RICHMOND — Congress may have left town for August, but Virginia’s governor’s race is heating back up as both major-party candidates hit the TV airwaves with ads.
Republican Ed Gillespie was first up, beginning a series of three spots on July 25. His Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, unveiled his first TV ad of the general election on Thursday.
Northam’s ad will begin airing in Norfolk, Charlottesville, Richmond and Roanoke, a buy of more than $100,000, his campaign said.
Titled “My Life,” the 30-second spot features ordinary-looking people mentioning details about Northam’s bio — pediatrician, trained at Johns Hopkins, Army veteran — and concludes with the candidate calling to expand access to health care for Virginians.
The biographical tone echoes his rival’s early ads. Gillespie’s three spots, which continue to air in markets across the state, include a one-minute spot called “American Dream” that introduces Gillespie as the son of an Irish immigrant. It describes how Gillespie worked his way through college and wound up as an adviser to President George W. Bush. Shorter ads depict his youthful odd jobs and his plan for the economy.
The Republican beat Northam to the TV punch after waging an extremely low-key primary campaign. The laid-back strategy saw Gillespie nearly lose the nomination to fellow Republican A. Corey Stewart, but left him with a healthy war chest of some $3.2 million, according to campaign finance disclosures filed last month.
Northam had spent considerably more fending off his primary opponent, former congressman Tom Perriello. Though he won by a healthy margin, Northam emerged with only about $1.75 million on hand, according to the July 17 filing.
Neither candidate is likely to hurt for money this year, though, with national attention focusing on Virginia as the only competitive governor’s race of 2017 (New Jersey has the only other contest, but the Democrat in that race is heavily favored). The Republican Governors Association has already given Gillespie $2 million since last month’s campaign-
finance disclosure, and the Democratic National Committee has given Northam $1.5 million.
So the TV onslaught is just beginning.