Home 2017 Races Tom Perriello: Open Letter to Virginia Democrats

Tom Perriello: Open Letter to Virginia Democrats


By Tom Perriello

Last week, I asked Virginia Democrats to give me a chance to be our party’s nominee for Governor. The immediate outpouring of support and enthusiasm from Democrats across the Commonwealth has been incredible, from the crowds of people at our events to the volunteer enthusiasm online.

Along with the support, I’ve heard concerns from some Democrats I deeply respect about what a competitive primary could mean for our party in November. So I want to address you, the hard-working Democrats of Virginia, directly about why I believe our campaign gives Democrats the best chance to defeat the DC lobbyist who wrote the playbook on selling out the middle class and American dream to the highest bidder.

Fighting for Our Progressive Coalition

Now is a time to fight and to be bold. Too many Virginians are being held back by a system that doesn’t work for them, no matter how hard they work for their families. If we want to be the best state in America to raise a family, that must include universal pre-K, paid medical and family leave, and a $15/hour minimum wage. As automation threatens to disrupt more jobs tomorrow than globalization did yesterday, we must lead the way on creating a new generation of jobs for the working and middle class, provide at least two years of debt-free vocational training or community college, and guarantee no Virginian is a pink slip away from losing healthcare. Hard-working Virginians deserve a raise, time with their families, and the best start for their children. We need a Commonwealth measured not just by our GDP but by our quality of life.

We must confront racial demagoguery, with an unambiguous defense of an inclusive Virginia for people of all races and creeds, a state that treats the immigrant who arrived yesterday with the same dignity as the first families. We must advance and protect LGBT rights against those who threaten our sacred equality. The birthplace of American democracy should aspire to innovate modern voting rules that make 100% citizen participation a reality in every election. With one of the great harbors and bays in the world under threat, we must ensure that our state is at the cutting edge of clean energy, including homegrown power that keeps our dollars in Virginia. We have to stand up to an unhinged corporate gun lobby, keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, and support best community-policing practices. We must ensure that all women have access to reproductive health services, including family planning and abortion, and protect guarantees of pre- and post-natal care that we fought hard to win in Obamacare and that Trumpism now puts at risk.

These bold goals are achievable, but only if we defeat Ed Gillespie, the DC lobbyist who corrupted our state with his radical gerrymandering that represents his clients instead of our citizens.

Our Best Chance to Win

Democrats win Virginia when we give our powerful, progressive coalition a reason to show up. This is a matter of good policy combined with genuine passion for the fight. Gov. McAuliffe won people over with that energy four years ago, and I am asking for the chance to prove to you and all Virginians that I will fight as hard for you as you do for your own families.

In 2008, with your help, we came from 30+ points behind to win a race against an “unbeatable” incumbent. Working around the clock, logging tens of thousands of miles, we built a grassroots army, broke every fundraising record for the district, and brought unprecedented state and national attention to the race. We showed that when progressives run on our values, we can win back red districts. In Congress, I was proud to fight and defend healthcare reform, climate change solutions, job training for our veterans, and college affordability. We leveraged over $500 million in investment in education, broadband, clean energy jobs, and community health centers across Central and Southern Virginia. When I was at the top of the ticket in 2010, I defended my progressive record in a deep-red part of the state, turned out the base and won independents, and outperformed the national Democratic brand by ten points.

I will bring that same inexhaustible spirit and abiding commitment to progressive values to this race. It is not because it’s a proven political model – it’s because it’s the right thing to do.  And when we communicate our values and vision, Virginians rise up in support.

Primaries Make Us Stronger

Primaries make parties stronger when we elevate debate, build our grassroots game and energize our team. Primaries divide us ONLY when we choose for them to do so.  That is why I pledge to focus on a positive, progressive campaign of ideas. Knowing what a statesman Ralph Northam has always been, I see no reason we cannot compete for your votes while remaining united in our values and commitment for keeping Virginia blue in November.

Why Now

I’ll be honest: the results of the November election changed everything for me, not just in terms of the stakes and the need to give our coalition something to be hopeful about, but also in raw political terms. With Tim Kaine as Vice President and perhaps Bobby Scott as a sitting Senator on the ballot, I saw a strong path to victory for our statewide ticket this November. Now, given what happened in November, I believe we need bold, new-generation leadership at the top of the ticket to energize, unite, and inspire voters at a time when so much of what we fought for stands at risk.

While many elected officials have asked me why I got in so late, the main response I’ve heard from voters is they have no idea that another election campaign has even begun. Let’s give the voters a chance to hear out our ideas and learn more about our platforms so we have a more engaged electorate that represents all Virginians.

I’m excited to kick off my campaign for Governor. This month, I’ll be hitting the road across our great state to listen and learn from Virginians about how we can achieve a Common Good for our Commonwealth. I’m ready to work hard to earn your vote – and your faith in me as the person who can carry us to victory in November. I hope to see you on the trail!


  • Ollie

    Where do you stand on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

    • Tim Calhoun

      That’s a good question. I’d like to know more about his current environmental policies. For example, does he still support offshore drilling here like he did when he was in Congress?

  • I like Dr. Northam a bunch, too, but Tom is still the candidate I’ve donated the single-most to, of any candidate- and any Democrat, certainly. I’ll never forget meeting him for the first time, because I almost sneered at him, like, who’s this Yalie who thinks they know about regular folks? But he never presented himself like he’d done what I had, just that he wanted to know and do what he could to help. And he showed up to that event where Virgil Goode just sent some flunkie. Never seen anyone so single-mindedly focused on kicking ass for their district, no matter the stripe.

    I’ll work for both of ’em happily, but Tom’s got my vote.

  • lindab

    women’s issues..

    • Question?

      • Bheema Da Cashman

        An opposition talking point. The guy voted against funding PP back in 2009. He has drastically changed his tune, to the point where women’s health is a major campaign talking point

  • eelo

    What is your position on public education? Where do you stand on charter schools?

    • Bheema Da Cashman

      Tom’s given the old “Virginians deserve top notch public schools” line. No specifics, assuming that means more funding

  • John Farrell


    As one who has admired you despite of your vote for the Stupak Amendment and your vote against the assault weapons ban, you need to explain what substantive policy differences you have with Doctor Ralph in order for any of us to take this candidacy as something other than a vanity tour.

  • Elaine Owens

    Several debates between Dr. Northam and Tom Perriello would be very helpful for primary voters. I’m assuming that both men would steer clear of the divisive rhetoric that would weaken the party in the fall.

  • Kenny Allen Boddye

    A strong, positive primary can raise the early awareness necessary in order to energize voters and turn out those voters in November. It also raises the earlier parts of the election year in significance. Organizers, staffers and volunteers will get the necessary experience to run an effective campaign in the General Election season.

    While I fully believe Lt. Governor Northam is qualified to serve as our next governor, Mr. Perriello is doing the party and the state a service by allowing us to have a choice. I’m looking forward to learning more about his stances and goals on the issues, and the policies he has in mind to achieve those goals.

    • John Farrell

      I’ll do my best to find you a primary opponent.

      And the check I was going to send you will be going to Doctor Ralph instead.

      • Kenny Allen Boddye

        I didn’t mean to offend, and I don’t believe primaries are helpful in every single case. If I have a primary challenger who is stronger, a better candidate, and has a better chance to win in November, I would support them 100%. I wouldn’t attack them in ways that would hurt the party or our chances.

        It seems like we disagree on this issue, and I respect your opinion on it.

        • John Farrell

          The problem is that campaign staffs and supporters invariably get nasty during primaries and uniting the party for the Fall never happens.

          Primaries only make sense when there are substantive differences between the candidates as in HRC’s support for the Iraq War and BHO’s opposition to the same.

    • Denise

      Kenny I hope you feel the same way about your own race. Do you? If a fellow Democrat who runs against you in a primary viciously and falsely attacks you, will you then feel the same way?

      Once I too thought primaries were a good thing, but after the unwarranted trashing of Hillary Clinton by the once-and-now-again-Independent Sanders and his campaign, now I’m not so sure. I happen to like Ralph Northam and don’t see the need for opposition. I keep hearing about how we are supposed to reach out to Republicans, farmers, the white middle class. I’m not sure what Periello brings to the table. As a former military doctor, VMI grad, soft spoken-southern-accented gentleman from rural Virginia, as well as supporter of things Democrats hold dear, doesn’t Dr. Northam check all the boxes? In addition, he’s just a nice guy. Hopefully Periello, as the much weaker challenger, will not see the need to go the route of slash and burn politics. It seems some of the people who are thrilled to have a primary enjoy seeing Democrats beating up on each other. I hope I don’t see that repeated again.

      • Is there any evidence that Hillary Clinton “lost” (in quotes because she WON the popular vote by 2.9 million) to Drumpf b/c of Bernie Sanders? Is there any evidence that any Dem has lost in the general election because they were in a primary? To the contrary, I can provide many examples of Dem primaries where the nominee ended u MUCH stronger than they would have been without the primary. Even Creigh Deeds in 2009, following a nasty primary, held his own leads of the election against Bob McDonnell RIGHT AFTER the primary ended (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_gubernatorial_election,_2009#Polling). And of course Barack Obama won a landslide in 2008, despite (or because of?) a rough-and-tumble, even brutal primary against Hillary Clinton.

        • Denise

          I don’t believe I stated that she lost because of Bernie Sanders. I just stated that I objected to the smear tactics used by Sanders campaign and SOME of his supporters. It continues to this day. I don’t see how we’re going to come together when it continues on social media. As a student of politics Lowell, however, you know when someone is an underdog they usually go low. So far Periello hasn’t done that. I just hope he continues to stay positive.

      • Kenny Allen Boddye

        Denise – I do, and I believe there’s a distinction. If a strong, positive primary highlights the issues affecting our constituents, and helps drive up our voter awareness of the election, then I would support it. I would also fully support a primary challenger who proves to be a stronger candidate and a better pick for Democrats in November than I.

        I agree with you, though, that primaries CAN have the outcome of hurting the general election effort if it becomes too negative and demoralizes people. I’m not advocating for that by any means, and I just believe that Periello deserves a fair shake before he is dismissed. As I mentioned in my original message here, I will fully support Ralph Northam, and I don’t want to see his chances hurt.

        I hope that clarifies my position.