Since this is my last column before November 7th, Election Day 2017, I think it is appropriate to offer my observations on the current choices facing Virginia voters. This election cycle includes the statewide contests for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and the House of Delegates. (Virginia’s Senate – which is on a four year cycle – has this election off).
Again this year Democrats have to overcome our gerrymandered district boundaries, the standard menu of voter suppression tactics (photo ID requirements, confusing absentee-in-person rules, poll hours that are a challenge for those who work late etc) and a cynical negative campaign from the Republican gubernatorial candidate in order to elect Democrat Ralph Northam as Governor of Virginia with enough House of Delegates members to uphold his vetoes.
If you have read this far, you must have more than a passing interest in the election outcome. The current 100-seat House of Delegates is comprised of 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats. Further, only 17 Delegates are women, placing Virginia very low among the states in percentage of women Delegates. That the electorate which made McAuliffe Governor, Northam Lt. Gov and Herring AG four years ago, and then swung our state into Hillary Clinton’s camp last year, could produce these HOD membership numbers must be attributed to flawed governance in drawing district lines. This skewed map has resulted in ideological and mean-spirited legislation, particularly directed at women and low-income families.
The Nov. 7 results will be especially critical to Virginians because a Republican statewide victory will likely see Virginia supporting Trumpian policies instead of protecting itself from the dangerous decisions being made in Washington. Over the past four years, the balance of power between Democratic Governor McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring and the Republican-controlled General Assembly has moderated extremely partisan ideological agendas. This has been frustrating to some, but in these highly charged political times, arguably it has been rather Jeffersonian.
Mainstream Republicans probably feel fortunate to have a candidate with the chameleon-like political skills of former Reagan acolyte and Capitol Hill political lifer Ed Gillespie who has achieved one percent wealth status as a highly successful Washington lobbyist beginning in 1999. Mr. Gillespie has deftly side-stepped questions of affinity with President Trump and attempted to focus on the standard corporate Republican playbook: leading with tax cuts and promises of an economic development bonanza. Of course, he gives mandatory lip-service to “red meat” social issues like defunding Planned Parenthood, universal gun rights and clamping down on immigration.
Sadly, the Gillespie campaign has adopted the Trump campaign’s vile, nativist tactics by attempting to paint Northam as an unwitting tool of the Salvadoran gang, MS-13. Gillespie’s pedigree includes terms as RNC Chair (2003) and the Counselor to the President filling Karl Rove’s shoes for Bush 43 (2007). And Ed Gillespie is about as archetypal a figure in the “Washington Swamp” that candidate Trump promised to drain
Ralph Northam stands in sharp contrast to Ed Gillespie. He is not a “career” politician, but entered politics a little over 10 years ago as a moderate Democrat. He has a superlative resume as a former military doctor who currently leads a practice as a pediatric neurologist in Norfolk. He was highly respected by Republicans and Democrats when a two-term Senator, prior to winning a statewide election to become Lieutenant Governor in 2013. His healthcare expertise will be a particular strength as he leads Virginia through whatever healthcare morass that emerges from Washington.
To conclude my partisan remarks, I say: Ralph Northam’s quiet demeanor belies his ferocity as a public servant. Listen to his words, review his record and you will have no doubt that he is the most qualified candidate. He should become our 43rd Governor!
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.