Ralph Northam, the Democratic for candidate has received three major Virginia media endorsements. The Richmond Times Dispatch endorsed Ralph’s Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie.
Mr. Northam can convincingly promise to be governor for all Virginians, while Mr. Gillespie, even while asserting the same, has disqualified himself from any such credible claim. We support Mr. Northam.
Having used massive TV advertising buys to whip up the fears and hatreds of his party’s extremists — by equating illegal immigrants with violent Hispanic gangs; by embracing Confederate monuments weeks after they were the rallying cause for neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville; by distorting the facts on rights restoration for a convicted sex offender — the Republican candidate has swapped his cloak as a problem-solver for a demagogue’s mantle. Having chosen to campaign as a divider, Mr. Gillespie’s chances of governing as a uniter are dim.
However, while Mr. Northam has maintained relatively consistent stances, Mr. Gillespie, trying to play to both right-wing and centrist factions in the GOP, has hopscotched from one side to the other on many issues.
He attacked Virginia’s 2013 landmark transportation bill, the first to raise new revenue for deteriorating state roads in a quarter-century, branding it as a massive tax hike backed by Mr. Northam, before he was for keeping it, as a means of securing the endorsement of a business group in Northern Virginia. On transgender bathrooms, he skewered the idea that girls would share a restroom with boys who identify as girls, then pivoted, again to court a business group’s support, by saying he’d oppose legislation like North Carolina’s banning transgender bathrooms. He’s similarly straddled on providing in-state tuition subsidies at public universities for “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — telling a campaign rally he’d oppose it while suggesting to us he had no position on the issue.
Before he tilted toward incendiary social issues, the centerpiece of Mr. Gillespie’s campaign platform was a pie-in-the-sky tax cut that would slash state revenue, by about $1.4 billion from an annual tax-supported budget of $20 billion — even as he proposed dozens of costly new programs and initiatives. Asked to name state programs he might cut to pay for his tax plan, Mr. Gillespie did not name any.
Northam is a Virginia Military Institute graduate and U.S. Army veteran who served in the first Gulf War. Hailing from the Eastern Shore, he is a pediatric neurologist who practices medicine in Norfolk. Northam served six years in the state Senate before winning election as lieutenant governor in 2014.
Gillespie made a splash early in his campaign by proposing an across-the-board 10 percent tax cut for individual ratepayers, which he says would provide $1,285 in annual savings for the average family.
Total estimated cost: $1.3 billion, a figure that drew sharp criticism from state Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, a primary challenger, who claimed the numbers are based on faulty math and would cost the state too much in revenue.
Therein lies Northam’s greatest appeal: Far from a flashy politician, the lieutenant governor has spent years in Richmond, developing the relationships needed to work across the aisle and deliver results.
But that is far from Gillespie’s only liability. On health care issues — and women’s reproductive health in particular — his outlook risks putting the most vulnerable Virginians in greater peril. While he insists that his ability to work with President Donald Trump would benefit the commonwealth, it cannot paper over the fact that his opponent far outpaces him in this area.
On another issue vital to the region, recurrent flooding and sea-level rise, it’s clear that both men would bring greater resources to bear, but Northam has a more nuanced understanding of the problem and a record of working on solutions. Here, his Norfolk ties add to his appeal.
Virginia’s rural communities should consider similar calculations. While Gillespie has pushed hard to win over voters in Southwest and Southside Virginia, Northam’s roots on the Eastern Shore imbue him with an understanding of the forces at work there and a desire to see state government work better for those residents.
They were attempting to draw distinctions between each other, but the differences are evident in their policy proposals. And for Hampton Roads — for all of Virginia — Northam is the better choice.
And yet Mr. Northam, a former state senator and our current lieutenant governor, has done little more than repeat progressive pieties and point to the economic record of current Gov. Terry McAuliffe. And Mr. Gillespie, a longtime lobbyist who very nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Mark Warner three years ago, has run a campaign centered on a repulsive and racially tinged effort to link Mr. Northam to rape, murder and a noxious criminal gang. For a candidate to resort to this kind of lying attack ought to be disqualifying. When this editorial board pressed him about his campaign centerpiece — a 10 percent income tax cut — he showed an astonishing lack of awareness of easily available information about state revenue.