The Virginia Governor’s Race

For those who can’t wait for the 2018 midterm elections, right across the river there is a contest that will command the attention of the nation this November.

Virginia elects its governors every four years, but chooses to do it in a very distinctive way. The only other state that holds its election for governor in off-off years is New Jersey.

It’s a shame that the most unpopular governor in the country, Chris Christie, is term-limited. You remember Christie, the tough-talking former prosecutor who at one time was considered presidential timber. He dropped out of the race quite early. After becoming the transition chief for a few days, he was deposed, then had a memorable Fourth of July beach excursion.

But let’s get back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Democrat is Ralph Northam, presently the lieutenant governor. Every lieutenant governor, you should know, wants to become governor. Northam is a low-key, pleasant fellow who is a pediatric neurosurgeon. He is from the Hampton Roads area.

The Republican candidate is a familiar name. Ed Gillespie was a former chairman of both the Virginia GOP and the Republican National Committee. He is, as my grandmother would say, “dull as dishwater.”

He should not be underestimated. In 2014, when he ran for the U.S. Senate, he came within a few thousand votes of beating Mark Warner. But Gillespie barely won the recent GOP primary. Corey Stewart, the Confederate-loving at-large chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, came very close to beating him.

Virginia has increasingly become a Democratic state. Hillary Clinton won one Southern state. It was Virginia. Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012.

The present governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat, and so is the attorney general, Mark Herring. Add to that both U.S. senators (and former governors), Warner and Tim Kaine.

If you’re wondering why Terry McAuliffe isn’t running for a second term as governor, Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits it governor to one term at a time. They can wait four years and run again, but they can’t succeed themselves.

Northam has called the man living in the White House a “narcissistic maniac.” Gillespie seems conflicted on Donald Trump. At times, he keeps his distance. Other times, he is more favorable toward him, seeking to woo Trump’s die-hard supporters.

During the Fourth of July holiday, Trump appeared desperate when he loudly came out for a relaxation of laws concerning fireworks. I guess he felt his campaign needed a spark.

Recent polls have showed the race to be close. Northam will try to pile up big numbers in Northern Virginia. If he does, he will win and Gillespie’s political career will be over.

Political analyst and Georgetowner columnist Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to Reach him at


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