Gille­spie ekes out GOP win over Stew­art

Northam eas­ily clinches Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion

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

Lt. Gov Ralph Northam won an eas­ier-thanex­pected vic­tory Tues­day in Vir­ginia’s Demo­cratic pri­mary for gover­nor, while Ed Gille­spie had a much tougher race on the Re­pub­li­can side, though he took a nar­row win in a race that showed Pres­i­dent Trump is still a po­tent po­lit­i­cal force.

Mr. Gille­spie had the back­ing of all the state’s high-pro­file Repub­li­cans and had a ma­jor cash ad­van­tage. His chief op­po­nent, Prince Wil­liam Board of County Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Corey Stew­art, had his con­ser­va­tive stances and his ties to Mr. Trump.

It took more than three hours af­ter the polls closed at 7 p.m. for The As­so­ci­ated Press to call the race with Mr. Gille­spie win­ning by 1 per­cent­age point, 44 per­cent to 43 per­cent. State Sen. Frank W. Wag­ner was car­ry­ing the re­main­ing votes.

Even though he held on to a lead that dwin­dled in the clos­ing days, Mr. Gille­spie en­ters the gen­eral elec­tion wounded, hav­ing failed to crack 50 per­cent in a race he was ex­pected to dom­i­nate.

Mr. Northam’s vic­tory, mean­while, is good news for the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment, which helped the lieu­tenant gover­nor beat back an in­sur­gent chal­lenge by for­mer one-term U.S. Rep. Tom Per­riello, who had the sup­port of Sen. Bernard San­ders and the most lib­eral ac­tivists from the na­tional Demo­cratic Party.

But many Democrats voted prag­mat­i­cally, want­ing to choose some­one with the most time in state gov­ern­ment.

“He is ex­pe­ri­enced,” San­dra Welch, 71, said of Mr. Northam as she voted in Alexan­dria. “He knows leg­is­la­tors in Rich­mond so he al­ready has an ad­van­tage in be­ing able to get some leg­is­la­tion on the books.”

Mr. Per­riello con­grat­u­lated Mr. Northam in a phone call be­fore tak­ing the stage at his elec­tion night party, vow­ing to sup­port his ri­val in the Novem­ber elec­tion.

He and his sup­port­ers claimed a moral vic­tory in the loss, say­ing they forced Mr. Northam to run to the left.

“We have changed the con­ver­sa­tion here in Vir­ginia and lifted the voices of those who have been left out of the po­lit­i­cal con­ser­va­tion for too long,” Mr. Per­riello said at a party in Falls Church. “I don’t know about you, but I am in­spired to keep fight­ing tonight.”

At his vic­tory party in Ar­ling­ton, Mr. Northam gave a fiery speech Tues­day night, woo­ing Per­riello sup­port­ers and say­ing Democrats would re­take the state House of Del­e­gates in Novem­ber.

“It is time for us to get back on of­fense and stop play­ing so much de­fense,” he said.

Mr. Per­riello be­came the lat­est Bern vic­tim, notch­ing an­other loss for the sen­a­tor from Ver­mont who elec­tri­fied Demo­cratic vot­ers last year but who has strug­gled to turn his move­ment into a win­ning elec­toral cam­paign.

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, were given a choice be­tween the old GOP era in Mr. Gille­spie, who was a coun­selor to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, and the new GOP in Mr. Stew­art, who was push­ing im­mi­gra­tion crack­downs well be­fore Mr. Trump and had been chair­man of the Trump cam­paign in Vir­ginia.

Mr. Gille­spie tried to steer clear of get­ting too bogged down in Trump-re­lated con­tro­ver­sies in Wash­ing­ton, run­ning a more tra­di­tional Re­pub­li­can cam­paign that fo­cused on his de­sire to slash taxes, pur­sue con­ser­va­tive pro-growth poli­cies and strengthen ethics laws.

Mr. Stew­art sprinted to­ward Mr. Trump, mak­ing im­mi­gra­tion a cen­ter­piece of his cam­paign, and ac­cused Mr. Gille­spie of run­ning away from the pres­i­dent.

Vot­ers also voted for nom­i­nees in the races for the state leg­is­la­ture and lieu­tenant gover­nor.

In the pri­mary for lieu­tenant gover­nor, a post that of­ten serves as a step­ping­stone to the gov­er­nor­ship, Democrats chose North­ern Vir­ginia lawyer Justin Fair­fax over re­tired pros­e­cu­tor Gene Rossi and for­mer lob­by­ist Su­san Platt.

On the Re­pub­li­can side, the race be­tween state Sen. Jill Vo­gel eked out a nar­row win over state Sen. Bryce Reeves.

There was no ma­jor-party pri­mary for the com­mon­wealth’s other ma­jor statewide elected of­fice, the at­tor­ney gen­eral post. In­cum­bent Demo­crat Mark Her­ring and Re­pub­li­can lawyer John Adams ran un­op­posed.

At the polls Tues­day, Mr. Gille­spie’s back­ers said they hoped he could de­liver a vic­tory to a state Re­pub­li­can Party that has been on a los­ing streak.

“I think he is fis­cally re­spon­si­ble,” Sarah Rev­ers, 52, said on her way out a polling place in Fair­fax County. “I think he stands for the val­ues that Vir­gini­ans want at this point.”

Oth­ers were less en­thused, in­clud­ing Stew­art sup­port­ers who called Mr. Gille­spie a “RINO,” or Re­pub­li­can in Name Only, and said he “might as well be a Demo­crat.”

That lack of en­thu­si­asm may have af­fected turnout.

Democrats ap­peared to have set a record with more than 500,000 votes cast, com­pared with about 350,000 in the Re­pub­li­can con­test.

To­tal turnout was slightly more than 150,000 in the 2013 Demo­cratic gover­nor’s pri­mary and nearly 320,000 the 2009 pri­mary.

Mr. Trump’s shadow hung over both pri­maries, with Demo­cratic vot­ers in Alexan­dria say­ing they were phys­i­cally re­pulsed by Mr. Trump and ap­plaud­ing Mr. Northam for la­bel­ing him a “nar­cis­sis­tic ma­niac” in one of his clos­ing cam­paign ads.

“I am not go­ing to over­an­a­lyze that state­ment, but I like it,” said 80-year-old Jim Hensen, a re­tired Air Force mas­ter sergeant who backed Mr. Northam.

Harry, an­other voter who de­clined to give his last name, said he voted for Mr. Northam be­cause of that ad. “I be­lieve that [Mr. Trump] prob­a­bly has some sort of men­tal ill­ness,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam cel­e­brated his vic­tory Tues­day night in the Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary elec­tion.

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