With only one exception, the party that holds the presidency has lost the Virginia governor's race since 1977. That exception happened in 2013, leading to all five statewide offices being held by Democrats; it seemed to many that Virginia's growing blue population had stopped the historical trend. In 2017, both history and demographics would point to a Democratic victory in the three statewide offices and in House of Delegates races, but something strange is happening in Virginia.
The Virginia Democratic Party is blowing their shot in spectacular fashion — culminating in printing literature which excluded their black lieutenant governor nominee, sending mail comparing Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie to white supremacists in Charlottesville, and even comparing a Latina Republican House of Delegates candidate to a ravenous dog and the Halloween character Jason. Now, a Hampton University poll has Republican nominee Ed Gillespie winning by 8 percent going into the last two weeks.
But things were unraveling, even before this.
First came Democratic nominee Ralph Northam's bungled response to Gillespie's ads regarding MS-13. Northam, the current lieutenant governor and Democratic nominee for governor, shouldn't have struggled to respond to a brutal ad which said Northam's support for sanctuary cities would empower MS-13. Instead of just saying Virginia doesn't have sanctuary cities and he wants to keep it that way, Northam refused to answer if he would work with ICE to deport convicted MS-13 gang members who are here illegally. He just said he'd "treat them like any other violent criminals."
Northam refused to take a tough stance on MS-13 in order to not upset the extreme activists in his party, but in doing so, he started to lose suburban families who have seen MS-13 murder people in their neighborhoods. Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William counties have seen numerous brutal gang murders in recent years, including one in my own neighborhood in Ashburn. The Washington Post's fact-check on the issue admitted there are more MS-13 gang members in Fairfax County than there are police officers.
But Northam's campaign hasn't just bungled attacks from Gillespie. He and his ticket came out with mixed messaging when progressive activists pressured them to answer if they support single-payer healthcare. Justin Fairfax, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and a progressive favorite, supports single-payer, but Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring do not. This noticeably disappointed and deactivated their base.
But once again, this was just the beginning of the grand finale of the explosion of the Democratic ticket.
Due to Fairfax's radical progressive beliefs, Laborers' International Union of North America refused to endorse him, but did support Northam and Herring. The union asked the Northam campaign for literature without Fairfax, and the Northam campaign printed it for them. The literature matched their other pieces, just without the only black candidate running statewide. Fairfax wasn't happy. Activists weren't happy. Quentin James from the left-leaning Collective PAC said, "It reeks of subtle racism."
It was a catch-22 for Democrats: Either Fairfax is out of the ideological mainstream, or Northam and Herring are racist.
Instead of apologizing, Northam when asked why Fairfax was omitted, he told MSNBC, "That's between the union and [Fairfax]." Ouch.
And while Northam is dealing with charges of "subtle racism," the Democratic Party of Virginia authorized a hit piece on Latina Republican House of Delegates candidate Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, putting a picture of her face by a picture of a ravenous dog and a Jason Halloween mask.
To make up for these snafus, Democrats are going on offense this week using mailers with a photoshopped picture of President Trump and Gillespie with the violent tiki-torch carrying racists in Charlottesville, saying "Stand up to Hate." It's clearly desperation. Gillespie is known for being mild-mannered and reasonable, and has a record of bipartisanship in business and at the White House.
While few gave Gillespie and the GOP ticket a chance a couple weeks ago, Democrats' errors on top of errors could lead to a November surprise.
Ron Meyer (@Ron4VA) is a Washington Examiner columnist and the editor of Red Alert Politics (a sister publication of the Washington Examiner). He's also a supervisor of Loudoun County, Va. (R-Broad Run).