Gillespie's close call a sign for moderate Republicans

Gillespie's close call a sign for moderate Republicans

Gillespie's close call a sign for moderate Republicans

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam decisively beat out Tom Periello, a one-term Congressman, for the Democratic nomination.

Republicans chose their party's two frontrunners in two hotly contested primary fights for governor and lieutenant governor, but their candidates emerged from the June election with battle scars and depleted campaign accounts.

In the Republican race, Gillespie enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage against Stewart and state Sen. "The primaries also placed Ed Gillespie squarely in the center-right of Virginia politics".

That finish emboldened Stewart, and though he's tired after the grind of stumping for President Donald Trump and then running his own gubernatorial bid in quick succession, he thinks he just may challenge Democratic Sen.

But regardless of Stewart's caustic claims about his would-be opponent, Kaine is generally regarded as one of the more popular politicians in Virginia after serving as governor from 2005 to 2009.

Walking a fine line, Gillespie has tried to avoid embracing or snubbing Trump as he appeals for the votes of both diehard Trump fans and moderates who may be turned off by Trump's presidency.

In the GOP race, Stewart ran a Trump-like campaign complete with a mocking nickname for Gillespie - "Establishment Ed" - and a hardline stance on illegal immigration. He's railed against Charlottesville's efforts to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee from a city park and has lashed out at Gillespie for not showing sufficient support for Confederate history.

Stewart said he is proud of the campaign he ran, and added it shows a local politician can jump directly to the highest office in Virginia.

"I do think it'd be a tall challenge to knock off Tim Kaine in a statewide race, and I don't care who you are and what you want, that race is going to be a referendum on Trump", said Quentin Kidd, the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University and a close observer of Virginia elections.

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Northam will face Republican Ed Gillespie in November's general election.

Instead, he's focused his attention on economic matters, and proposed cut to the state income tax as his campaign centerpiece.

"It is time for us to get back on offense and stop playing so much defense", Northam said.

Stan Corn, a small business owner from Goochland, attended Gillespie's rally wearing a pro-Trump "Make American Great Again" red ball cap.

"We are absolutely not going to stand behind Northam until he stands out against the pipeline", said Luca Connolly, an organizer with the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition that disrupted Northam's election party.

"We're definitely going to try to get 100 percent of our members turning out", Kimelman said.

At his victory party, Gillespie joked that he'd been fiscally prudent by not spending any more than was necessary to win the primary and asked the supporters of Stewart and Wagner to get behind him. "But if he doesn't do that, then they won't support him, regardless of what I say or any other politician says".

Perriello also emphasizes Democrats' need to be more receptive to the economic anxieties of rural and working class voters who supported Trump, including fears of jobs loss due to automation and artificial intelligence.

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