Meet Your 2017 VA Gubernatorial Democratic Candidates: Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello
Alex Scruggs | News Editor
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, 57, and former Congressman Tom Perriello, 42, are facing off to be the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s gubernatorial race. The nominee will be decided on June 13, the day of primary elections in VA.
With both candidates visiting Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area multiple times so far on their campaign trail, this seems to be a hot area for the race. However, a senior staffer with the Northam campaign believes otherwise. “Folks in Hampton Roads know Northam the best… the support is overwhelming,” he said.
This may be because Northam resides and, when he’s not in session as Lt. Gov., works in Norfolk where he is a pediatric neurologist at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. Before assuming the position of Lt. Gov. in Jan 2014, Northam served two terms in the state Senate and retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of Major.
Northam’s democratic platform revolving around women’s rights, social justice, and Medicare expansion, according to his staffer, is cemented and accredited by his “proven record in Virginia.” The staffer notes that while Perriello has been out-of-state, Northam has been fighting for progressive ideals in VA.
Notably, in 2009’s state Senate session, Northam led the fight to ban smoking in VA restaurants.
Perriello’s record should not be discredited. The Charlottesville native and Alexandria resident has served a term representing VA’s 5th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011. After, Perriello served as the Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review from 2014 to 2015, and the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2015 to 2016.
Perriello Intern and ODU junior, Natalia Reid, 20, says that she was drawn to Perriello’s willingness to listen to and help people from all walks of life. “I have seen this when speaking to potential voters as well as hosting events,” says Reid. “All [Virginians] feel that problems they have in their lives can be helped by putting faith in Tom.”
During his tenure in Congress, Perriello achieved an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association for opposing gun control. He also supported restrictions on abortion. Perriello has since changed his positions on these issues, currently holding an “F” rating from the NRA, and stating that no one has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body on his campaign trail.
There appears to be no stark policy contrast between the platforms of the two candidates, and both have acquired notable endorsements. Northam from prominent VA politicians such as Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kane, as well as Representative Bobby Scott; and Perriello from 30 former Obama staffers, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Major VA battlegrounds between the two candidates include Richmond and Northern Virginia. However, both campaigns are looking for volunteers and interns in the Hampton Roads area in anticipation of the June 13 primary.
Although the race between Northam and Perriello ends on the day of the primary, Virginia’s next governor won’t be chosen until the chosen democratic republican nominees face-off on the Nov 7 election.