Don’t look now but the 2017 elections in the Commonwealth of Virginia are 100 days away and the stakes are high. The results of three statewide races in the crucial swing state of Virginia will tell much about the mood of the country and will be viewed as an early report card of the Trump Administration after about 10 months in power.
At the top of the ticket in the gubernatorial election pits sitting Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. Northam was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2013 with 55 percent of the vote over Republican E.W. Jackson. At the top of the 2013 ticket, Terry McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli by about 56,000 votes – 48 percent to 45 percent – with a Libertarian candidate taking 7 percent of the vote. It’s worth noting that in that year’s Attorney General match-up featuring Mark Herring and Mark Obenshain, the outcome was so tight it had to be recounted before Democrat Herring was declared the winner by less than 1,000 votes.
In 2014, Ed Gillespie nearly defeated Democrat Mark Warner when they squared off for a U.S. Senate seat. It was Gillespie’s first run for political office and despite being heavily outspent, only lost to Warner the incumbent by roughly 17,000 votes. Moreover, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis garnered 53,000 votes. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton carried the Commonwealth of Virginia over Donald Trump 50 percent to 45 percent with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson getting 3 percentage points.
All this adds up to the fact that Virginia is a truly purple state that can swing either way, sometimes depending on how Americans are feeling about the direction of the country. Gillespie is a very electable Republican who will be well-funded and run a race that features a crisp message and well-organized campaign. Democrat Northam’s candidacy will essentially be a referendum on Terry McAuliffe’s term as governor and whether voters are ready for a change in Richmond.
Gillespie is running on cutting taxes and regulations in order to kick start economic growth as well as reforming the state government in Richmond. He’s a dedicated and hardworking public servant who will serve his constituents very well. Rounding out the strong statewide ticket for Republicans in Virginia are Jill Vogel (candidate for Lieutenant Governor) and John Adams (candidate for Attorney General). State Senator Vogel is a principled leader who will be the first female Lieutenant Governor of Virginia if she’s elected. Adams, a former officer in the Navy, has served honorably as a federal prosecutor and Associate White House Counsel during the George W. Bush Administration.
Over the next 100 days, it’s critically important for Republicans to put aside their differences, focus on Virginia and unite around electing Ed Gillespie as its next Governor. Republicans from all across Virginia must turn out in big numbers to elect the Republican team. In 2013, some Republican leaders made a big error by not fully uniting around Ken Cuccinelli’s candidacy for governor and giving the campaign the full support that was necessary. We’ll never know what might have been, but in 2017 Republicans must make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.