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“Sitzkrieg” Fast Turning Into “Blitzkrieg” in 2017 Virginia Democratic Governor’s Primary?


You might say that when someone says they are challenging another person for a political office – for instance, Tom Perriello announcing in early January that he would be running against Ralph Northam for the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nomination – that there’s no doubt that the “battle is joined.” And there’s certainly some truth to that. But for weeks in the Northam vs. Perriello contest, I’d argue that we were in a kind of “sitzkrieg,” in which clearly war had been declared, but nothing much seemed to be happening in terms of either candidate going after the other one. Well, now, something is most definitely happening, as the “sitzkrieg” appears to have come crashing to an end. To wit:

In mid-February, the Ralph Northam campaign went after Tom Perriello aggressively, whether in the February 11 Washington Post, where Northam spokesman David Turner ripped Perriello (“When it came time to stand up to big oil, stare down the NRA or commit to being pro-choice, Tom’s boldness vanished“) or on the February 16 John Fredericks (right-wing radio) Show, where Northam pounded Perriello (in part for Perriello’s comments, quickly retracted, that the election of Donald Trump was akin to a political 9/11 for Democrats), then Northam’s campaign sent out a transcript of said pounding the next day just to emphasize what he said, in case you missed it.

  • Politicizing a terrible tragedy like 9/11 is totally inappropriate, so I regret that those kind of comments were made.”
  • “And we really at this stage of the game don’t need leaders that make statements and then have to go back and apologize. We don’t need leaders that stick their finger up and see which way the political winds are blowing.”
  • “As I said earlier, we don’t need leaders right now that are putting their finger and seeing which way the political winds are blowing.”
  • “I think we need to stop talking about some this other political rhetoric and focus on what’s important for Virginia.

Meanwhile, Northam’s surrogates were busy as well, with Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw claiming (again on the right-wing John Fredericks radio show) that Northam would win in a “blowout” (probably 70/30 “at least”; “there’s no support for [Tom Perriello] out there”) while Perriello is (supposedly, according to Saslaw) “doing mea culpa on guns, abortion, the environment, you name it, I mean this guy…more flip flops than anybody I’ve ever seen…” Ouch.

While all that was going on, I heard veiled pushback from the Perriello camp, but still a clear determination to stay “positive” in this race, with Perriello referring to Northam as a “nice gentleman” and stuff like that. Well…that now seems to be changing – fast and furious. Check out this “tweet storm” by Perriello’s Communications Director Ian Sams late last night, referencing this New York Times story on the Virginia Dem gov primary and calling out Northam for voting for George W. Bush twice, and judge for yourself.

In sum, with the Virginia General Assembly mercifully concluded, and with Ralph Northam now free to campaign 24/7, the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial “sitzkrieg” seems to be rapidly morphing into more of a “blitzkrieg.” This could get interesting – if not bloody – real fast, so stay tuned…

P.S. Somehow, I don’t think I’d ever heard that Northam had voted twice for George W. Bush. I certainly don’t remember that coming up in the 2013 LG primary against Aneesh Chopra. Did I miss something on this? Also, how relevant do you think it will be to 2017 Virginia Democratic primary voters that Northam voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004?

  • Joe Mancini

    I don’t care if Northam voted for Beelzebub previously. What matters is where he stands NOW.

    The Governor’s role is to keep the wingnuts in the GA in check. The amount of positive change he can affect is minimal. Tom probably suits me better, but Ralph has shown he can run, and win, statewide and I don’t care if he beat E.W. last time, he will beat Ed this time if Democrats don’t fracture.

    Tom didn’t try to regain the seat in Congress he lost, maybe he should run for one of the 40 or so seats in the GA the Democrats are not contesting. Until and unless the DPVA has a candidate in every race, we are going to have to pick our races carefully and run candidates who can win.

    • It’s interesting, Northam supporters have been arguing for weeks that it very much DOES matter where the candidates stood in the past. I’m getting dizzy…

      • Lumen

        Aren’t his votes for Bush from before he was ever in politics? The quote seems to imply that he wasn’t particularly politically active at the time, and let’s face it, most people don’t make particularly well thought out decisions on the issues when voting. I’ve certainly cast my vote for some idiots in the past and later regretted it.

        I think there is a pretty big distinction between how someone votes as a private citizen and how they vote as a legislator when it’s literally a job. There is no excuse then to not be fully informed about what you are voting on at that point.

        Besides the problem for me is not that Perriello changed his positions. The whole point of politics for me is convincing people to change their positions. It’s that he did it so brazenly right before declaring he was running, and seems to be doing it to take advantage of some kind of “outsider/Sanders progressive” opening he want’s to position himself in. I actually think that makes him a much weaker candidate in the general election (no body likes an opportunist) and while I understand political expediency is political fact of life, I’m certainly not at all convinced he’s in reality to the left of Northam.

        • Anonymous Is A Woman

          The claim that the vote for Bush was when he was a “poor, non political country doctor” is disengenuous. He also took several anti-labor votes when he first entered the state Senate and was known to be a pro business fiscal conservative. He was socially liberal. More or less. But he obviously was sufficiently fiscally conservative that Senate Republicans tried to get him to flip to their party and almost succeeded.

          If it hadn’t been for then senator Jeff Fredericks tweeting a brag about it too soon, it might have happened too.

          Sorry, my html skills are rusty. here is a link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/jeff-fredericks-twitter-u_n_165769.html

          • kelley

            Yes! I remember! i think both candidates are tacking further left.

          • Lumen

            Talking about Northam’s actual record and how he voted is completely fair game. But these purity tests about how he voted as a private citizen or about how the republicans like him so he must be contaminated in some way? I’m not interested.

            My point was Perreillo isn’t Bernie Sanders. Anyone who falls for that is a naive fool confused by the fact that he’s young and has a short record. If his donors think the are running a Sanders candidate to the left of Northam they picked the wrong guy. He simply doesn’t have the receipts.

    • As for whether Tom or Ralph would be best able to win in November, to me that’s an open question, no idea honestly…really depends what Trump’s approval rating is then, what the Democratic mood is, what the Republican mood is, etc.