Gillespie, Northam Win Virginia Primaries

By John Celock

Establishment candidates fended off more ideological driven challengers to capture the major party nominations for Virginia governor.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam captured the Democratic nomination, while former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie narrowly captured the Republican nod Tuesday. The two are facing off to succeed term limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Northam, the establishment’s pick to succeed McAuliffe, easily defeated former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello 56 percent to 44 percent. Northam, who was endorsed by McAuliffe, had long been viewed as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but had to fend off a last minute challenge from Perriello, a former congressman and U.S. State Department official aligned with the national progressive wing of the party. The race took on ideological tones and a battle between Northam’s Virginia based support and Perriello’s large base of support in Washington, D.C. and nationally amongst progressives.

In the GOP primary, Gillespie narrowly edged out Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart 43.7 percent to 42.5 percent with 13.8 percent of the vote going to state Sen. Frank Wagner. Gillespie, a former White House counselor to President George W. Bush and DC lobbyist, has been positioning himself for a gubernatorial run since narrowly losing a U.S. Senate race in 2014. Stewart, who lost a bid for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination in 2013, had run President Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia and positioned himself to the right of Gillespie. The results were neck in neck until the end of the evening, when results from suburban Fairfax County allowed Gillespie to pull ahead.

Gillespie is seeking to follow a similar path to McAuliffe to the governor’s mansion. McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, had lost one statewide race for governor before winning the office in 2013.

In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, attorney Justin Fairfax captured 49 percent of the vote to defeat former congressional aide Susan Platt with 39 percent and former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi with 12 percent. Fairfax, who lost the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in 2013, is seeking to become the second African American to win statewide office in Virginia history, following former Gov. Doug Wilder (D), who was elected lieutenant governor in 1985 and governor in 1989. Fairfax, 38, is currently the youngest statewide major party nominee in the United States and the only African American running for statewide office in the U.S. this year. New Jersey’s gubernatorial nominees still have not picked their running mates for lieutenant governor.

In the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Jill Vogel captured the nomination with 43 percent of the vote, defeating Sen. Bryce Reeves with 40 percent and state Del. Glenn Davis with 17 percent. Vogel is seeking to become the second woman to be elected statewide in Virginia history, following former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (D), who won in 1985 and 1989. Terry lost a 1993 bid for governor. Vogel is now one of two women running statewide in the United States this year, along with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the GOP nominee for governor.

In the race for state attorney general, Democratic incumbent Mark Herring and Republican attorney John Adams were both unopposed in the primary.