As our country headed towards Election Day 2016, the overwhelming consensus among national political pundits and prognosticators was that Hillary Clinton would be the next President of the United States. Meanwhile, here in Virginia, the overwhelming consensus among state political pundits and prognosticators was that Ralph Northam would be unopposed for the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Instead, as it turned out, neither of those predictions turned out to be accurate, as Clinton lost to Trump and as Tom Perriello stepped up (in early January) to offer Virginia Democrats a choice.
Which brings me to my first point; that although primaries can get rough at times (having lived through many of them over the years, such as Jim Webb vs. Harris Miller in 2006 or Leslie Byrne vs. Gerry Connolly in 2008, I’m well aware of that fact), overall I strongly believe that competition for voters is a great thing, just as competition for customers among restaurants forces everyone to either up their game – tastier food, better service, lower prices – or go out of business.
So here we are, with just over four weeks to go until Virginia Democrats head to the polls on June 13 to select nominees for Governor, Lt. Governor and numerous House of Delegates districts, and we’ve got serious competition for “customers.” Fortunately for Democrats, we have many excellent candidates running up and down the ballot, including at the top of the ticket. Ultimately though, elections do force us to make a choices, and after watching the gubernatorial race closely since January 4, I’ve made mine: Tom Perriello for Governor of Virginia.
My reasoning is very similar to that of previous endorsements by Blue Virginia “front pagers,” such as Kindler’s and Adam Siegel’s well-written, well-reasoned pieces on why they support Tom Perriello for Governor this year. Kindler’s endorsement, for instance, emphasized Perriello’s ability to bridge the “Hillary-Bernie divide” (as Kindler called it), to articulate “a powerful, coherent progressive vision” and to counter the “Trumped GOP.” For his part, climate activist Siegel emphasized Tom’s leadership on energy and environmental issues (e.g., see Tom’s “Where I Stand on Two Pipelines” video below), his progressive populist vision and his enormous “intellect and thoughtfulness.” Having gotten to know Tom well over the past decade, since he first called me out of the blue in the fall of 2007, and having watched him closely the past four months, I couldn’t agree more with all those points.
I’d add that Tom has brought enormous – and much needed – energy, passion and urgency to what had frankly been a sleepy, mostly uninteresting affair. Instead, what we’ve seen is Perriello leading the way repeatedly — not just against Donald Trump, but for progressive ideas and ideals on issue after issue.
For an example of what I’m talking about, check out Tom’s “Ambulance” ad (below), which has “gone viral” (416k views on YouTube alone as of right now) – and for good reason. To me, this ad encapsulates a great deal about Tom Perriello, and all in a good way — the right messaging, the right timing, the right attitude, the right delivery/articulation, etc. Frankly, if Tom Perriello isn’t the type of person Democrats should want to be leading the fight against the Trump administration’s ravages and depredations, then I’m not sure anyone is. Which is why, to my mind, Virginia Democrats should be thrilled that Tom decided to run and should seize the opportunity presented to us to put this guy in the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
I could go on for hours about all the areas where Tom Perriello has led in this campaign, but here’s just a short list.
- Perriello heads straight to Dulles Airport to stand with citizens protesting Trump’s disgraceful “Muslim ban.” As he so often does, Perriello chose not just the right time and the right venue for his remarks, he also chose the right words to channel what we were all thinking and feeling about Trump’s “immoral,” “unconstitutional,” “reckless” policies that “embolden our enemies.” I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of leadership I want in Virginia the next four years.
- Perriello’s leadership against Dominion’s crazy pipeline proposal was a breath of fresh air on several fronts. For years, I’ve been fighting Dominion Power, not just for damaging our environment but also for corrupting our entire system of government here in Virginia. That needs to end if we’re going to make the type of progress we need, and on this count alone, Perriello should be rewarded for taking a strong stand and leading the way against entrenched, arrogant power.
- It’s not just about fighting AGAINST Dominion Power, though, it’s also about “challenging utility monopoly Dominion Resources to offer better clean energy, job-creating solutions instead of mischaracterizing Tom’s position and misleading Virginians on the true costs and benefits of their pipeline project relative to more efficient alternatives. Tom invites a serious policy debate driven by facts, not assertions.” Refusing to take money from Dominion Power, which has essentially used its resources to buy up (“capture”) our government, is a good start towards negotiating with Dominion from a “position of strength,” as international peace negotiator Perriello likes to say.
- Perriello has proposed a constitutional amendment in Virginia to “guarantee reproductive choice at the state level, safeguarding this fundamental right for women against any potential future threats.” Yes, I know, a constitutional amendment won’t happen overnight, but sometimes you have to shift the “Overton Window,” lay down a long-term goal and work towards that. And yes, I know that Perriello made a bad mistake – something he’s talked about and explained in detail – in voting for the Stupak amendment when he was in Congress. But going forward, there’s no doubt in my mind that Perriello will constitute the same sort of “brick wall” that Terry McAuliffe has so admirably represented the past 3+ years against Republican assaults on women’s reproductive health and freedom.
- Perriello’s progressive tax reform proposal would, among many other benefits, “[fund] the boldest working families agenda ever proposed by a candidate for governor, including paid leave, universal pre-kindergarten, and two years free community college, trade school or apprenticeship.” At a time of real and justified economic anxiety, the type of anxiety that has helped fuel the rise of right-wing populism in this country and around the world, Perriello’s proposal is exactly the type of “progressive populist” answer required. That is, to “raise incomes and expand Virginia’s economy from the middle out — a sharp contrast with both President Trump’s recently proposed federal tax plan, which could be worse than the Bush tax cuts, and Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Ed Gillespie’s tax plan, which would give the wealthy a massive tax cut. Gillespie’s $1.3 billion tax cut overwhelmingly benefits those at the very top without explaining the cuts he would make to Virginia services to pay for it.” In sum, as Perriello puts it, is that we need to work at building a Virginia economy that “works for everyone,” via “growth-oriented investment in the working and middle class.” That’s exactly what we need at this point; Perriello really “gets it” and had led accordingly.
- Now, Perriello is standing up against white supremacists in Charlottesville, telling them in no uncertain terms to “[g]et your white supremacist hate out of my hometown.”
Again, I could go on all day with this, but I think you get the idea. Now, let me just address one other criticism of Tom Perriello that I’ve heard repeatedly during this campaign: that he once held an “A” rating from the NRA and used pro-gun rhetoric. First of all, today Perriello proudly holds an “F” rating from the NRA (see image below), which he correctly calls a “nutjob, extremist organization.”
Second, since Perriello held his “A” rating back in 2008-2010, he clearly has had a major change of heart. As this article in today’s Roanoke Times explains:
After Sandy Hook and after he was voted out of office, Perriello served as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action — a progressive research and advocacy organization — where his team released a study showing more gun violence occurs in states with weak gun laws. He also campaigned for Manchin-Toomey gun background check bill that would require background checks on all commercial gun sales. He saw the aftermath of Sandy Hook as an opportunity to make a difference in gun laws.
Finally, I’d note that Perriello’s website promises, “As Governor, I will advance common-sense gun safety reforms that protect Virginians, prioritizing keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, intimate partner abusers and stalkers, and individuals suffering from severe mental illness, and restricting access to weapons and ammunition that have no defensible role in sport or home defense.”
Now, of course you don’t have to buy this, but just speaking for myself – and as someone who deeply admires people like Lori Haas and other courageous, indefatigable gun violence prevention advocates while despising the NRA with a burning passion – I have great confident that, as governor, Tom Perriello will fight to protect us from the scourge of gun violence.
The bottom line: In my view, we really do “stand at a defining moment,” as Tom’s kickoff video argued, where “so much of what we’ve taken for granted here in Virginia in my lifetime seems to be at risk.” For my part, I will do everything I can to prevent this state – and country – from lurching backwards under the “leadership” of the likes of “Enron Ed” Gillespie or neo-Confederate Corey “Trump before there was Trump” Stewart. Who is best to lead that fight — and to lead Virginia forward, along a path that unites rather than divides, that helps create an economy which works for everybody (not just the wealthiest individuals and most powerful corporations) — is the question facing Virginia Democratic voters in just over four weeks. I will, of course, work hard for whoever Democrats nominate on June 13. But for my money, the right leader for these troubled, dangerous, disturbing times is clear: Tom Perriello for Governor of Virginia.