Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a rally in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Steve Helber/AP)

Ralph Northam, Virginia's Gov.-elect (D), campaigned on one of the most liberal platforms in the commonwealth's modern history before his decisive win.

With Republicans currently set to hold one-vote leads in both chambers of the General Assembly (pending litigation and recounts in the House of Delegates), he'll have a much stronger negotiating hand than he may have thought while campaigning.

Here's a look at some of his campaign promises:

$15 minimum wage

Northam joined the growing movement of Democrats who want to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Virginia abides by the federal floor, $7.25.

"I would challenge anyone out there to go try to support themselves and support their families on $7.25 an hour," Northam said during a March campaign stop. "It is impossible. You can't do it."

Asked how he would persuade the legislature to double the minimum wage, he said he would campaign against Republicans who opposed it. But in a post-election radio interview, he didn't offer a specific number when expressing support for raising the minimum wage.

Illegal immigration issues

Northam supports issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in Virginia, as well as in-state tuition for students who were brought to the country illegally as children.

If a Virginia local jurisdiction declares itself a "sanctuary city" — generally meaning that they do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities — Northam said he would support a ban on sanctuary cities. That angered supporters on the left, who disrupted his Election Night victory speech.

Virginia general election guide

Single-payer health care

Northam has resisted calls in his party to support a government-run, single-payer health-care system, which have been louder outside of Virginia. While 11 Democratic House of Delegates candidates expressed support for single-payer, only one was elected: Lee Carter.

"Instead of single payer, Northam thinks Virginia should design a public option that would create competition and help drive down costs," Northam spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said during the campaign.


Northam campaigned on overhauling Virginia's tax system, but said he would leave the details up to a bipartisan commission. During a primary debate, he said raising taxes was "not realistic" in Richmond.

Northam's only specific campaign tax proposal was phasing out sales taxes on groceries paid by low-income Virginians. Since his election, Northam also suggested exempting military pensions from state taxes.

Higher education

Northam's signature campaign policy proposal was offering free community college or apprenticeships to Virginians. It comes with several caveats: It's limited to those seeking training in high-demand fields including cybersecurity and early-childhood education, and would require a year of public service.

His campaign pegged the cost of this program at only $37 million, and said it would eventually pay for itself.

Campaign finance

Facing pressure during his primary campaign over taking campaign contributions from the energy giant Dominion, Northam offered to push for a ban on all corporate political giving, as well as capping campaign donations at $10,000.

Few campaign finance reform advocates see this as feasible, given how Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike benefit from corporate and large contributions.

Criminal justice

Northam wants to increase the threshold for felony grand larceny from $200, one of the lowest in the nation. He also wants to end the practice of suspending driver's licenses for failure to pay court fees, which critics says locks people into a cycle of poverty.

Northam favors legalizing medical marijuana, and decriminalizing simple possession of the drug — an idea that also has support from the Republican leader of the state Senate. Northam did not call for legalizing marijuana sales for recreational purposes, as is allowed in eight states.

Voting rights

Northam has backed a repeal of Virginia's requirement that voters present identification to cast ballots, and he wants to establish same-day voter registration and no-excuse early voting. But he hasn't called for automatic voter registration, which has been a priority for progressives nationwide.

Northam also wants to standardize a process for restoring voting rights to felons who complete their sentences, building on outgoing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's work to restore rights to roughly 160,000.

Gun control

Northam supports a variety of gun control measures, including reinstating Virginia's "one-handgun-a-month" law limiting firearm purchases, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and requiring universal background checks for buying guns.

Confederate monuments

While Northam said in August that he would be a "vocal advocate" for relocating Confederate monuments to museums and do everything he can to remove statues at the state level, he has since softened his approach.

Now he says he wouldn't meddle with local decision-making. He touted the board of visitors at Virginia Military Institute, whose members he will appoint as governor, as an example of local decision-makers who grappled with a Confederate-era statue and chose to keep it up.


Northam has said he would support two natural gas pipeline projects set to cross through Virginia if state and federal regulators find they meet environmental and safety standards. He also says he would oppose drilling for oil and gas off Virginia's coast.


Northam supports a "floor" on the gas tax paid in Northern Virginia to fund road projects, which would ensure stable revenue if the price of fuel plummets.

He also says he would support a dedicated funding source for WMATA, the regional transportation agency that runs Metro, but hasn't backed the regional sales tax favored by District leaders.


Northam has said he wouldn't try to repeal Virginia's "right-to-work" law that prohibits paying union dues as a condition of employment. But Republicans pressed Northam on whether his tune would change with a Democratic legislature.

"I think also we have to be realistic in Virginia, what we can get done with our current legislature. I think rather than pick fights that we perhaps can't win right now," Northam said during the campaign.

Democratic House leadership has expressed little interest in reversing the right-to-work law.