Labor Day weekend traditionally kicks off high season for the Virginia governor’s race, but tradition is under siege this year, and both major-party candidates have already been taking shots at each other.
The heightened political environment of the Trump administration, supercharged by the racial violence in Charlottesville, finds Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam in full battle mode.
Pushed by the same political divisions that are rending the nation, both men have taken positions that stray from their records.
Gillespie, long a proponent of a comprehensive immigration overhaul, is talking about the need to protect communities from dangerous undocumented criminals.
Northam, the lieutenant governor and legislator who built a reputation as an aw-shucks Southern gentleman, now says the president of the United States is dangerous and possibly mentally ill.
And the pair find themselves in the middle of a heated war over Confederate statues, with Gillespie urged by his base to defend them and Northam by his to call for their removal.
David Ramadan, a former Republican delegate from Northern Virginia, faults both sides for heeding the advice of political strategists that in a low-turnout, off-year election they must play to the extremes.
“Both sides are playing with fire,” he said. “Political strategists are counting on you not voting. . . . So Democrats are headed back to the far left and Republicans are headed to the far right. It’s a shame.”
In a sense, neither candidate can quite shed the ghost of his primary opponent. Republican Corey Stewart nearly took the nomination from Gillespie by stirring up the right wing of the party, and Democrat Tom Perriello drew big national dollars in his challenge to Northam by running hard against President Trump.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way this year. Virginia’s last gubernatorial race, between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, was ideologically polarized in a way that seemed unusual for the state. McAuliffe, who won, was the glad-handing soul mate of former president Bill Clinton running against a thunderously conservative Cuccinelli. The parties seemed to gravitate back toward middle ground with their presumed nominees for 2017 — Northam and Gillespie were both centrists with vanilla personalities.
But after Trump’s surprising election, and the unexpectedly hard-fought primary races this spring, the landscape has changed. “In this political climate right now, there’s not much room for moderation,” said Del. Marcus B. Simon (D-Fairfax). That was illustrated dramatically after last month’s violent clash in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counterprotesters around a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. As the nation debated what to do about Confederate statues, Northam surprised even some fellow Democrats by coming out forcefully in favor of moving public monuments into museums.
Although Northam also says localities should decide the issue for themselves, his posture is a tricky one in Virginia, which has more Civil War monuments than any other state and where polls show a slim majority of residents want the statues to remain in place.
“He probably got out farther than he would have if Charlottesville hadn’t happened,” said state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington).
“But I think Charlottesville moved a large number of people who at one point were in the middle.”
Gillespie also found himself on dangerous terrain when Trump drew widespread anger by initially saying the violence in Charlottesville could be blamed on “many sides” instead of condemning the white supremacists.
Northam pushed his opponent to disavow Trump’s comments, but Gillespie — who last year was slow to embrace Trump’s candidacy — has generally avoided mentioning the president. He has denounced white supremacists but defended the statues and thinks they should stay put.
In the weeks since, Gillespie went on the offensive and aired the first attack ad of the campaign, slamming Northam for allegedly supporting “sanctuary cities” that allow undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes to take refuge from federal agents. There’s a complicated backstory there — Virginia has no sanctuary cities, but Republicans in the state Senate used a parliamentary maneuver to get Northam to cast a vote on the topic.
The result is that as September begins, Northam is suggesting that Gillespie won’t disavow racists, while Gillespie hints that Northam coddles undocumented immigrants.
“It has been a little more negative before Labor Day than I would have expected,” said Del. David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville), the House minority leader. He blamed the negative turn on “Republicans’ concern about the state of the race,” but others say the tone of the race flows directly out of Washington.
Many people bemoan the polarization and speak wistfully of the bygone — if not entirely imagined — era of collegial bipartisanship known as “the Virginia way.”
John Fredericks is not among them.
The conservative radio host, who helped lead Trump’s Virginia campaign, wants Gillespie move closer to the president in substance and style. Gillespie recently hired the blunt-spoken operative who helped Trump round up votes in Southwest Virginia, a man who contends on Facebook that communists are behind the push to remove Confederate statues.
Fredericks thinks monuments could be the issue that puts Gillespie over the top.
“I think it’s a winning issue for him,” Fredericks said. “We’ve teed it up. He just has to hit the ball and leave nothing for interpretation or ambiguity.”
Democrats didn’t anticipate Confederate monuments as a lasting issue in this year’s governor’s race. Northam now says he thinks the topic will linger into the fall, and he’s trying to steer the conversation to other issues.
“There are a lot more monuments we need to discuss in Virginia that aren’t built in bronze, and those are the inequities we have, such as inequities in income . . . in access to education, in access to health care and voting rights,” Northam said in an interview.
Those roads lead, inevitably, back to Trump.
Read the full report from The Washington Post.
Former Chairwoman of the James City County Board of Supervisors, Mary Jones, is expected to announce her candidacy for U.S. Congress today in a Facebook Live event at 2:00 p.m.
Jones will take on first term U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor (VA/R-2) in the GOP primary next June.
Taylor upset 4th District incumbent Randy Forbes in a Republican primary in June 2015 to capture the seat held by Scott Rigell since 2010. Forbes decided to run in the 2nd District when the courts redrew the 4th District, making it a likely Democratic seat.
The 2nd CD includes Virginia Beach, the Eastern Shore, and much of the Peninsula.
Sources tell me that Jones is calling donors and telling them that Taylor is pro-gay rights, and therefore, needs to be defeated. In addition, it appears her campaign will be based on a platform of defeating an establishment Republican.
Only problem is: Taylor defeated an establishment Republican –Forbes—two years ago.
Taylor, a former Navy Seal and tireless campaigner, who connects with his base, is an overwhelming favorite to win re-nomination.
Under normal circumstances, I would rate this challenge as gadfly status, with Jones getting about 20 percent of the “burn it to the ground” protest vote.
But that all changed when Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Stafford) sent out a statewide mailer blasting his GOP rival in the June 13 Lt. Governor primary race, Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier), for voting in favor of a gay judge.
I thought the mail piece would backfire on Reeves. It did the opposite, and almost propelled him to a late upset victory.
That mailer taught me a lot about the state of some Republican primary voters on the issue of gay rights in Virginia.
So we are not writing Jones off – just yet.
Liberal firebrand Tom Perriello, who lost the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in June, is now leading the effort to elect Democrats to the Virginia House of Delegates in the fall campaign.
But some Democrats are telling me privately that Perriello is doing more harm than good.
They cite several tweets he has sent, including one calling on the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. – a Trump supporter – to obtain an “exorcism” to rid himself of the devil’s grasp.
“The devil has his grip so firmly around [Falwell] that I’m praying for his exorcism,” Perriello tweeted in mid-August, followed up by this tweet: “White evangelical leaders, your whiteness is the golden calf you choose to worship and idolize, in blasphemy of God’s word. #RepentNow.”
The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) was quick to condemn Perriello’s remarks.
“It is never acceptable to slander and smear a religious group,” the RPV said in a press release. “We demand that Tom Perriello immediately apologize to Jerry Falwell Jr. and evangelical Christians.”
The state GOP also called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, State Attorney General Mark Herring and Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner — all Democrats — “to unequivocally denounce Tom Perriello’s statements and call them what they are: bigotry.”
And Virginia Delegate Les Adams (R), a Liberty University alumnus, called Perriello’s tweet about Falwell “outrageous.”
To make matters worse (or better for some), Perriello has doubled down on Virginia’s statues and monuments removal debate, calling them “mythical” and chiding opponents for not calling for all Confederate monuments and plaques to be removed.
Some Democrats I’ve talked to are grumbling that Perriello’s high octane salvos are not exactly helping the cause of their candidates, many who are running in traditionally moderate districts held by Republicans.
One high placed state Democrat source told me, “It’s all about him. His position should be behind the scenes, seen but not heard.”
Other high ranking Democratic officials have said privately they are not impressed with Perriello’s group. “He’s over-paid and underperforming,” one offered, who requested anonymity to talk freely.
Several sources told me Perriello got the job at the behest of a small group of powerful Northern Virginia donors, who believe Clinton’s loss could have been avoided if she ran on the progressive principles that Perriello champions.
Gary Cohn – Bonfire of the Globalists
Gary Cohn, President Trump’s National Economic Council Director, certainly has a right to speak out on the issues that move him.
His post Charlottesville comments on hate groups were spot on. The white supremacist militants who masqueraded as protesters in Virginia two weeks ago have no place in the Trump orbit nor in the national discourse.
But nearly two weeks after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Cohn delivered another sharp critique – this time of Trump, rather than the Nazi clowns.
Mr. Cohn said he seriously considered resigning and even drafted a letter of resignation, as reported by the legacy media. He went on the record to trash President Trump.
“I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups, and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn said.
Cohn revealed that he wanted to resign from the Trump Administration, and further embarrassed the President by saying publicly that he had penned a letter of resignation over his boss’ comments on Charlottesville, but retracted it out of “duty and patriotism.”
Let me ask a question: who exactly elected Gary Cohn to anything?
If Cohn wants to leave the White House, here’s my advice: don’t let the door hit you in the keister.
Cohn can return to Goldman Sachs and go back to his $21 million annual salary, plus bonuses.
Here’s what’s happened under Gary Cohn’s globalist cheap labor, slave trade, Wall Street watch: while he has raked in hundreds of millions by pushing paper around in New York, U.S. wages for middle and low-income workers have stagnated for the past 20 years.
The rich got richer. Cohn got wealthy. Workers went broke.
It was Cohn who ran the mortgage department at Goldman Sachs that produced the toxic mortgage securities that eventually crashed the economy. Then, Cohn and his Wall Street friends were bailed out by taxpayers.
Cohn and his cronies got richer and further concentrated wealth in the hands of an ever-shrinking few (theirs)!
American workers who actually make things have been left to die on the vine by Cohn and his globalist comrades who engineered such “sophisticated” business strategies as sending jobs overseas and raping the H1B Visa program to import cheap labor in order to juice their million-dollar bonus packages at the expense of increasing wage rates.
Now Gary Cohn is going to lecture President Trump, who is fighting for the forgotten working class Americans every day?
The icing on the caviar cake is Cohn’s lament that he decided to stay in the White House for “patriotic” reasons, and he had to sacrifice for the common good.
The New Face of Sacrifice: $285 Million
Can an open borders globalist like Cohn even be a patriot? Is a $285 million severance package from Goldman Sachs the face of sacrifice now?
Can working class Americans relate to this $285 million level of “sacrifice?”
Oh, and globalist Gary says he fears his departure will negatively impact the market.
I guess Trump’s breathtaking deregulatory executive orders and his promises of tax reform and 3.5 percent economic growth have no impact on the economy. It’s all about the billionaire Gary Cohn. If he leaves, apparently its economic Armageddon for the rest of us working stiffs.
Another bonfire of the egos going on in the west wing.
It seems Cohn’s remarks got the President’s attention, too. Trump snubbed Cohn on Wednesday during his tax speech in Springfield, MO.
By the way, Cohn’s remarks were far removed from a statement by Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin on Charlottesville.
Mnuchin defended the president.
It’s the grand irony of politics. Ed Gillespie almost lost the nomination because of statues. Now, he may win the governorship…because of statues.
Ed Gillespie, a prohibitive early favorite to win the 2017 Virginia Republican nomination for governor, barely hung on for a razor thin victory over Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart. The reason he almost lost: Stewart’s defense of Virginia Confederate statues.
Almost 200,000 Virginia Republicans voted for Stewart because they wanted someone who they thought would fight for them, regardless of the cause. The preservation of Confederate statues and monuments became a symbol to tell elites in Washington and Richmond that their infatuation with political correctness had run amuck.
Now in the general election against Democratic front-runner Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Gillespie is poised to pull the upset and break the Republican’s statewide seven year election losing streak. The reason: his defense of Virginia confederate statues.
Steve Bannon’s west wing departure is a punch in the gut to the true believers who are convinced that President Donald J. Trump leads a movement.
Bannon saw Trump’s election for what is was: a political revolution and a once in a lifetime opportunity to completely transform the loser do nothing- donor driven national Republican Party into a vehicle for real political change who champions the beleaguered American worker.
Sen. Tim Kaine said Thursday that he plans to push for a public option in the health care market when the Senate returns after the August recess.
“I’ve thought about if you could have Medicare part E — and E would be for everybody — if you wanted to buy Medicare at any point in life … then you pay premium and buy it, or if employers wanted to use that for employees, then there would be competition, and it would drive down prices,” Mr. Kaine, Virginia Democrat, said on “The John Fredericks Show.”
“It’s likely that [Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado] and I are working on proposal. As we get into longer-term discussions, I think we’re going to put that on a table,” said Mr. Kaine, who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Mr. Kaine said he favors the public option over the single-payer system that Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Democrat, plans on pushing when health care talks resume. Mr. Sanders has said that he also supports a public option, but believes that should be a temporary program while working on a longer term “Medicare-for-all” program.
The Virginia Democrat also said there need to be temporary fixes to stabilize the individual marketplace, which has seen skyrocketing premiums under Obamacare. Mr. Kaine said the Senate needs to have discussions in the committees on what can be quickly passed to help bring prices down before the next enrollment period.
Read the full report from The Washington Times.