Democrat Ralph Northam wins first major election of Trump era by a resounding margin

Northam performed better than expected across Virginia.

Supporters celebrate news that Democrat Ralph Northam has won the Virginia gubernatorial election. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Supporters celebrate news that Democrat Ralph Northam has won the Virginia gubernatorial election. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Democrat Ralph Northam will become Virginia’s next governor, defeating Republican candidate Ed Gillespie in the first major electoral contest of the Trump era.

In a shock to many pundits, Northam performed better than many recent polls projected and carried suburban areas of Northern Virginia with a wide margin.

The race has been one of the most closely watched since last year’s presidential election, and although Northam was considered the favorite early on, the polls varied widely in both directions in recent weeks. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried the state last year with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine on the ticket.

The campaign was marked by controversial television ads, several from Gillespie and one from the Latino Victory Fund supporting Northam that showed a man trying to run over children of color.

During the campaign, Gillespie followed the playbook President Trump used last year, leaning into ugly anti-immigrant sentiments and distorting the truth about his opponent’s record. He ran ads criticizing Northam for voting for sanctuary cities, despite the fact that Virginia doesn’t have any sanctuary cities, and insinuated that Northam was proud of helping dangerous sex offenders.

In a last-ditch effort to gin up votes, Gillespie echoed the president again last week, sending out an ad criticizing NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

“You’d never take a knee… so take a stand on election day,” the Ed Gillespie for Governor flyer reads.

As for Northam, he promised early on in the campaign to work with Trump if elected, saying that although he didn’t agree with his policies he’d work with the president to help Virginians. Additionally, Northam made continuing current Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) effort to individually restore voting rights to former felons a central promise of his campaign.