In many ways, Virginia's 2017 gubernatorial election may prove to be a litmus test on Donald Trump's toxicity outside of knuckle dragging, Christofascist dominated red states. While the GOP candidate, Ed Gillespie, is trying to walk a tight rope and not directly attack Donald Trump while bloviating the same platitudes and snake oil promises that have been the hallmark of the GOP since 1980, the reality is that he is inseparably married to Trump. This is especially so in light of Corey Stewart's near win in the June GOP primary during which Stewart campaigned on the same
lies promises as Trump and openly courted and embraced white supremacists and bigots. My July, 2017, VEER Magazine column described the face off between Democrat Ralph Northam and Gillespie in part as follows:
Northam and Gillespie are polar opposites on numerous issues ranging from women's reproductive rights, access to healthcare, LGBT issues, climate change, to rising sea levels, the later being something Hampton Roads residents are increasing concerned about. To me, it is difficult to adequately stress just how critical it is for a Democrat to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Virginia's next governor. With a Democrat as governor, there is at least some basic firewall against the most egregious initiatives of the Republican Party of Virginia - such as Del. Bob Marshall's 2017 horrific anti-LGBT HB 1612 that sought to outdo North Carolina's infamous HB2 - and Congressional Republicans' efforts to throw millions of Americans off of health insurance coverage (so as to give a $700 billion tax cut to the wealthiest Americans).
Ralph Northam supports equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, quality and affordable healthcare for women and medically necessary abortions (as decided by a woman and her physician, not mostly aging men), Medicaid expansion, and an "economy for everyone" that makes Virginia a welcoming place for new businesses and all citizens, be they gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew. As a veteran himself, Northam supports programs that will assist returning military veterans in securing jobs in the private sector while also assuring that quality medical care is available to those who need it. He also believes in common sense gun control measures and (i) cast a tie-breaking vote as lieutenant governor to block legislation that would have allowed Virginians to carry concealed weapons without permits, and (ii) fought legislation to allow people to bring guns into bars and other places where alcohol was served. Simply put, guns and alcohol are a deadly combination. To view all of Northam's positions, visit his campaign webpage at http://ralphnortham.com/. Ed Gillespie's campaign webpage contains many generalities that may sound good at first blush if one isn't familiar with the Republican Party 2016 platform. But on further examination, there are few details and little to show how Gillespie would deliver on his campaign promises. Then there is the fact that he's never held elected office in Virginia or anywhere else - look to the White House to see how well placing someone with no experience has played out to date. Most troubling is Gillespie's pledge to reinstitute "conservative principles" which translates to banning abortion, pushing for even more lax gun control laws, slashing taxes for the wealthy, and most likely slavishly bowing to the dictates of The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group that parades as a "Christian values" organization while pressing for license to discriminate laws and disseminating untruths about LGBT citizens and racial and religious minorities.
Also of great concern is Gillespie's razor thin victory over far right extremist, Corey Stewart, in the Republican primary last month. Stewart's campaign focused on everything that Donald Trump has championed which decent, moral people find abhorrent: religious extremism, unlimited gun rights, propping up the moribund coal industry, and personhood status for fetuses, thereby banning most forms of contraception. . . . . Gillespie will be under immense pressure to court Stewart supporters (and The Family Foundation) in the run up to the November election by making similar promises to far right voters.
A piece in the New York Times has picked up this narrative and looks at Gillespie's effort to sell himself as something different from what he truly is and to distance himself from Donald Trump's poisonous agenda and persona. Here are highlights:
HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia on Saturday used the first debate of the state’s race for governor to assail President Trump as a liar and a “dangerous man,” wagering that the growing backlash against the president will overwhelm Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, in a state drifting to the political left.
Mr. Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee with deep roots in the party’s establishment, sought to strike a delicate balance when pressed about Mr. Trump, who is highly unpopular here. He refused to say Mr. Trump’s name, but warned that Mr. Northam, a Democrat, risked hurting Virginia’s economy — which relies greatly on the federal government — by attacking the president so fiercely.
“If the shoe fits, wear it,” Mr. Northam, a neurosurgeon, shot back, adding that his assessment “comes quite close to an accurate diagnosis.”
The Virginia governor’s race is the country’s marquee election this fall, and it is already drawing millions of dollars from both national parties.
Mr. Northam, a low-key Army veteran who twice voted for President George W. Bush before entering politics, is hardly the picture of the so-called liberal “resistance” to the president. But as he attempts to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a fellow Democrat who, by law, cannot seek consecutive terms, Mr. Northam is using strikingly caustic language to galvanize Virginia voters who are appalled by the president, but may be reluctant to vote in an off-year governor’s race.
“As we say on the Eastern Shore, he lies like a rug,” Mr. Northam, who grew up across the Chesapeake Bay, said of Mr. Trump in his thick Tidewater drawl.
Targeting the president on the health care proposal of congressional Republicans — which he called “Trumpcare” — and on climate policy and abortion rights, the lieutenant governor said his rival, Mr. Gillespie, had “stood there and said nothing.” Mr. Gillespie is in something of a political vise. On one side are the more centrist voters in and around Virginia’s cities. On the other is the president’s loyal rural base, voters who overwhelmingly supported Corey Stewart, a surprisingly strong rival in last month’s Republican primary. Mr. Stewart has refused to enthusiastically back Mr. Gillespie, . . . . Mr. Gillespie’s challenge, beyond the specter of Mr. Trump and the state’s increasingly blue tint, was made clear in the headlines that greeted Virginians on the morning of the debate: The state’s unemployment rate is now 3.7 percent, the lowest it has been in more than nine years.
Mr. Northam sought to link himself to Mr. McAuliffe, the popular governor, by trumpeting the “new Virginia economy,” while criticizing Mr. Gillespie for talking down the state’s progress since the Great Recession.
Mr. Gillespie [falsely] repeatedly claimed that Virginia ranked 39th of 50 states in economic growth and was on the verge of becoming closer to the “rusty” states of the northeast than it was other Sun Belt dynamos.
I have one word to categorize Gillespie: LIAR. When it comes to truth and veracity, I place Gillespie in the same league as Trump: if his lips are moving, then he is most likely lying. As with the Christofascists, Republican candidates feel free to lie in whatever ways that are helpful to their divisive and exclusionary. As a former GOP national chair, Gillespie is a consummate liar. His smooth talking should not be confused for honesty and truthfulness. If you want to know what Gillespie really stands for, look no farther than Trump and Corey Stewart. Gillespie must be defeated in November.
Oh, and as for Gillespie's negative comments about Virginia's economy, check out the following articles that underscore Gillespie's dishonest: Here Where Virginia is ranked 13th), or here where increases in states GDP are compared, or here where increases in personal income are noted, or here where states' economic outlooks are ranked (Virginia is 11th).