Democrats face dilemma in pri­mary race for gover­nor

Ide­al­ism vs. prag­ma­tism

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Bob Woods says he chose ide­al­ism over prag­ma­tism in the pres­i­den­tial race when he voted in the Virginia pri­mary for Sen. Bernard San­ders over for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton. Now he is fac­ing the same dilemma in the gover­nor’s pri­mary race, where he is de­cid­ing be­tween fol­low­ing his head and back­ing Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the es­tab­lish­ment pick, or fol­low­ing his heart and back­ing for­mer Rep. Tom Per­riello, who has won Mr. San­ders’ en­dorse­ment.

“You can be that lib­eral in Ar­ling­ton, but I don’t think you can be that lib­eral in the state of Virginia and get through,” Mr. Woods said shortly af­ter chat­ting with Mr. Per­riello on Wed­nes­day. “I would like to see him get through, but I think you have to be prag­matic too. You have to build a coali­tion some­where in the mid­dle.”

Many other Virginia vot­ers share Mr. Woods’ dilemma.

As Democrats con­tinue to pick up the pieces from last year’s stag­ger­ing elec­tion losses, Virginia’s Demo­cratic pri­mary on Tuesday will be closely watched as one of the first ma­jor tests of the party’s di­rec­tion.

Mr. Per­riello, who served in Congress from 2009 to 2011, has six days left to con­vince vot­ers that his pro­gres­sive brand of politics can lead Democrats to vic­tory in Virginia and can give the party a road map for­ward.

The 42-year-old lawyer is locked in a tight bat­tle with Mr. Northam, who has the sup­port of most top elected Virginia Democrats and who won the en­dorse­ment this week from The Wash­ing­ton Post, which is well-read in lib­eral-lean­ing North­ern Virginia.

Mr. Northam, a pe­di­atric neu­rol­o­gist who served in the state Se­nate from 2008 un­til 2014, when he be­came lieu­tenant gover­nor, also is lead­ing the money chase, hav­ing raised more than $4.4 mil­lion for his cam­paign. Mr. Per­riello has played catch-up since en­ter­ing the race in Jan­uary, rais­ing more than $2.2 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Virginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Pro­ject.

More than half of Mr. Per­riello’s do­na­tions have come from out­side Virginia as he at­tracts the at­ten­tion of pro­gres­sives across the na­tion ea­ger to boost a San­ders pick.

He casts his race as a test of the Trump re­sis­tance. “I think right now peo­ple across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum are try­ing to fig­ure out whether this con­cern about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing to trans­late into a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal land­scape,” Mr. Per­riello told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

He said a win in Virginia would show pro­gres­sive Democrats that they can make a dif­fer­ence at the state level.

“For many of the things that peo­ple care about — from crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form to qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion to women’s rights — states are re­ally the front line for a lot of these pro­gres­sive fights,” Mr. Per­riello said. “But our me­dia is na­tion­al­ized, many of our groups are na­tion­al­ized, so what we are re­ally try­ing to do is say states mat­ter, and so if you care about these set of is­sues, this is an im­por­tant thing to en­gage in.”

The Demo­cratic pri­mary win­ner is most likely to face off with Ed Gille­spie, a for­mer ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. Polls show he has a com­mand­ing lead in the Repub­li­can pri­mary race with Prince Wil­liam County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Corey Ste­wart and state Sen. Frank Wag­ner.

Mr. Per­riello plans to kick off a 24-hour non­stop cam­paign blitz on Fri­day that in­cludes sched­uled stops in North­ern Virginia, Hampton Roads and west­ern Virginia.

On Wed­nes­day, he was in the vote-rich north­ern part of the state, hold­ing a town hall meet­ing with grass-roots ac­tivists, tour­ing an Ethiopian res­tau­rant and chat­ting with Mr. Woods and other se­nior cit­i­zens at an as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity in Ar­ling­ton.

For vot­ers like Mr. Woods who are try­ing to de­cide be­tween their heads and their hearts, Mr. Per­riello says he can be the an­swer to both sides of the equa­tion.

“I think the ques­tion right now is what comes next for the Demo­cratic Party,” the can­di­date told The Times. “What is a cam­paign frame that can win across the whole state, and I think we have had what I see as a false de­bate in our party about whether to ex­cite our base or reach out to new vot­ers, and we have been able to show you can do both when you stand for gen­uine eco­nomic re­cov­ery that leads no re­gion or race be­hind. We are see­ing both ex­cite­ment from our coali­tion and ex­cite­ment in a lot of red parts of the state.”

But Ofi­rah Yh­eskel, a Northam spokes­woman, said her boss has broader sup­port.

“The lieu­tenant gover­nor’s ap­peal to vot­ers new and old is that he can ac­tu­ally de­liver on his pro­gres­sive vi­sion for a com­mon­wealth with op­por­tu­nity with all,” Ms. Yh­eskel said. “He’s out­per­formed any statewide can­di­date run­ning in Virginia, mak­ing his­tory with the high­est num­ber of votes in an off-year elec­tion, pe­riod. He’s set to re­peat that this Tuesday be­cause he knows how to get things done in Rich­mond and has a record of de­liv­er­ing pro­gres­sive re­sults to show for it.”

In his meet­ing with the se­nior cit­i­zens, Mr. Per­riello touted his pro­gres­sive cre­den­tials, in­clud­ing his votes dur­ing his one term in Congress for Oba­macare, a “cap and trade” bill to limit green­house gas emis­sions and the 2009 stim­u­lus act.

He vowed to de­fend vot­ing rights and ex­pand Med­i­caid un­der Oba­macare. He also crit­i­cized Mr. Trump’s push to with­hold fed­eral fund­ing from “sanc­tu­ary cities,” in­crease de­por­ta­tion ef­forts and pull out of the Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

He is cam­paign­ing on San­ders-style prom­ises of two years of free com­mu­nity col­lege, trade school or ap­pren­tice­ship for Virginia teens, cast­ing it as part of a broader vi­sion of set­ting up the state for a strong eco­nomic fu­ture.

After­ward, a woman who iden­ti­fied her­self as Linda gushed that Mr. Per­riello has Mr. San­ders on his side. “I have been in de­spair since the elec­tion — so you have given me hope again,” she said.

Mr. Woods, mean­while, told The Times that he re­mains torn be­tween the can­di­dates — though he re­fused to rule out vot­ing for Mr. Per­riello.

“Some­times I vote upon con­vic­tion even though I know I am go­ing to lose,” he said. “I think that reg­is­ter­ing your vote even though you know it is a los­ing cause has mean­ing. I think it makes a state­ment.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

IN­NO­CENTS: A man handed a child to a se­cu­rity guard from Iran’s par­lia­ment build­ing af­ter a brazen ter­ror­ist at­tack in Tehran on Wed­nes­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WIN­NING HEARTS: Tom Per­riello has the en­dorse­ment of Sen. Bernard San­ders.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tom Per­riello (right) is fac­ing off against es­tab­lish­ment can­di­date Ralph Northam in the Demo­cratic pri­mary for Virginia gover­nor.

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