Democrats make big fi­nal push in tight race for gov­er­nor

Turnout is key for Northam, Per­riello

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

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam brought out the big­gest po­lit­i­cal guns for his fi­nal week­end of cam­paign­ing in the hard-fought Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary race in Vir­ginia while former Rep. Tom Per­riello barn­stormed the state look­ing to press his ad­van­tage with pro­gres­sive ac­tivists.

Vot­ers on Tues­day are set to have the fi­nal say in the Demo­cratic race, which an­a­lysts say is too close to call and turned out to be more com­pet­i­tive than the Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial con­test.

“It’s a nail-biter with no clear fa­vorite,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Pol­icy and Govern­ment Ge­orge Mason Univer­sity. “Like many pri­mary races, turnout will be key.

“Will Per­riello’s younger vot­ers turn out in big num­bers and pro­pel him to vic­tory? Or will a typ­i­cally low turnout among young vot­ers tip the out­come to Northam?” Mr. Rozell said. “The con­test also is a test whether the party es­tab­lish­ment back­ing Northam has the abil­ity to de­liver votes.”

Mr. Northam cam­paigned over the week­end with the state’s three top Democrats — Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine — tout­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence and mak­ing the case that the race this fall will be a ref­er­en­dum on Pres­i­dent Trump.

“We watched a cam­paign in 2016 that was based on ha­tred and big­otry and dis­crim­i­na­tion and fear … and peo­ple like you all over the com­mon­wealth are stand­ing up and say­ing, ‘No, no, Mr. Trump, this is not the United States of Amer­ica that we love, it is not the com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia that we love, it is

not what we are go­ing to ac­cept as the new nor­mal,’ ” Mr. Northam told sup­port­ers and vol­un­teers in Ar­ling­ton. “So it is in­cum­bent on all of us to take this en­ergy to the polls on Elec­tion Day.”

Mr. Per­riello, mean­while, fol­lowed up a 24-hour cam­paign blitz Fri­day and Satur­day with a trip Sun­day to Hamp­ton Roads, where he fo­cused on is­sues of racial in­equal­ity and LGBT rights.

The Repub­li­can race ini­tially grabbed most of the po­lit­i­cal spot­light.

Corey Ste­wart, chair­man of the Prince Wil­liam County Board of Su­per­vi­sors, ag­gres­sively cast the race as the first test of Trump­ism and painted Ed Gille­spie, a former ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, as a weak-kneed mem­ber of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment who doesn’t have Mr. Trump’s back.

But polls have con­sis­tently shown Mr. Gille­spie, who ran for U.S. Se­nate in 2014 and has chaired the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the Vir­ginia Repub­li­can Party, lead­ing Mr. Ste­wart and state Sen. Frank Wag­ner into Elec­tion Day.

Mr. Northam, mean­while, was cruis­ing to the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion be­fore Mr. Per­riello en­tered the race in Jan­uary. Mr. Per­riello rep­re­sented the 5th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict and then served as a diplo­mat un­der Pres­i­dent Obama.

Hamp­ton Univer­sity re­leased a poll on Thurs­day that showed Mr. Per­riello with a 22 per­cent to 16 per­cent lead over Mr. Northam among reg­is­tered vot­ers who said they were likely to vote in the pri­mary. But close to 40 per­cent of vot­ers were un­de­cided.

A Wash­ing­ton Post-Schar School Vir­ginia poll re­leased last month showed the Democrats locked in a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat.

Mr. Northam and Mr. Per­riello have reg­u­larly bashed Mr. Trump. They also have staked out sim­i­lar pol­icy po­si­tions on in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage, pro­vid­ing driver’s li­censes for il­le­gal im­mi­grants and ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid un­der Oba­macare.

Mr. Per­riello has ag­gres­sively em­braced the “re­sis­tance,” op­posed a pipe­line pro­ject from Do­min­ion En­ergy, vowed to raise taxes on the rich and stressed the need for elected lead­ers to ad­dress the eco­nomic chal­lenges fac­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

The 42-year-old ap­pears to have emerged as the top pick for pro­gres­sives, as well as young vot­ers. He won en­dorse­ments from Sens. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts.

He got a help­ing hand from Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Mark Ruf­falo, who called him a vi­sion­ary in a fundrais­ing email from the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee.

“I wanted to ask you to please pay at­ten­tion to this race and do what you can to help the bold pro­gres­sive vi­sion­ary, Tom Per­riello,” Mr. Ruf­falo said.

Mr. Northam has fo­cused much of his mes­sage on gun con­trol and abor­tion rights, and stressed his back­ground as a doc­tor and law­maker who led the charge for a smok­ing ban in Vir­ginia and against an ul­tra­sound bill that pro-choice ac­tivists op­posed.

On Satur­day, Mr. Kaine said Mr. Northam’s bi­og­ra­phy — as a mil­i­tary vet­eran, a pe­di­atric neu­rol­o­gist and an elected of­fi­cial, six years as a state se­na­tor and three as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor — makes him the best fit for the job in “one of the best bell­wether states in the coun­try.”

“These races will be in­ter­preted as what does it say about the na­tional po­lit­i­cal mood one year into the Trump pres­i­dency,” Mr. Kaine said. “In this race, peo­ple are go­ing to be watch­ing it, and they are go­ing be watch­ing to see what this crit­i­cal bat­tle­ground state thinks of this ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. McAuliffe said Mr. Northam is ready to build upon the progress his ad­min­is­tra­tion has made over the past four years.

“This is about our fu­ture, this is about Vir­ginia. For­get Wash­ing­ton; this is about gov­er­nance, good gov­er­nance, and help­ing out chil­dren and ed­u­cat­ing them,” he said. “This is what we fight for each and ev­ery sin­gle day. We need Ralph in that of­fice.”

Mr. Northam’s sup­port­ers said his ex­pe­ri­ence is the dif­fer­ence maker.

Ca­role Liever, 61, said the en­dorse­ments Mr. Northam has re­ceived from top Democrats carry a lot of weight in her mind. She said his tem­per­a­ment and track record make him the best fit for the job.

“He has a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence than Tom Per­riello,” Ms. Liever said. “Tom is a great guy. We all helped him when he was run­ning for Congress, but I just think that he doesn’t have the level of ex­pe­ri­ence that Ralph has.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Tom Per­riello greeted sup­port­ers dur­ing a 24hour cam­paign blitz this week­end while his pri­mary ri­val, Ralph Northam, brought out big names in Vir­ginia pol­i­tics. Many are un­de­cided how they will vote on Tues­day.

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