All About Politics: Virginia Governor’s Race

Ralph Northam will never be called Mr. Charisma. But that was not what the Virginia voters were looking for. They came out in big numbers on Nov. 7 not to vote for the Northam, a Democrat and the lieutenant governor, but to vote against Donald Trump.

The Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, ran a disastrous campaign.

First of all, Gillespie, as I said before, was “dull as dishwater” and tried to be Trump without being Trump. He didn’t want Trump to campaign with him or for him in the state. The picture of the two together, he correctly surmised, would be a political death sentence.

So, what did he do instead?

He desperately tried to appeal to the Trump supporters by running horrible TV ads that would appeal to the most base instincts and low-down preferences.

Race, crime and immigration were the topics. But the style was definitely “Willie Horton.” He emulated George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign of 1988. Gillespie must have thought, “It worked for Bush, maybe it will work for me, too.”

What the hideous TV ads did was ignite and inspire the anti-Trump vote.

Women, young people, African Americans, Latinos and college-educated voters decided they’d had enough. Even on a rainy day, they wanted to send a message that they were, as Republican Tom Davis aptly said, “juiced up.”

With that soft, small-town Southern drawl, Northam was a non-threatening pol. He had other assets: he was a pediatric neurologist and an army veteran. He had a warm, reassuring manner. It didn’t hurt that he came from the Hampton Roads area.

Thanks to these factors — coupled with enormous support from northern Virginia — he surprised everybody by winning by nine points.

Justin Fairfax is the new lieutenant governor. Four years ago, he came out of nowhere and almost was nominated by the Dems for attorney general.

Fairfax is seeking to model his political career after Doug Wilder. Following Wilder’s term as lieutenant governor, he became the first African American governor of the Old Dominion. Fairfax grew up in D.C., then went to Duke and Columbia Law School.

Attorney General Mark Herring was reelected. You will probably see quite a rivalry between Fairfax and Herring over the next four years as each seeks to advance to the governor’s office. They very well may face each other in a primary.

Corey Stewart, the right-wing firebrand who nearly beat Gillespie in the Republican primary, has already announced that he is running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. There is absolutely no way he can beat Tim Kaine. I believe Kaine will trounce him.

Going back to last Tuesday, the other big story was the Dems gaining so many seats in the 100-member House of Delegates.

Before Tuesday night, the lineup was 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats. The Dems are now very close to being the majority party. Two seats are yet to be determined.

There is also a possibility that the House will be tied 50-50. This development no one saw coming. At best, Dems were going to pick up eight seats.

Seventeen House seats were held by Republicans in districts that Hillary Clinton won. That stat gave some hope, but what occurred will fundamentally change the lower house. Medicaid may now be expanded in the state. The “purple” state of Virginia is without a doubt becoming a shade of blue.

Final point: Ralph Northam was eager to tell me that his mother was from D.C. He said she grew up on Woodley Road.

Hope this is a good sign for D.C.

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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