The results are in, and Virginia voters have chosen Lt. Governor Ralph Northam to replace current Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally and former DNC Chairman who was elected Governor of Virginia in 2014.
The race was crucial for Democrats, who are desperately trying to pull the party together after losing Capitol Hill and the White House last year, not to mention repeated scandals involving Hillary Clinton and the DNC.
The vote marks the Democratic Party’s first major victory since President Trump’s inauguration, and it will increase their chances of retaking the House majority in next year’s midterm elections. The gubernatorial election set a record for absentee voting, and local turnout was high compared to previous elections. With 97% of votes tallied, Northam won with 53% of the vote.
Trump’s widespread unpopularity among Virginia voters certainly buoyed Northam’s campaign, but the Dems suffered a series of setbacks in recent months that had them worried.
Recent polls showed GOP rival and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie gaining on Northam as he rallied the state’s conservative voters around key issues like immigration and protecting Confederate statues.
Gillespie’s campaign also focused on cutting taxes and opposing sanctuary cities, whereas Northam’s campaign was more focused on healthcare. Both candidates promised to bring more jobs to the state.
Gillespie was careful to hold Trump at arms-length during his campaign, but that didn’t stop Democrats from making a connection.
According to exit polls, as many as 50% of voters said they voted to send a message about President Trump; in most cases, a negative message. Exit polls also showed that nearly 40% of voters considered healthcare the most important factor when casting a vote. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, made healthcare a central part of his campaign.
“The United States is looking at the Virginia race today and that we want to have somebody moved into the governorship and carry on the things that Democrats stand for,” said Virginia voter Lenore Plissner, 82.
Before the vote, Trump said Northam would be a “total disaster” for Virginia.
“The race is being closely watched nationwide as a referendum on Trump’s administration, with Democrats looking to reassert themselves after last fall’s presidential loss and Republicans looking to score an upset win in the only Southern state that supported Hillary Clinton last fall,” reports the Washington Post.
Trump, who never campaigned for Gillespie, gave him some last-minute support the morning of the election: “Ralph Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia,” tweeted Trump, but if Gillespie wins, “MS-3 and crime will be gone.”
Trump criticized Gillespie just minutes after his loss: “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, ever bigger than before!”
Editor’s note: It was a close race, but no cigar. Trump may have been right, the Trump agenda has been a steamroller and it might have helped.