PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Six days and counting until Election Day 2017, and the campaign rhetoric is heating up, and the two major candidates have spent millions to reach voters with their TV commercials.
The rhetoric isn’t only heating up, but the gloves are coming off and the stakes couldn’t be higher. On election night, all eyes across the nation will be on Virginia — which has the most competitive governor’s race in the country.
Following the terrorist attack in New York City Tuesday, the Latino Victory Fund pulled their campaign ad that they paid for showing minority children terrorized by a supporter of Republican Ed Gillespie, with a Gillespie bumper sticker on the back of the pickup, and there’s a confederate flag, and a license plate that reads “Don’t Tread on Me.”
The ad features Latino and other minority children running away, and then eventually waking up at the end of dream sequence. It ends with the announcer saying “Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie meant by the American Dream?” The visuals at the end read Reject Hate Vote November 7th. The ad clearly targets minority voters to get out and vote for democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and it is clear if they don’t get out and vote Northam might not win.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday called the ad “over the top,” but Northam didn’t seem to condemn the ad when we spoke to him. Gillespie told 10 On Your Side, “It is outrageous that Lt. Gov. Northam continues to embrace that ad, and it reveals a disdain for his fellow Virginians.”
10 On Your Side asked Lt. Governor Northam whether he repudiated the ad?
Northam respond, “He (Gillespie) has run a campaign of negatives. The MS-13 gang commercials against me have been very offensive to a lot of communities in Virginia, and so these communities have responded to that, and that is their right.”
10 On Your Side pressed Northam to clarify more why he isn’t distancing himself from the Latino Victory Fund ad. “That commercial did not come from our campaign. It is certainly not a commercial I would have want to run,” he said.
Recent polls show the election could very well be a tight race. A Washington Post poll shows Gillespie has bit into Northam’s lead.
A poll from Christopher Newport University recently showed Northam extending a small advantage over Gillespie, among likely voters. Meanwhile, Gillespie had a leadover Northam in a recent survey conducted by Hampton University.
The Republican also spoke Wednesday about how he wants Old Dominion University to become more than what it is right now.
“I think ODU needs to be in our east what Virginia Tech is in our west — a major research institution that is driving innovation and spinoffs here in this area,” Gillespie said. “So I’ve got a plan that would make Hampton Roads an economic driver for the entire Commonwealth.”
Gillespie has also hit Northam for casting a tie-breaking vote on the State Senate floor against the ban on sanctuary cities in Virginia, and Gillespie was surprised to learn from 10 On Your Side that Northam is actually opposed to sanctuary cities.
Gillespie was quick to point out, “That is inconsistent with his answers in the debate, and the vote he cast on the floor of the State Senate.”
10 On Your Side asked Northam if he were Governor would he sign a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Virginia. “If that bill comes to my desk, Andy, I sure will (sign it). I have always been opposed to sanctuary cities, and (Gillespie) knows that.”
Gillespie also blasts Northam for 10,000 jobs lost in Hampton Roads over the past year. “The fact we lost 10,000 jobs in the past 12 months, and our wage growth here, according to the Go Virginia report, is lagging the national wage growth average,” he said.
To that, Northam offered these statistics: in January 2013, Virginia’s unemployment was 5.4 percent. Now it’s 3.7 percent, down from last month and last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.2 percent. Northam defended the record, saying, “We have brought in over 215,000 new jobs to Virginia, and over $18.5 billion in capital investments and that is record setting.”
I also asked Gillespie whether President Donald Trump would campaign with him. He was coy, and didn’t answer, and I reminded him Trump supporters have told me they want the president here. Nothing can solidify the tricky Trump base except Trump. It’s believed his low approval ratings across Virginia has forced Gillespie to keep his distance.
We will see if that changes before Tuesday.