The next governor of Virginia must protect the state’s local values and resist President Donald Trump’s federal policies when necessary, argued Tom Perriello, a Democratic Party candidate for Virginia’s governorship Monday night.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Institute of Politics and Public Service in Old North last night, Perriello explained his campaign platform and the political climate.
Perriello stressed the importance of maintaining Virginia’s values in the face of the new administration.
“There rests a moral and constitutional obligation on the governor to look at the legal means available for noncompliance,” Perriello said.
Virginia is one of only two states that will hold off-year elections, taking place in 2017. Perriello, who is the former U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 5th district, is currently running a primary campaign against Democrat Ralph Northam, the lieutenant governor of Virginia.
“Virginia is often seen as a very important state that is a bellwether for getting a sense of what the broader electorate thinks a year into the president’s term,” Perriello said. “It is a way that we can sort of sense where things are going, or are likely to go, in the midterm elections in 2018.”
Michael Shear, The New York Times’ White House correspondent who moderated the discussion, said Perriello faces some opposition from other members of the Democratic Party.
“You want to be the next Democratic governor of Virginia, the current Democratic governor wants someone else, the former Democratic governor of Virginia wants someone else, the one before that wants someone else, all the state delegates and state senators of Virginia want someone else,” Shear said.
Perriello said he would have potentially received more support if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had won the presidential election in 2016.
However, Perriello said he now feels he has a strong chance for Virginia’s Democrats to win the gubernatorial seat.
“As someone who cares a great deal about Virginia politics, I wasn’t going to look at an election that determined the next 10 years or generation of politics in Virginia and allow Democrats to have less than the best chance we could,” Perriello said. “I am very confident that the campaign we have put together would give Democrats the best chance to win.”
According to Perriello, establishment Democrats were slow to realize Trump’s chances of winning the election. He said he can bring a more nuanced view of the Trump administration’s policies.
“This was a much bigger deal in our country than some change to Ds to Rs, this is an actual threat to our deepest values and institutions in a way that has become clear in the way President Trump is governing,” Perriello said.
Perriello said the country continues to face an unemployment problem and persistent racism.
“Trump is not the creator of those dynamics, he is the result of those dynamics,” Perriello said. “I believe that my state of Virginia is actually the forefront of pushing against this and I believe that if we run the type of campaign that is bold about that, we can think bigger than just winning a governor’s seat.”
After House Republicans halted a repeal of the Affordable Care Act last Friday because of a lack of support, Perriello said Democrats have an opportunity to cooperate with Republicans at the state level. This is because Republican plans in the federal government have mostly sought to shift the burden of health care from the federal government to state and local governments.
“One of the several divisions that developed in this was the realization of many Republicans at the state level that Republicans in Congress were going to throw them under the bus,” Perriello said. “It is pretty clear that they were shifting the tough decisions to Richmond and other capitals around the country.”
Perriello said if Democrats are able to cultivate the desire for change that can be seen in social movements taking place against the Trump administration in their political campaigns, they may be able to regain majorities in a significant manner.
“The movement that has responded to the Trump administration is a genuinely diverse, pluralistic and progressive movement in a way that I haven’t seen in my lifetime,” Perriello said. “If we can combine that with campaigns that actually understand this moment, we will actually see transformations and breakthroughs over the next two years that will put us in a position to see Trump’s election not as the beginning of an unraveling, but as the last gasp of a dying, racist ideology.”
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