Tom Perriello, the former Democratic congressman, is running for his party’s nomination for Virginia governor. He is also running against President Trump.
On Tuesday, Perriello sent out a fundraising blast, urging Democrats to donate to his fledging 2017 campaign as a way of rejecting Trump.
In an email with the subject line “Help us defeat Trump this year”, Perriello said “I decided to run for governor because I’m determined to fight with every ounce of my being to make sure Virginia rejects Trump at the ballot box this year. In his new backyard, we will defeat him with what he hates most -- a diverse and progressive majority that crushes him and his loser ideology.”
Perriello, 42, jumped into the contest last month, challenging Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for the Democratic nomination to be decided in a June primary.
But Perriello has said little about Northam so far, aiming instead at Ed Gillespie, the presumed Republican frontrunner and, now, Trump.
On the trail, Perriello has denounced the president as a demagogue who ran the most racist campaign in modern American history. Over the weekend, he joined protests against Trump’s immigration protests at Dulles International Airport and outside the White House.
Northam, 57, who has been endorsed by nearly every top Democrat, also criticizes Trump. But the low-key, genteel pediatric neurologist physician uses far less harsh language.
Northam missed the weekend’s protests because he had commitments in the Richmond area, but was the first on social media to condemn Trump’s actions. He held an impromptu press conference to condemn Trump’s order before Perriello reached the airport. The next day, Northam condemned Republicans who remained silent. His campaign’s email to supporters after this weekend urged Democrats to “join in building a Virginia that’s welcome and open-hearted.”
Perriello’s aggressive rhetoric matches the rationale he offers for his candidacy: That he’s the Democrat most able to turn out the party’s progessive base with a tough stance against a Republican-dominated Washington.
“This is a unique moment. This is not just another political term,” Perriello said Tuesday, noting that he was inspired to run by Trump’s presidency. “What Donald Trump represents is a deeper and more destabilizing threat, and the people are looking for leaders who are calling that out without fear.”
Northam actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Perriello was barred from political activity as a special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In an interview Monday, Northam said Trump’s actions are appalling but his central focus is to expand“economic opportunity” for Virginians.
“Certainly we are observant and paying attention to Washington,” said Northam. “What happened this weekend is outrageous. It’s inexcusable.”
Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said attacking Trump is smart politics with the Democratic party electorate because neither candidate is well-known and voters are itching for confrontation.
“You saw this throughout the Obama years: Republicans trying to be the most anti-Obama,” said Skelley. “It follows logic that now with a Republican in office, especially one who I think is particularly polarizing, that Democrats would try to be as anti-Trump as possible.”
Gregory S. Schneider contributed to this report.