Political Power Play

Michael Wertz ~ Staff Writer

With Election 2016 Over, Virginia 2017 Heats Up

As citizens across the country settle back into their normal daily routines—which are once again free of political campaign ads—those seeking elected office in Virginia are preparing for the quick turnaround of the 2017 statewide elections.

Virginia is one of only two states, along with New Jersey, which will hold elections this November, making this moderate swing state a focal point for most political pundits in 2017.

The offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are all up for grabs, as well as all 100 seats in the state’s House of Delegates.

Virginia’s governorship is unique in that the state constitution forbids governors from holding consecutive terms; therefore, incumbent Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is ineligible to run for reelection.

So far, four Republicans and two Democrats have officially declared their candidacy for governor, with primary elections being held on June 13 to determine each party’s candidate.

The Republican candidates consist of Denver Riggleman, an Air Force veteran and businessman; Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County supervisors; State Sen. Frank Wagner, former Virginia chairman of Trump for President, who represents the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area and former Republican National Committee Chairman and senior White House staffer Ed Gillespie, who is seen as the current Republican front-runner.

Current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is one of two Democrats seeking his party’s nomination. The U.S. Army veteran, neurologist and former state senator was seen as the presumptive Democratic nominee until former U.S. Rep. and U.S. State Department official, Tom Perriello, announced his own bid in December.

The two have yet to engage each other directly, with the biggest break coming this past week when Perriello broke from McAuliffe’s support of two natural gas pipelines, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, leaving many to wonder which position Northam will take.

With only four months until the primary, candidates from both parties will soon begin to ramp up advertising and mobilizing volunteers in hopes to claim their party’s nomination.

With Northam running for governor, there is an open race for lieutenant governor as three candidates from each party have already declared.

Republican State Sens. Jill Vogel and Bryce Reeves, along with State Delegate Glenn Davis, are all competing for their party’s nomination. Meanwhile, former Federal Prosecutors Justin Fairfax and Gene Rossi are both competing alongside political consultant Susan Platt for the state’s second highest executive position.

Having turned down widespread speculation that he would run for governor, incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election in November. Herring has gained much attention recently after filing a lawsuit on behalf of the state against President Donald Trump’s executive immigration order. He is being challenged by Republican lawyers Chuck Smith and John Adams, as well as State Delegate Rob Bell.

These upcoming races in our state will be one of the first large-scale measures of how the President’s administration and the Republican-held Congress are being viewed by voters.