February 16, 2017

Democratic Civil War Drives Virginia Democrats Further Leftward

While the Democratic civil war is a nationwide phenomenon, nowhere is it being fought with as much intensity as in the Virginia Democratic primary for governor. The two leading Democrats are locked in a fierce competition to see who can be the most liberal. Already, Tom Perriello has flip-flopped on abortion funding and off-shore drilling, while Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, the establishment candidate, has come out for such liberal positions as marijuana decriminalization.

As the Washington Post notes today though, the actions by both candidates is are highly unusual for Virginia politics:

“‘This is really sort of unchartered territory for Democrats,’ said longtime Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth, noting that most nomination contests have been uncontested. ‘A competition that focuses on the progressive wing of the party is not necessarily where they have traditionally been.’”

The Democratic primary has been defined by the increasing tensions between the two candidates, as each seeks to assert that they are the most liberal candidate in the race. For Northam, that means pointing out those past Perriello flip-flops:

“‘I’ve always from the start fought for women’s access to reproductive health care. My opponent hasn’t,’ Northam said in an interview with The Post on Wednesday. ‘I have never been one, despite being from a very conservative area of Virginia, that puts my finger up to see which way the political winds are blowing.’”

Northam’s attacks have been met with equally sharp words from Perriello directed back at his shaky credentials:

“’It is not enough to check the box on a set of progressive issues,’ Perriello said in an interview Wednesday. ‘People want to see you have a passion about this, and devoted a lifetime to fighting about these issues.’”

As Northam and Perriello fight a battle to the left, there’s one clear winner, Republicans. After this primary fight, whichever candidate wins will be far outside the mainstream for Virginia.