General Election Day 2017 may be one of the most significant since a year ago when Donald J. Trump achieved one of the greatest political upsets in the nation’s history by stopping Hillary Clinton’s from being the first female President.
So if Republican Ed Gillespie should overcome Democrat Ralph Northam in the hotly contested race for Virginia’s next Governor on November 7, that will send shock waves, too.
The Democrats are hoping that the traditional off year election does not cause a dip in the Black voter turnout. If the Democrats get a 71 percent turnout from their base, akin to the Obama wave of 2008 and 2012, they are looking to overcome the shrinkage in the polls between the two party candidates.
Presidents Barack Obama, his former Attorney General Eric Holder and New Jersey Senator Corey Booker have been campaigning with Democrats to energize Black voters to go to the polls. Holder was in Norfolk last Saturday and Obama recently spoke in Richmond.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states having gubernatorial races. Pundits are predicting the outcomes in these states will gauge the level of support or rejection of the chaotic Trump Administration. Also, they are looking at the message on issues being used to entice voters by the two parties and the two respective political combatants.
Democrats in theory have the wind at their backs as demographic changes in Virginia have slowly moved it to a Democratic fold. Republicans have not won any of the top three political offices in nine years.
Hillary Clinton won Virginia last year by 5 percentage points and Donald Trump is unpopular among Democrats, Independents and many White Republicans in Virginia.
But at this time last year, Clinton was expected to crush Trump.
Voters in urban areas, especially African-Americans, are not turning out in large numbers as they did in 2008 and 2012 for Barack Obama, and rural White middle class voters going to the polls in droves helped Trump win.
Trump tapped into the White low and middle income economic resentment by blaming Hispanics directly and Blacks indirectly, for their economic insecurities.
In Virginia, the Republicans have sought to do some of the same to scare their political base to believe that women, gays and Blacks are taking over the state government.
Polls are tightening. Two new polls of likely voters rolled out October 17 show Northam maintaining a narrow lead over Gillespie, while two others show Gillespie with a lead.
Northam’s lead has tightened to 4 percentage points, down from a 6 percentage points lead in a Sept. 25 benchmark poll by The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. The most recent Wason last week puts Northam at 48 percent, Gillespie at 44 percent and Libertarian Cliff Hyra at 3 percent. Five percent remain undecided.
Tuesday’s Monmouth poll has Gillespie at 48 percent and Northam at 47 percent, with Libertarian Cliff Hyra at 3 percent, and 3 percent undecided. Monmouth’s September poll showed Northam ahead of Gillespie by five points, 49 percent to 44 percent.
A poll released on October 17 by The Hampton University Center for Public Policy gave Gillespie an 8 point lead – 41 to 33 percent – over Northam.
Respondents to that poll of 750 Virginia voters from across the state indicated they leaned “more toward” the Republican Party (163) than the Democratic (124) with 48 respondents saying they did not know.
Also, the racial mix of the Hampton Poll was mainly White (66 percent) with 14 percent of the respondents being African-Americans and Hispanics and Asians representing 3 and 4 percent respectively.
The polls do not reflect the state of the race for Lieutenant Governor or Attorney General. Democrat Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, could be elected the state’s second African-American holding the Lieutenant Governor position. He is facing Conservative Republican Jill Vogel.
Also, Mark Herring is seeking a second term as Virginia Attorney General facing Conservative Republican John Adams.
Trump’s win inspired Democrats locally to aspire for state and local offices. The party hopes to gain more grounds on Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates which has 66 of the 100 seats in that chamber.
But two factors may hurt Democrats this year. First, according to Dr. Quentin Kidd of the Christopher Newport University Wason Center, although there is a large number of eager Democratic candidates, many do not have the political skills or resources to compete.
Secondly, Democrats are encountering a huge number of GOP incumbents in mostly White and GOP leaning districts who win in big numbers most of the time, according to the Jeff Skelly of the UVA Political Science Center.
And thirdly, according to Skelly, there are only 15 competitive races where Democrats are targeting a Republican, and they are not enough for the party out of power to secure majority.
But with 34 seats in the House, if the Democrats retain the State house, Ralph Northam as Governor would have enough votes to sustain any veto of GOP legislation he thinks is a threat to the Democrats’ agenda.
The Democrats are hoping to use the diversity of the slate of candidates for Constitutional offices in city races and the House of Delegates.
In Virginia Beach, Chesapeake
In the Virginia Beach race for Sheriff is John Bell, formerly a member of the Virginia Beach Police Department. Bell is seeking to unseat the incumbent Kenneth Stolle. Bell and other candidates have chided Stolle and other members of his family who are running for political office in the Beach.
Then there is Susan Hippen, who is running for Virginia Beach Treasurer; Kelly Fowler, who is seeking the 21st House District; Kimberly Tucker, who is African-American, and is seeking the 81st; Leigh Ann Bowling is seeking the 82nd; David Rose Carmack, the 83rd; Veronica Coleman, the 84th and Cheryl Turpin, the 85th.
In Norfolk Jay Jones is seeking the 89th House District seat, the one formerly held by his father, current Norfolk Judge Jerrauld Jones. He is facing Terry R. Hurst, who is running as a Libertarian.
Cliff Hayes is seeking his first reelection bid in the 77th House district, against Jeff B. Staples, who is running under the Green Party banner.
Willie C. Randall, Democrat, and Robert Bloxum, Republican, are seeking the 100th House of Delegates seat.
In Norfolk Sheriff Joseph P. Baron has three challengers: Neil H. Bradley, R.L. Reggie Spruill and Sean C. Jones.
The seat for Norfolk’s Treasurer, formerly held by imprisoned felon Anthony Burfoot is being sought by State Delegate Daun Hester, Michael Voogd, Matt T. Hales (Independent) and Nicole K. Sanders.
Portsmouth voters will choose between the incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales, who is running against Independent Thomas J. Wright.
Michael A. Moore and Glenn Perry are seeking to unseat Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson.
Three Independent candidates: Portsmouth Vice Mayor Paige D. Cherry, Ron S. Melton and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas are seeking the Portsmouth Treasurer’s job.
By Leonard E. Colvin
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