Northam campaigns in York County ahead of gubernatorial primary in June

Polls shows many voters still undecided, candidates widely unknown

Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam

YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) — Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam campaigned at Tabb High School Wednesday to a crowd outspoken about keeping White House politics out of Virginia.

Dr. Northam and his challenger, Tom Perriello, are essentially tied in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to a recently-released poll by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.

On the Republican side, in the same poll, Ed Gillespie has a large lead over the other two candidates with 38 percent support.

Still, numbers show many voters are undecided because many candidates are widely unknown, says Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center.

“I’m a fighter. I’m ready to lead the fight, but I need you to help me,” Northam told the crowd of more than 100 Tuesday night. “Are you ready to join in the fight?”

Northam touted his experience as a doctor and state senator as he answered questions ranging from gun control, to redistricting, mental health and public education.

The lieutenant governor says he chairs a mental health task force and admits more needs to be done. He also says he supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

Northam says increasing funding for the Chesapeake Bay will be a top priority. Funding for the bay could face drastic cuts under the White House’s proposed budget, from more than $70 million to $5 million.

“It’s all about quality of life, but it’s also about the economy in Virginia,” said Northam.

Dr. Bitecofer says, with two months until primary day, a large number of undecided voters are still up for grabs.

“We found that in the Democratic primary, about 50 percent of the electorate indicated they were undecided, and a good chunk of those guys were undecided because they don’t know anything about the two candidates,” said Dr. Bitecofer.

Northam didn’t hold back attacks against President Donald Trump, calling him a “narcissistic maniac,” adding he wants Virginia to be accepting of all people and he plans for his Cabinet to reflect his beliefs.

“Look around this room,” he told the crowd. “We live in a very diverse society. We should accept that. We should cherish that.”

Voters also had the opportunity to meet Justin Fairfax, a candidate for lieutenant governor, and also several candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates. Fairfax is up against Susan Platt and Gene Rossi to become the Democratic candidate.

“The turnouts in these off-year elections have traditionally been under half of the registered voters, and it’s really important that people participate in the political process,” said Ella Webster, a Democrat running in the 98th District.