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.
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!