After a contentious race for governor in Virginia, the campaign managers for the two major candidates had a few flashpoints as they reflected on the contest in Arlington on Monday night.
Chris Leavitt, who managed Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign, said his opposite number on Democratic candidate Ralph Northam’s campaign, Brad Komar, was a “liar” for saying he and his colleagues had no knowledge of an attack ad run by the Latino Victory Fund against the Republican.
Komar said the ad came from a community that felt it was “under attack,” but that the Northam campaign was not involved.
“It’s not how I would have responded,” he said. “We did not see the ad; I did not authorize it.”
The ad showed a white man in a pickup truck with a Gillespie bumper sticker and a Confederate flag threatening minority children. It ran on Spanish-language channels for two days before being taken down after the terrorist attack in New York by a man driving a pickup truck.
The pair were in conversation before more than 250 people at George Mason University’s Arlington campus at an event by the Virginia Public Access Project and GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government. It came less than a week after Northam beat Gillespie to the governor’s mansion, thanks in part to the 68,315 votes he received in Arlington to Gillespie’s 16,160.
Komar said he regretted the campaign leaving then-lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, who also triumphed last week in a Democratic clean sweep alongside Attorney General Mark Herring, off a mailer that was sent to some houses in Northern Virginia.
At the time, the campaign said it was accommodating the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which did not endorse Fairfax as he opposes two planned natural gas pipelines, but endorsed the other two.
“We handled a regular, normal thing badly,” Komar said, noting that it should not have been sent out by the campaign but by someone else.
Leavitt defended the Gillespie campaign’s decision to run television ads attacking Northam as weak on the Central American street gang MS-13, and supporting so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” where local authorities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
Such “sanctuaries” do not exist in Virginia, but Leavitt said that the Gillespie campaign had data that suggested that some independent voters were concerned about a rise in crime committed by illegal immigrants.
“You have to pick certain spots where there are avenues where you can go after your opponent,” Leavitt said. “This was one of those avenues.”
And Leavitt said trying to find weaknesses in Northam to attack was especially problematic, given his personal history as a U.S. Army doctor then a pediatric neurologist, as well as a stellar career in Richmond.
He said the Gillespie campaign hoped for a bruising Democratic primary against former Rep. Tom Perriello to expose more weaknesses.
“Frankly, the Governor-Elect did not have as many vulnerabilities as we would have liked, and we thought a primary could open up a few more,” Leavitt said.
Looming over the race was President Donald Trump, who was elected last year and has inspired more Democratic activism but left many Republicans walking a tightrope on whether to embrace his rhetoric.
Leavitt said that while it may have appeared Gillespie struggled to find that balance, campaign staff were determined to keep the race about Virginia issues and not “nationalize” it.
Trump did not campaign for Gillespie, and criticized him on Twitter for not embracing “me or what I stand for.”
“At the time, it seemed like the right path,” Leavitt said, noting Gillespie’s emphasis on providing policy to help Virginians rather than be dragged into the national discussion.
For his part, Komar said he and his colleagues looked to capitalize on Gillespie’s apparent reluctance to embrace Trump.
“Trumpism without Trump, I think, is a win for us,” Komar said.
Both agreed that they did not see the wave of anti-Trump sentiment coming in Virginia, a sentiment that has helped almost wipe out Republicans’ advantage in the House of Delegates.
And Komar said the Northam campaign looked to capitalize on Republicans’ inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and shift the attention onto Virginia’s proposed expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.
“The fact that this remained an issue through the election… this was very important,” Komar said.
“It wasn’t an area where we really wanted to debate,” Leavitt said in response. “We wanted to turn the conversation to something else.”
With this year’s elections over, political attention now shifts to the 2018 mid-terms. Both said that with full control of government, it is on Republicans to get something done, or else they will face the wrath of voters.
Republicans have a “lot to think about and recalibrate,” Leavitt said. “Good luck, because it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is warning that some voters are receiving calls falsely telling them their polling place has changed.
In a tweet this afternoon, VDEM said these calls are false, and that registered voters can confirm their polling place online.
— VDEM (@VDEM) November 7, 2017
The Arlington County elections office said it estimated turnout of 40 percent today at the polls, plus another 8 percent of registered voters voting absentee. That represents a slight slowdown from the noon estimate, when turnout was at about 31 percent at the polls.
Arlington County registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow earlier that the arrival of steady rain slowed turnout somewhat. But it still means Arlington is well on track to beat the final turnout of 49 percent in 2013, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Plus, a break in the steadier rain is expected as Northern Virginia residents start to leave work.
— NWS DC/Baltimore (@NWS_BaltWash) November 7, 2017
Earlier today, the candidates in today’s election hit the streets, making their final pitches to voters as they headed to the polls.
Greeting voters at Key School — catching up with old friends & new! pic.twitter.com/L9vnxMMfcl
— Libby Garvey (@libbygarvey) November 7, 2017
Gutshall also tweeted a photo alongside Arlington School Board Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, while fellow School Board candidate Alison Dough has rolled out yard signs made by her children to try and swing voters her way.
A few of my favorite signs hitting the roads today… art work courtesy of my children – even the baby added hand-art 💕
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement was out in the Fairlington neighborhood near the Abingdon precinct this morning, sporting a rain jacket and an umbrella while she greeted voters and passed out flyers.
On social media, Independent County Board candidate Charles McCullough shared photos of him out meeting voters across the county.
— Charles McCullough (@VoteCMcCullough) November 7, 2017
And Attorney General Mark Herring visited Arlington this morning as his bid for re-election entered its final hours. Herring tweeted a photo of him meeting potential voters at Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, also part of the 49th House District, where Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has faced a challenge from Republican Adam Roosevelt.
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) November 7, 2017
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Arlington County could today see record voter turnout for a gubernatorial election year.
As of noon, Arlington election officials were reporting approximately 31 percent turnout at the polls. Another 8 percent of registered voters had cast absentee ballots, bumping up the total, midway through election day, to nearly 40 percent.
That compares to a final turnout of 49 percent in 2013, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli. In 2005, the race between Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore resulted in 50.5 percent turnout in Arlington.
Despite a slowdown in the pace of voting with the arrival of steady rain in the area, Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg expects turnout will easily exceed that of 2013 today.
“We certainly expect that to be quite a bit higher, probably well over 50 percent,” she told ARLnow.com, crediting “increased interest in this year’s race and a boost in get-out-the-vote efforts among parties.”
That follows record turnout in Arlington during June’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the primary and today is facing off against Republican candidate Ed Gillespie in the race for governor.
Former Arlington County Treasurer and avid local election prognosticator Frank O’Leary last week predicted record turnout in Arlington for a non-presidential election, based on absentee voting. He said heavy turnout in Arlington could provide a big boost to Northam — even bigger than the boost Arlington gave to McAuliffe four year ago.
In that year, McAuliffe won Arlington by more than 33,000 votes. This year Northam should enjoy a local victory margin of 45,000 or more. Moreover, realize that in 2013 McAuliffe won by less than 57,000 statewide and the significance of Arlington in determining outcome in Virginia becomes apparent. But Arlington is not alone, and — as goes Arlington — so goes Alexandria and Falls Church and (to a lesser extent) Fairfax and Prince William.
True to that prediction, Alexandria so far is reporting higher-than-2013 turnout.
At noon, 32,539 active voters (36%) had voted in today's election. Was 28% at noon in 2013. Polls open until 7pm: https://t.co/qCjZtybPYE
— AlexandriaVAGov (@AlexandriaVAGov) November 7, 2017
Lindberg said there have been no major problems reported at Arlington’s polling stations. Lines were typically no longer than 10 minutes this morning, despite the increase in turnout.
The biggest issue so far has been confusion over the Democratic sample ballot handed out by party volunteers outside of polling stations, said Lindberg. The sample ballot recommended a slightly different way of filling in the bubble on ballots than that recommended by election officials, prompting a post by a confused resident to a Nextdoor social network page, which in turn resulted in election officials getting inquiries from some concerned voters.
Either method of filling out the ballot is valid, Lindberg said.
The Arlington County Republican Committee led a chorus of condemnation after state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) suggested Republicans are “evil” at a rally Tuesday night.
Speaking to more than 200 supporters at an Arlington County Democratic Committee rally alongside Democratic nominee for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring — who is running for re-election — and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), among others, Favola said that if Republican nominee Ed Gillespie becomes governor, it will be “dangerous.”
“My colleagues didn’t tell you how dangerous it will be if the other sides wins,” Favola said in a speech. “They’re evil, we’re the good guys… Every one of you is an angel. You’re not only fighting for yourselves, you’re fighting for hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia.”
(ACDC posted a video of the entire rally on its Facebook page. Favola’s remarks begin just before the 31:00 mark.)
The use of the word “evil” brought swift condemnation from Arlington GOP chair Jim Presswood, who pushed back on Favola’s statement.
Senator Barbara Favola crossed the line when she said that Virginia Republicans are “evil.” This language goes well beyond the realm of civil debate and demeans the moral character of Republicans.
Senator Favola and other Arlington Democratic leaders often talk about “Arlington values.” There are indeed many values Arlingtonians across the political spectrum share, including cultural and ethnic diversity, good schools, a well-run public transit system, and the need for public parks. But Senator Favola apparently does not include ideological diversity in this list. The term “Arlington values” should not be code for Democratic values.
There are many Republicans who live in Arlington — about thirty-thousand people in the county voted for the Republican Congressional candidate last year. Senator Favola needs to remember, even during a heated political campaign, that we are her constituents too.
In a tweet, Gillespie also condemned the comment.
Now just saying out loud what their campaign has shown they think of millions of their fellow Virginians… https://t.co/BbU6g8C6Od
— Ed Gillespie (@EdWGillespie) November 2, 2017
Photo via Facebook video.
Northam, Gillespie Win Va. Primary — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie, establishment figures in the state Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, beat back party insurgents to win the nomination for Virginia governor on Tuesday. The primary was a test of the “Trump effect,” according to political analysts. [Washington Post, Washington Post, Politico]
Python Found in Apartment Hallway — An Arlington animal control officer recovered a python from an apartment hallway Tuesday morning, prompting an article in by the Washington Post’s Martin Weil. In his signature style, Weil notes that “matters appeared to end satisfactorily.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Developer, 91, Wants to Move Into New Building — Longtime local developer Marvin Weissberg is enthusiastic about the 24-story, 407-unit residential tower he’s proposing to replace the RCA building in Rosslyn. So enthusiastic is Weissberg, 91, that he says he wants to move in when it’s completed. [Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Shooting at Congressional Baseball Practice — A gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria this morning, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a number of congressional aides and two police officers. The gunman was reportedly shot by U.S. Capitol Police. [Fox News, Twitter]