Northam: Virginia gov race is a 'bellwether'

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) depicted his gubernatorial race as a key pivot point for the country ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, just hours before Election Day polls close in the closely watched race.

"We watched a campaign in 2016 that was based on a lot of hatred, bigotry and discrimination and fear. So there is a lot of attention on Virginia right now," Northam said to reporters at a campaign field office in Richmond. 
 
"We are the bellwether, people are looking at us to see what direction we go in. They want a governor who has some fire in his belly, who will stand up to the detrimental policies coming out of Washington and someone who can take Virginia to the next level."
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Northam said a victory over Republican Ed Gillespie would send a message across the country. 
 
"It says that this country doesn’t condone the divisiveness," Northam said. 
 
"We need healers. We need a doctor to come in and heal the wounds of this country right now and not to be someone who promotes hatred and bigotry. That’s not what this country is about."
 
Democrats and Republicans alike are eyeing the off-year race, the first competitive statewide election since President Trump's inauguration, as a indicator of the country's mood a year before the midterm elections. 
 
Virginia's dynamics favor the Democrat — Trump's approval rating in the state is low, Democrats have won every statewide election here since 2009 and unemployment is below the national average. 
 
Yet the polls have tightened in the final days as Gillespie has worked to get Republican voters to the polls. Meanwhile, Northam angered his own base last week by saying that he would sign a ban on sanctuary cities if one hit his desk as governor. 
 
The race has turned brutal in the closing weeks, with culture-war issues dominating the final stretch. Democrats have long criticized Gillespie's focus on illegal immigration and protecting Confederate statues as dog-whistle politics, criticism that bubbled over into a controversial Latino Victory Fund ad that depicted a Gillespie supporter terrorizing Hispanic and Muslim children. 
 
Republicans condemned the ad, accusing Democrats of attacking GOP voters. 
 
When confronted about the ad, Northam repeated his agreement with the group's decision to take it down, but added that Gillespie's ads have both characterized him unfairly and attacked minorities. 
 
"That's obviously not an ad I would have run. It was taken down, which I agreed with," he said. 
 
"But it was a response to Mr. Gillespie’s ads of fear-mongering, promoting hatred and bigotry. When you offend communities in Virginia like he did, they respond."
 
Northam, like Gillespie, is traveling across the state on Tuesday as the campaigns race to get voters to the polls ahead of the 7 p.m. closing time.