Final Debate for Virginia Governor the Most Intense
Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie slashed at each other for an hour in southwestern Virginia Monday night, looking to gain an advantage in the final weeks of the closely watched campaign to be Virginia’s next governor.
It was a sharp departure from Gillespie and Northam’s more genteel previous meeting — and more in line with the increasingly nasty television ads the campaigns are firing back and forth, with Gillespie accusing Northam of leaving Virginia vulnerable to illegal immigration and gang violence and Northam, the lieutenant governor, painting Gillespie as a bought-and-paid-for advocate for irresponsible corporations.
The rhetoric is escalating along with national attention to the Virginia race, an early indicator of how President Donald Trump’s political fortunes could affect fellow Republicans in places where Trump is unpopular, after a year of special congressional elections on more GOP-leaning turf. It is also a key early test in Democrats’ bid to rebuild political power at the state level. Northam has led Gillespie in most public polls of the race, though Gillespie has typically been within striking distance.
The sharpest exchange came after Gillespie attacked Northam for not showing up at meetings of a rural economic development board while serving as lieutenant governor. Northam referenced his time in the U.S. Army as a military doctor and his work as a pediatric surgeon.