Current lieutenant governor and gubernatorial hopeful Ralph Northam stopped by Chimole restaurant in Leesburg this morning to tell assembled Democrats: “We have a fight on our hands. I’m a fighter.”
Northam contrasted his stances on social issues—which include protections and inclusion for LGBT people, defense of Planned Parenthood funding, and “common sense gun laws”—with President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“We just witnessed a campaign in 2016 that was run on hatred; it was run on bigotry, discrimination, fear, and a lot of misinformation; and I think most people in this commonwealth and this country are standing up and saying no. No, that is not the United States of America that I signed up for. That’s not the country that I love, and it’s not the Commonwealth of Virginia that I love,” Northam said. “We’re not going to accept that this is the new normal.”
Democrats are hoping to ride a wave of backlash against Trump to reclaim governorships and legislative seats around the country, particularly in districts that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 election. Clinton and her vice presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), beat Trump in Virginia by five points in 2016, doing particularly well in Northern Virginia.
Northam said “game on.”
“I will remind all of you that the pendulum in this business swings hard and fast, and this is our time to build our party, to build our base,” Northam said.
Opening for Northam, Virginia Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33) said the stakes in 2017 are high for Democrats. She said one of the reasons Republicans carry a 64-33 majority in the House of Delegates is that “it’s hopelessly gerrymandered.” Wexton pointed out that the governor elected in 2017 will preside over Virginia’s decennial redistricting.
“I absolutely assure you that if both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion are in Republican hands, they are going to draw themselves a permanent majority,” Wexton said. “We cannot let that happen.”
Several bills intended to address redistricting, including one this year to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, have failed in the General Assembly in the past several years.
Northam particularly emphasized gun control and LGBT protections in his stump speech, bringing up major sporting events and companies that moved out of North Carolina in the wake of that state’s controversial “bathroom bill,” requiring that transgender people use the bathroom of their gender at birth. Some of those events and companies, he pointed out, came to Virginia.
He was introduced by Andrew Goddard, who has been a prominent face in lobbying for tighter gun control laws since his son sustained serious injuries after being shot in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 people dead. Northam drew on his professional experience in making his case.
“I took care of wounded soldiers during Desert Storm. I know all too well what assault weapons do to human beings,” Northam said. “[…] I have taken and held toddlers in my arms, 2- and 3-year-old children, who have picked up loaded weapons on the bedside table and shot themselves. I am the one who has had to tell their parents that they’re not going to live.”
Northam, a pediatric neurologist, former Virginia senator, and Desert Storm veteran, is competing with attorney, diplomat, and former congressman Tom Perriello for the Democratic Party nomination for Virginia governor. Democratic primary elections for the November general election will be held June 13.