- Virginia voters will elect a new governor on Tuesday in a race widely viewed as a bellwether of national politics.
- The competitive contest between a right-wing Republican and a establishment-backed Democrat has featured personal attacks and harsh ad campaigns.
Virginia voters will elect a new governor on Tuesday in one of the most anticipated races of 2017.
The competitive contest between a Washington insider backed by President Donald Trump and the state’s lieutenant governor is widely viewed as an early indicator of how powerful opposition to Trump and support for Democrats are in a state that Hillary Clinton won by five points last November.
The race has recently turned into a bitter feud, drawing national attention with attack ads in which Republican Ed Gillespie accused his Democratic opponent Ralph Northam of supporting gun rights for pedophiles, while Northam labelled Gillespie a white supremacist.
The state’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, hand-picked Northam, a physician and his lieutenant governor, to run against Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee Chairman, whom the governor recently accused of running “the most hateful, racist, bigoted campaign” he’d ever seen.
Former President Barack Obama echoed McAuliffe, telling Virginians while campaigning for Northam last month that “our democracy is at stake” in the state’s gubernatorial election.
“We need you to take this seriously, because our democracy is at stake,” Obama told a crowd of thousands at a rally in Richmond, “and it’s at stake right here in Virginia.”
In a controversial statement, Trump tweeted his support for Gillespie last month, writing that he hopes the Republican will “save our great statues/heritage,” referring to Virginia’s Confederate statues, which were the subject of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
Trump tweeted about the race again on Tuesday, attacking Northam and encouraging Virginians to cast their ballots for Gillespie, who he said would “totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA.”
“Ralph 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. Vote @EdWGillespie today!” he wrote.
Democrats have countered Trump’s claims, arguing that Virginia’s 3.7 per cent unemployment rate is the lowest of any major state in the country.
The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union both reported that they received calls from voters in swing counties who received robocalls incorrectly telling them that their assigned polling stations had changed.
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