On the surface, LGBTQ Virginians have a challenging choice to make in the June 13 Democratic gubernatorial primary. It’s a choice between Tom Perriello, the former DC insider and flashy anti-Trump candidate, and Ralph Northam, the Virginia gentleman and heir apparent to the office.
When Perriello first came on the scene back in January, I have to admit that I was intrigued by his rhetoric. He is from the charismatic Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren school of Progressives. In fact, both Sanders and Warren have endorsed him, and national Super PACS have pumped over $4 million into his campaign.
At a time when I was feeling panicked by the Advent of Trumpism, his strident call for a Virginia firewall resonated with me.
But as I looked more closely at his words and deeds during his very short tenure in the US House of Representatives, I realized that I saw nothing there that jibed with my values. In fact, his bold boasting of an A-grade from the NRA and his vote in favor an anti-abortion clause in the American Health Care Act were shocking.
Most importantly, while his campaign platform indicates that he supports LGBTQ rights, I came across a quote from his 2008 congressional campaign in which he said marriage should be defined as between one man and woman.
Since then, he has renounced the NRA, apologized for his ACA vote, and voted to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
Can a leopard change his spots? Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he can, several troubling issues remain.
For one, the influence of out-of-state money puts Perriello in direct contrast to his stated “Virginia first” values. Perriello says that he has statewide grassroots support, yet nearly 60% of his funding to date has come from sources outside of Virginia—as have his major endorsements. Other than his one term in the House (read Washington, DC), his only other political service was as a diplomatic appointee (again, DC).
Periello also hails from and represented the predominantly red House District 5 in the Shenandoah Valley. While that doesn’t betray a candidate’s core political philosophy, when combined with his voting record, it leads one to wonder how pure his liberal values are—and if they are strong enough to stand up against a rabidly conservative General Assembly.
Keep in mind that Terry McAuliffe (with the support of Attorney General Mark Herring and Lieutenant Governor Northam) vetoed a record 111 bills from the Assembly, many of them designed to limit or rescind civil rights. Does Perriello have that kind of fortitude?
Enter Ralph Northam, whose endorsements and experience come from within the Commonwealth. He’s supported by all the big players in Democratic Virginia politics: Kaine, Warner, Herring, McAuliffe. His two terms in the Virginia Senate and stint as Lieutenant Governor have given him valuable insight and experience in workings of our state’s political realities—and the fortitude required to move the Progressive agenda forward.
Born and raised on the Eastern Shore with his current home in Norfolk, he’s from our neck of the woods. He understands the needs and values of Hampton Roads and Coastal Virginia.
Talk about Virginia first.
But when it comes right down to it, the most important issue for our community is the protection and advancement of LGBTQ rights. And on that count, Ralph Northam leaves Perriello in the dust.
In 2010, Northam voted for State Bill 66, which prohibited sexual orientation discrimination in State government employment. The next year, he voted for a sister bill that prohibits discrimination in State employment based on sexual orientation. And in 2015, as Lieutenant Governor, he cast the tie-breaking vote in the state Senate in favor of a bill that bans discrimination against state and local government employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, he frequently endorsed marriage equality prior to its legalization in the Commonwealth. He’s also spoken out against the bathroom bills and in support of the transgender community, as well as in support of LGBTQ adoption rights. Just last week, he gained the endorsement of Equality Virginia and has spoken elegantly in support of the LGBTQ rights at many of EV’s Commonwealth Dinners.
So we’re sorry, Tom. At first glance, you caught our eye. But we know who really loves us.
Vote for Ralph Northam on June 13. Find a polling place near you.