On Tuesday, June 13th, Virginia voters will flock to the polls for the 2017 Gubernatorial Primary Election.
Virginia operates on an open party system, meaning that voter registration is nonpartisan. Constituents however, are only eligible to vote in one party’s primary. The winner of each primary will then go on to face off for the Governor of the Commonwealth title on November 7th.
The incumbent Governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), concludes his term and is unable to run for reelection given restrictions set by the US Constitution.
The Democratic Primary:
For the Democratic Party, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello are the two opponents.
On May 13th, both men attended a forum hosted by UVa University Democrats (UDems). The candidates discussed “environmental concerns…college affordability, job growth, and how to best resist President Trump’s agenda,” UDems Communications Coordinator Virginia Chambers recounted.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive–both candidates got standing ovations,” she said.
UDems VP David Birkenthal (left) with Tom Perriello (right); Photo Credits: UDems
Northam is an Army veteran, a doctor, and the current Lieutenant General of Virginia. Perriello, a Charlottesville native, served in the House of Representatives for his state. While both the Lieutenant Governor and former Congressman agree on principally-democratic issues such as reforming gun safety laws, creating a more accessible economy for all, strengthening health care, and supporting environmental groups to address problems like climate change, Northam and Perriello do possess varying policy stances.
The Lieutenant Governor and former Representative likewise have different supporters. While the incumbent Governor and both Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine back Northam, Perriello is endorsed by Obama administration members such as John Podesta, along with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. To learn more about the candidates’ views and supporters, see the Northam and Perriello websites.
UDems VP David Birkenthal (left) with Ralph Northam (right); Photo Credits: UDems
Regardless of which candidate students plan to vote for, Chambers urged all to participate and emphasized how the upcoming Gubernatorial Election impacts the UVa community, especially Democrats.
“The Governor appoints members to the UVa Board of Visitors who then set tuition and manage a number of other aspects of University policy,” she said.
“It’s always important for everyone who is able to vote because that is the way one can make their voice heard in this country. It’s particularly important for Democrats to vote in the primary this year because the party really is at a crossroads, and who wins the primary may provide some clues as to where Democrats want to see the party go.”
The Republican Primary:
Across the aisle, state Senator Frank Wagner, and political consultants Ed Gillespie and Corey Stewart compete for the Republican party candidacy.
During the 2016-2017 academic year, Gillespie came to the University of Virginia to meet with College Republicans. The club’s executive members also met with Stewart and have been in contact with Wagner’s team.
When asked about the effectiveness of these events in connecting the politicians to UVa students, Former Chair of College Republicans, Alison Hiestand stressed the importance of an informed general public.
“Regardless of whether our events make UVa students more or less likely to vote for our candidate…raising political awareness and encouraging students to vote helps millennials more than anyone else,” Hiestand said.
“Concerns that are largely ours, like fixing Social Security [and] college debt…are not addressed like they should be…The more students who vote, the more this will change in the future.”
College Republicans with Ed Gillespie; Photo Credits: College Republicans
In terms of the candidates’ political experience, Frank Wagner has served in the Virginia State Senate for almost a decade. Gillespie was the chair of the Republican National Committee from 2003 to 2005 and has backing from former Governor Bob McDonnell. Stewart on the other hand, led President Donald Trump’s Virginia Campaign and chairs the Prince Williams County Board of Supervisors.
The three Republican competitors have different policy priorities. Wagner for example, is focused on reforming transportation throughout Virginia, utilizing coal as an energy source, and touts his experience as a legislator in the state’s General Assembly. Gillespie in contrast, emphasizes improving government efficiency, addressing the drug addiction problem Virginia faces, and spurring education and workforce development. Finally, Corey Stewart is running on a campaign that seeks to pull the state away from the political establishment. Stewart’s race stresses preservation of Virginia’s Historical Monuments, combatting illegal immigration, and promoting public safety via political support for law enforcement. More information about the Republicans’ proposals can be found on their linked websites.
Divided by controversy regarding whether or not to endorse and then whether or not to rescind their endorsement of then Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump at the time, UVa College Republicans is hoping to unify behind one candidate as a whole.
“Any organization is more effective when not split up into factions,” said Hiestand.
One thing that both College Republicans Former Chair Hiestand and UDems Communications Coordinator Chambers agree on is the need for UVa students to get out and vote in the upcoming gubernatorial primary.
“It’s important for everyone– millennials and our democracy as a whole– that young people vote so we have a voice and are thought of when policies are made that are going to affect us for the rest of our lifetime,” concluded Hiestand.
While it is too late to register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot, students can determine their polling places here.