RICHMOND — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is the first candidate with a sustained TV ad in the Virginia governor’s race, seven weeks before the June 13 primary contest against Democratic challenger Tom Perriello.
Northam’s campaign on Tuesday announced a “six-figure” ad buy with a spot called “Making Progress Every Day.”
So far, most candidates have stuck to online videos, with the exception of Republican challenger Corey Stewart, who had a one-time TV spot on Inauguration Day in January. Republican front-runner Ed Gillespie has a big war chest similar to Northam’s - both lead the field with about $3 million on-hand - but has yet to crack the broadcast airwaves.
The other Republican challenger is state Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), who has released a series of online videos.
Perriello, a former congressman, has wielded a savvy online campaign using social media and folksy videos that have drawn thousands of viewers.
Recent polls show that few Virginians know much about Northam, despite his having served as lieutenant governor for the past three years. In a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month, both Perriello and Northam were rated favorably by 24 percent of respondents, but more than two-thirds of voters had no opinion about either.
Northam’s ad, which is airing mostly in Richmond and Hampton Roads markets, features a number of ordinary people offering brief testimonials about how he has made a difference in their lives.
One mother thanks “Dr. Northam” (he’s a pediatric neurologist) for helping her son cope with a degenerative disease. Another woman praises his efforts to ban smoking in restaurants, and another credits him for fighting Republican efforts in the General Assembly to require transvaginal ultrasounds before abortions.
Lori Haas, whose daughter was wounded in the Virginia Tech shootings 10 years ago, says Northam stood up to the NRA in the aftermath of that tragedy. And in a rarity for Virginia politics, the spot highlights marriage equality when Norfolk resident Tim Bostic remembers how Northam supported his efforts to overturn Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“He did one of the readings at our wedding,” Bostic says. “He supported marriage equality before it was popular to do so.”
Perriello’s campaign, which has drawn a lot of national attention because of his support from Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), said it will begin its television advertising soon but wouldn’t disclose specific plans.
Perriello picked up an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Northam, meanwhile, picked up endorsements from several dozen “emerging leaders” - young Democrats in Virginia, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.