Virginia voters will choose their next governor on Tuesday after weeks of nasty campaigning between Democrats and Republicans over cultural issues.
Democrat Ralph Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, squares off against Ed Gillespie, the former RNC chairman — and it looks to be close. Polling generally favors Northam by a few points, but the race appears to have tightened in the last few weeks, and who knows what will happen.
Over the past decade, Virginia has become an increasingly blue-leaning state: Both the state’s senators are Democrats, the state voted for Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in November, and two of the state’s last three governors have been Democrats.
Though current governor Terry McAuliffe (a Democrat) is fairly popular in the state, his would-be successor Northam struggled to articulate a clear message, especially on the issue of how he would either work with or against President Donald Trump.
Gillespie nearly won a Senate seat in 2014, running a sort of “Republican of the future” campaign. This time, he ran a campaign more in line with the cultural warrior issues championed by Trump over the last two years.
a) Gillespie and allies emphasized MS-13 (which is predominately a Latin gang, prompting accusations of racism), painted Northam as weak on the gang, and made a campaign issue of sanctuary cities (which Virginia does not have).
b) a Democratic group supporting Northam called Latino Victory Fund ran an ad that depicted a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag on the back chasing minority children through the streets, capped off with a shot of the Charlottesville rally, asking if Donald Trump and Gillespie meant something like this when they wanted America to be great again.