Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, left, and former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello are competing in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Associated Press photos)

The Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia are highlighting their progressive credentials as they court voters ahead of the June primary.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, previously a state senator, and former congressman Tom Perriello have few policy differences on several key policies important to Democratic activists, including abortion, guns and LGBT issues, although they have different track records:


Northam: The physician has made women’s reproductive health one of his signature issues as a senator and lieutenant governor. In 2012, he successfully fought legislation to require women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, explaining in a floor debate how the bill would require a transvaginal probe. In the current legislative session, he has tried to block Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Perriello: In Congress, he supported an unsuccessful attempt to bar insurance plans that cover abortion from receiving subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. He apologized for that vote a day after beginning his gubernatorial campaign. In 2009, he voted against legislation that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.


Perriello: In Congress, he joined a bipartisan effort to allow drilling for oil and natural gas along the Virginia coast but now says he is “very skeptical” of offshore drilling. He opposes two natural gas pipelines planned in Virginia. He also pledged not to accept contributions from the utility giant Dominion, the state’s largest political donor.

Northam: The lieutenant governor has opposed offshore drilling since at least 2011, putting him at odds with other statewide elected Democrats. He supports the planned gas pipelines if federal and state reviews ensure that property rights, safety and the environment are protected. He has received nearly $100,000 from Dominion during his career.


Northam: In the Senate, he voted to bar municipalities from fingerprinting concealed-carry permit applicants and for a “castle doctrine” bill to allow homeowners to shoot intruders, but supported other gun-control measures. As lieutenant governor, he broke a tie in the state Senate last year to defeat legislation to allow some Virginians to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Perriello: In Congress, Perriello defended the National Rifle Association and won its endorsement for his 2010 reelection campaign. After leaving Congress, he joined the Center for American Progress Action Fund and supported mandatory background checks for gun sales. He now criticizes the NRA as a “nut-job extremist organization.” He says the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 was too broad, but supports tighter regulation in Virginia and a ban on high-capacity magazines.


Perriello: In his 2008 congressional campaign, he said marriage should be defined between a man and a woman but opposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In 2010, he voted to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Northam: The lieutenant governor supported marriage equality in his 2013 campaign and cast a tiebreaking vote in 2015 to advance legislation barring discrimination in state hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.