WASHINGTON – The residents of Virginia are voting on Tuesday for a new governor, the two candidates being Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie, in a tight race that will give a clue as to the political capital of President Donald Trump a year after his own election triumph.
Despite winning the White House, Trump lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton by more than 5 percentage points in the 2016 election and is not popular in the state, where Democrats have been gaining strength in recent decades, above all in the urban areas near Washington, DC.
Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Gillespie, the former president of the Republican National Committee, are vying to succeed the current governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Voter surveys recently forecast a comfortable victory for Northam, but Gillespie has been gaining ground and, according to the RealClearPolitics Web site, the two men are going into Tuesday’s balloting practically tied, albeit with a slight 3-point advantage for the Democrat.
During his campaign, Gillespie has resorted to the same divisive rhetoric that Trump has used and has presented himself as the only candidate capable of halting illegal immigration and organized crime.
Although he is presently in South Korea on a lengthy Asian tour, Trump did not ignore the Virginia race on Tuesday, taking to Twitter to emphasize that the Republican candidate “will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA.”
“MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!” the president tweeted, adding in subsequent tweets that Northam “will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia. He’s weak on crime, weak on our GREAT VETS, Anti-Second Amendment ... and has been horrible on Virginia economy.”
The Second Amendment of the Constitution is the one that protects the “right to keep and bear arms.”
The campaign has been dominated by negative ads and vicious attacks on one another by the two candidates, but one in particular – although it was not sponsored by the Democrats and was paid for by the Latino Victory Fund – has caused problems for Northam.
In the ad in question, entitled “American Nightmare” and withdrawn quickly after sparking significant controversy, a man in a pickup truck is seen with a Confederate flag and a Gillespie bumper sticker being pursued by a group of Hispanic youths.
The rejection of the idea that Republicans are racist could motivate some voters to turn their backs on Northam and vote for Gillespie, analysts say.
On the other hand, Gillespie’s strategy of criminalizing immigrants, particularly the Hispanic community, is translating into the fact that Latinos are heading to the polls in “unprecedented” numbers to make clear that they “will not tolerate” those attacks.
This is the analysis given to EFE by the Virginia director of the America’s Voice organization, Julio Lainez, who said that the Latino vote will be “very important” and that different groups of activists and volunteers have been “mobilizing and educating” Hispanics to go to the polls.
Although former President Barack Obama has generally kept aloof from politics since leaving the White House last January, he made an exception on Oct. 19 and led a rally for Northam in Richmond, the state capital.