of the state. He previously voted for George W. Bush and somewhat flirted with becoming a Republican, although many people believe it was because he was trying to gain leverage in the State Senate. Northam has received the endorsements from Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine. Tom Perriello is the challenger to Northam in this primary. Perriello was the only House candidate that Barack Obama campaigned for in 2010 for re-election. Perriello won a fairly conservative district and voted in favor of passage of the ACA. Although, he did vote for the Stupak amendment and was endorsed by the NRA in his re-election bid. He ultimately lost and gave a tremendous interview about it later. If Our Revolution had not given an explicit endorsement of Perriello, it seems likely to me he would have been attacked as not liberal enough.
Perriello has been somewhat critical of Northam on the basis of the votes for George W. Bush and has tried to nationalize the race by stating that he would make Virginia a bulwark against Trump. He does not seem certain that a Northam governorship would be able to win or be able to be this bulwark. While most Virginians and Perriello do believe that McAuliffe have done a great job as Governor, Perriello disagrees that he is satisfied with the current status quo. Northam while he represents the status quo has, in recent times, tried to stake out his liberal bonafides as the campaign has gone on. The real question is to what extent the loser of the primary will endorse the winner for the general election. Terry McAuliffe has recently said that while he thinks Northam would be the better option he would gladly support either of the two candidates in the general election saying that they were both better options than the Republican contenders.
The polling that I have seen shows Northam with a sizable lead. But there are still a number of undecided voters who could break and make a sizable contribution either way, depending on how they break.
The Republican Party primary for Governor also had an initial favorite (and still favorite from what I’ve seen) in Ed Gillespie. Gillespie very nearly pulled off an upset in the Virginia Senate race in 2014 which convinced me that the rest of the night was going to go red. He was a former White House counselor to George W. Bush. Upon leaving, he was the chairman of Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor of Virginia. He also was a senior advisor to Mitt Romney in 2012. Gillespie is by far the establishment choice in the Virginia Republican primary, such that a definition exists. Much to Northam’s or Perriello’s chagrin, he has not been a warrior in the culture wars like former Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli. Northam seems like a generic Republican which would typically be a good thing for Virginia as it is a purpleish state. But the problem right now for him is a Trump problem. With Trump in the White House, it is especially difficult to separate Trump from Republican politicians running for office. Based on the polling that I’ve seen, he should not have much difficulty in securing the nomination, even if he is running against a potential Trump clone.
Corey Stewart, a Minnesota transplant, who has become the At-Large Chairman of the Prince William County, Virginia. He was also the Virginia chairman of the Donald Trump for President campaign from December 2015 – October 2016. Stewart previously ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia but lost to fellow insane candidate E.W. Jackson. Stewart has been trafficking in controversy since his candidacy. Whether it is vigorously defending the Confederate flag and the state from non-Virginians, saying cuckservative in a Reddit AMA (that’s a phrase I just wrote), agreed Bill Clinton was a rapist, among numerous other issues. Peddling controversy and making himself a Trumplike figure seems to be a deliberate strategy. I’m not here to comment on the strategy or the marketing, both of which I think are in poor taste and poor in strategy. But one thing that we will be seeing in the next two years are imitators of Trump who are more interesting in peddling controversy than policy, more likely to say “cuck” than address real policy. Our political structure is all the more poor for it.