Democrats sweep Va., NJ
RICHMOND, Va. — Voters in Virginia and New Jersey gave Democratic gubernatorial candidates large victories in this year’s elections and sent a clear message of rebuke to Republican President Donald Trump.
I n Virginia’s hardfought contest, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie. In New Jersey, front-running Democrat Phil Murphy trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to succeed unpopular GOP Gov. Chris Christie.
The victors said the Nov. 7 electoral results had farreaching repercussions in a sharply divided country.
“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we do not condone hatred and bigotry,” Northam said.
“The days of division are over. We will move forward,” Murphy said in his own victory speech, invoking Trump by name as he looked headed to a double digit win. Murphy, who earned a fortune at Goldman Sachs before serving as Barack Obama’s ambassador to Germany, delivered his address in the same spot as Christie in his 2013 re-election— after Christie won big over his Democratic rival.
The wins in both states are a morale boost to Democrats who had so far been unable to channel anti-Trump energy into success at the ballot box in a major election this year.
Virginia college student Tamia Mallory said she began paying attention to her state’s gubernatorial race when she saw tweets from Trump endorsing Gillespie. That motivated her to examine the race and find out who was running against Gillespie, she said.
Northam, the state’s lieu- tenant governor, repeatedly sought during long months of divisive campaigning to tie Gillespie to the president. His victory was in large part due to the surge in anti-Trump sentiment since the president took office. Democrats said they had record levels of enthusiasm heading into the race in Virginia, a swing-state and the only Southern state Trump lost last year.
Gillespie, meanwhile, sought to keep Trump at a distance throughout the campaign but tried to rally the president’s supporters with hard-edge attack ads focused on illegal immigration and preserving Confederate statues. The strategy was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as race baiting, but drew praise from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and others as a canny approach in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton last year.
Trump lent limited pre- election support to Gillespie with robocalls and tweets. In one call, Trump said Gillespie shared his views on immigration and crime and would help “Make America Great Again.” Trump also said Northam would be a “total disaster” for Virginia.
Northam’s victory is a blow to Republicans, who were hoping that Gillespie could provide a possible roadmap for moderate Republicans to follow in next year’s midterm elections. Several Republicans have announced plans to retire next year instead of seeking re-election, and Gillespie loss may prompt more such announcements.
The Democratic victories are another sign of Virginia’s shift toward a more liberal electorate. Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009 and now have won four out of the last five gubernatorial contests.