The hits on Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Ralph Northam, just keep coming. And from Democrats, too.
In an interview on WAVY TV on Wednesday, Northam said that he would sign a bill banning the creation of sanctuary cities in Virginia.
“I’ve always been opposed to sanctuary cities,” Northam said, later telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he voted against a bill that would have banned such creations because the entire episode was designed to “promote fearmongering.”
The vote at issue was a stunt. It also became the heart of Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie campaign’s infamous MS-13 ads accusing Northam of being weak on immigration and public safety.
What was unexpected was the fallout from inside Democratic ranks.
On Thursday, the progressive group Democracy for America issued a blistering letter denouncing Northam as a racist for his sanctuary city switch and withdrawing its support for his campaign.
The group’s executive director, Charles Chamberlain, accused Northam of running on “the same old, broken, and racist playbook that lost Democrats over 1000 elected offices since 2008.”
The group’s founder, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, took to Twitter to denounce the denunciation, calling it “incredibly stupid,” and saying that it “deeply discredits the organization” he founded.
In isolation, this might not be fatal to the Northam campaign. But it was just one of the blows he’s taken in the past couple of days.
A second blow came from conservative group American Commitment’s investigation into the Northam campaign’s connection to an ad from the Latino Victory Fund. The ad was taken down earlier this week. American Commitment alleges the ad, which depicted Gillespie supporters as, essentially, domestic terrorists, was made “not independent of the campaign, but was a coordinated communication” between Northam’s camp and the Latino Victory Fund.
The Northam campaign dismissed the allegations, telling The Post’s Dave Weigel the in-kind contribution noted on Northam’s forms owe to legal requirements and that the group has canvassed and fundraised for the campaign.
For the average voter, this is all inside baseball. But it boils down into an elevator pitch – that the Northam campaign knew and approved of the Latino Victory Fund ad. It might make a difference.
There was one more hit, and this one might actually draw blood. It came from former governor Doug Wilder, who helped organize a “People’s Debate” at Virginia Commonwealth University on Thursday evening.
In an interview, Wilder endorsed Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax, but also said, “Justin, in my judgment has not been dealt a good hand.”
Wilder pointed to two incidents that appeared as slights of Fairfax by the state Democratic Party and the Northam campaign. The party denied Fairfax a speaking slot at its convention (for which the party later apologized) and the Northam campaign did not include Fairfax on a flier at the request of the Laborers’ International Union of North America because the union had not endorsed Fairfax. The Northam campaign called that omission a “mistake.”
But Wilder wasn’t done punching.
In the interview, the RTD’s Shelby Lum reported that Wilder “has talked to both major party candidates for governor but that he has not talked to Northam in several months.”
Wilder has also not endorsed Northam.
Does it matter?
In a tight race, it does. And Wilder knows it.
Combined, these episodes point to a very bad week for Northam. While they may not be fatal — larger trends in recent statewide elections have favored Democratic candidates — they raise serious questions about the Northam campaign.
For months, national Democrats have fretted that he could lose the race. A Mother Jones article published this week echoes the concerns and wonders whether a too-cautious Northam campaign may yet allow Gillespie to win at the wire.
Again, larger trends indicate Northam should win. And none of these blows may matter to voters who refuse to buy what Gillespie is selling.
But as McClatchy’s Alex Roarty wrote on Twitter, Northam “isn’t so much stumbling across finish line as doing an epic belly flop.”