Why I Will Support Tom Perriello in Tuesday’s Primary

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Commentary by Clay Porter

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam is a scholar and a gentleman, but Tom Perriello is the more progressive candidate for Governor of Virginia. Let’s not forget that Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam voted twice for George W. Bush, who of course, barnstormed the country for a same sex marriage ban, which Virginia adopted. Tom and Ralph aren’t far apart in their approach to LGBT equality in Virginia, so they both deserve our regard; but the mainstream gay establishment is supporting Dr. Northam. I disagree.

Some of the reasons the Washington Blade and Equality Virginia endorsed Northam, for example, were that he was vocal in opposition to NC-style HB2 bills in Virginia and cast the tie breaking Senate vote to pass nondiscrimination protections for government employees. But it’s not enough to call foul only after the threat emerges. These sorts of efforts to divide us are going to continue unless we eliminate the corruption in Virginia’s campaign finance system and demand that Democrats prioritize their voters over the interests groups that finance them.

In 2005, a lot of us were in small towns or otherwise, feeling pretty isolated, dealing with an incompetent President barnstorming the country to take our rights away – not all that different from today. Except at the time, it was for a same sex marriage ban and Virginia passed it. The man behind the cause was George W. Bush and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam voted for him twice.

The core principle of being a progressive in this country has always been to ensure that power rests in the hands of the people, not a small group of elites, and that through the government the needs of the people are put first. This principle is not exclusive to the left. Removing the stranglehold that corporate donations have on our elected officials is one of the few uniting causes that is held by Americans across the political spectrum. But for progressives, it is foolhardy to expect to accomplish any of our primary goals without addressing and fighting the obstruction of money in politics.

You cannot address income inequality until you have addressed the money coming in from banks and Wall Street. You cannot address healthcare until you address the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.  How do you even begin to curtail endless war for profit until you stop the cash flow from the lobbyists of the military industrial complex?

And how can Virginia possibly claim to be joining the fight against climate change, to be competing with the rest of the world who are leaving us in the dust in the race for sustainable green energy, or claim to stand against Trump and the GOP in protecting the environment, if we nominate yet another Democrat beholden to the energy giant Dominion Energy?

Tom Perriello has started the desperately needed conversation about campaign contributions. He has pledged to take zero dollars from Dominion Energy, and to do everything in his power to stop their pipelines. This is the beginning of something much larger than just energy pipelines. This is the seed that will grow into a movement of political leaders making similar, grander pledges. We as constituents must begin demanding this of our elected representatives.

For those unaware of the three pipelines planned to crisscross the commonwealth, here is the short hand: Dominion Energy is using eminent domain to force land owners to allow fracked gas pipelines on their land. These pipelines threaten not only the safety of Virginians, but are physical representations of how a corporation, for the right price, can force the government to act against the interest of the people for their own profit.

If Tom Perriello is not elected Governor of Virginia, it will give full permission for Dominion Energy to steal Virginians property to construct three fracked gas pipelines that will create only 40 permanent jobs.  Additionally, almost all of this fracked gas will end up being exported. This should be unacceptable to anyone living in this state.

How can we claim integrity in our intent to dismantle the hold oligarchy has on our institutions when our leader accepts, what is in essence, legal extortion money? How can we even begin to fight any of these other goals when we’ve already made it clear we can be bought?

Clay Porter is a native of Petersburg, local activist and serves the community as Administration and Volunteer Coordinator at the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk.

If you have questions about voting in the Tuesday, June 13 primary or to view a sample ballot, please visit the Virginia Department of Elections.

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