Virginia’s Governor’s Race: Taking Temperature of America in a Swing State

Virginia's gubernatorial election will take place on November 7th. Running in the race is Democrat Ralph Northam, Republican Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra. According to the majority of recent polls, Democratic nominee Northam appears to be leading Gillespie and Hyra. Hyra, however, is far behind, averaging about 2.5% in these polls. While the polling results seem to favor Northam, the results are within the margin of error – this will be a close race.

Ralph Northam has served in the Virginia State Senate in 2007 and served as Lieutenant Governor. Northam has stated that he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, making him a moderate Democrat. Ed Gillespie,the Republican candidate, has served as head of the Republican National Committee and as a counselor to George W. Bush during his presidency.

It has been interesting to see how the Trump presidency is affecting things throughout this election. Republican Gillespie, while he has been endorsed by President Trump, has told the public that he does not know President Trump and continues to avoid discussing the President and his support of Gillespie’s gubernatorial race. Gillespie has people advising him to both align with Trump and keep his distance from him. On one side, supporters of Gillespie believe that getting this endorsement from Trump will jolt his support from people who may not otherwise pay attention to the gubernatorial elections. On the other side, people advise Gillespie to avoid this because a connection to Trump’s presidency could scare off those Republicans who support Gillespie for his less polarizing platform. After Virginia voted against Trump in the presidential election, having the support of Trump could potentially derail Gillespie's popularity among less conservative Republicans.

For Democratic nominee Northam, Trump has also been playing a role in this race. While Northam has spoken about his disapproval of President Trump, stating this in the first general election debate, he has said that he could and would work with Trump if that’s what it came down to. However, supporters of Northam noticed that he was much more outspoken about his disapproval of Trump at the first debate, which was held in Northern Virginia where support for Trump is very very low. But at the final debate in Southwestern Virginia, a Trump supporting area, Trump was barely a topic. When he was brought up, however, Northam shied away from taking his usual strong stance against the President. This wishy-washy rhetoric from Northam could worry his Democratic supporters, and affect the outcome of the election as well.

Northam also received flak for not mentioning Justin Fairfax, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, on a portion of fliers. Ostensibly Fairfax was left off because a union did not endorse him or his stance on natural gas pipelines; but Fairfax is also the only candidate of color on the Democratic ticket in Virginia, so the omission has threatened to alienate black voters from the Democratic party.

In the last week we've seen both candidate fling mud with some aggressive campaign advertisements. Gillespie is trying to connect Northam's vote on a sanctuary cities bill to the gang MS-13, and Northam is trying to connect Gillespie to the violence emanating from white supremacists in Charlottesville.

The Virginia gubernatorial race is being closely followed. Because all of the polls are showing extremely close margins, this race is still up for grabs. While this may not be a White House election, the impact of President Trump can still be felt in this race. The results of the election on November 7th will definitely be interesting.