Democrats sweep Va., NJ

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Alan Su­d­er­man and Michael Catal­ini

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.

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