Ask any statewide candidate here in Virginia if Trump being elected POTUS has had an impact on their race and you’ll get a resounding yes. While it’s still important to have a good grasp of Virginia issues, you simply can’t ignore the fact that this has now become the first referendum on the Trump Administration.
With the new way of looking at the race, there has been a significant amount of attention from national organizations and national media. That includes an article published by the New York Times over the weekend.
While this national attention can be good for donations and potentially drawing more energy into a campaign, the national media doesn’t always get things 100% correct. One example of that is how the NY Times tended to imply that Perriello was making the race all about Donald Trump and Ralph Northam was essentially ignoring him.
Ask Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democrat, what defines this year’s race for governor in Virginia, and he does not mention President Trump. Ask the same question of former Representative Tom Perriello, Mr. Northam’s rival for the Democratic nomination, and he invokes the president in the first sentence.
The article goes on to say that Perriello is focused more on Washington than the things going on in Richmond. It then implies that Northam is more in touch with state issues and is working hard to make sure he talks about state and local issues.
It’s true that Northam is probably more knowledgeable about state issues, especially when you talk about issues that were brought up in the most recent General Assembly session. And since he’s currently serving as Lt. Governor, this is to be expected. But it’s wrong to imply that he’s not also turning this into a race against Trump.
At an event in McLean over the weekend, for instance, Northam spoke about how the 2016 election has actually energized people for the 2017 election.
Speaking about the energy he’s seeing on the campaign trail, Ralph attributed it to “A campaign that we experienced and witnessed in 2016 that was really based on hatred. Based on bigotry. Based on discrimination. Based on a lot of misinformation and fear. And I think what we’re seeing are people just like those that are gathered in the room here that say ‘no, no. this is not the country that I signed up for. It’s not the Commonwealth of Virginia that I signed up for. We’re not going to take it any more.'”
In other words, the New York Times was wrong to imply that Ralph is ignoring the impact that last year’s election is having on the statewide races this year. Of course, the story of a candidate making it about Trump versus another one who’s focused on state issues makes a much more interesting article.