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Why I Support Tom Perriello: I Think He Gives Us the Best Chance to Win in November.


by Lloyd Snook, a Democratic activist an attorney in Charlottesville/Central Virginia

Why I support Tom Perriello, long-form version. I think he gives us the best chance to win in November.

There are three pieces to this analysis.

First, on a purely personal level, I know Tom and like him and respect his clear thinking and clear communicating on difficult questions. He was my Congressman, and I was proud of how he stood in the well of auditorium after auditorium in the summer of 2009, standing up for health care reform against hostile crowds. He ran a principled campaign, and conducted himself in office in a manner consistent with those principles.

Second, on the issues, there are not a lot of differences on the hot-button issues like abortion and guns that the activists have been squawking about. The Governor’s job for the next four years on those issues will be limited to vetoing bad bills; neither Tom nor Ralph will have a legislature who would pass any progressive bills on either issue. So whatever differences purists may perceive between the candidates on those issues, they are meaningless.

Tom — reminiscent of his 2008 campaign for Congress — is running against corporate (and Dominion) domination of Richmond politics, an issue where Ralph’s “me-too” sounds a little weak. Those with long memories will remember that the last Virginia candidate to run against corporate influence (as opposed to trying to solicit their contributions themselves) was Henry Howell, who ran “to keep the big boys honest” in 1973 and 1977. At least once every 40 years, someone should run against the perfectly legal corruption that is characteristic of Richmond.

Third, I think he gives us the best chance to win. Whoever the Democratic candidate is, it is vital that he win, and it would be preferable if he could bring along the rest of the ticket.

For the Democratic ticket to win in 2017, our goal needs to be to get 60% of the Hillary Clinton vote. In the two recent squeakers in 2013 and 2014, we got out about 54% of the 2012 Obama vote. We can win with 55% of the vote that Hillary Clinton got, but let’s shoot for 60%.

I referred to the squeakers in 2013 and 2014 — in 2013, public polls showed Terry McAuliffe leading Ken Cuccinelli by 10% going into the election, and he won by 2.5%. He didn’t get 50%.

When Mark Warner squeaked by in 2014, public polls had him up by 10% or more, and he wound up winning by 17,000 votes, or .8%. He also didn’t get 50% of the vote.

So what happened, and what can we do to minimize the chance that it happens again?

Looking at county-level and precinct-level data, it is apparent that the problem was that precincts that have a heavy turnout in Presidential elections did not turn out as had been expected.

Let’s take the single biggest jurisdiction — Fairfax County — and the Democratic margins in Fairfax County, year by year.

2012 — Barack Obama — 108,500
2013 — Terry McAuliffe — 68,065
2014 — Mark Warner — 53,561
2016 — Hillary Clinton — 197,423

Now let’s look at the statewide margins:

2012 — 149,298
2013 — 58,435 (less than the Fairfax margin)
2014 — 17,727 (less than the Fairfax margin)
2016 — 212,030

Now let’s look at the decline in the Democratic vote relative to the 2012 Presidential vote. In 2013 and 2014, the Democratic vote was virtually identical — 1,069,789 in 2013, and 1,073,667 in 2014. That is about 54.5% of the 2012 Democratic vote. In 2016, the Democratic vote came back out, and Hillary’s total of 1,981,473 beat Barack Obama in 2012 with 1,971,820.

In Fairfax, the 2013 and 2014 Democratic vote was almost exactly the same — about 56% of the 2012 Obama vote. In 2016, Hillary beat Obama’s Fairfax vote by 13%.
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Fairfax was about 16% of the Democratic vote; in 2016, Fairfax was 17.9% of the Democratic vote (a difference of 39,860).

The same analysis could be done for Alexandria and Arlington. The numbers are smaller, but the outlines are the same. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that the clearest path to victory for a Democrat is to maximize the margin in Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington — to get the Northern Virginia Hillary Clinton electorate to turn out.

This is not news, but the extent to which the Presidential-only voters in those three jurisdictions could swing the election has never been more pronounced. In those three jurisdictions — all of which have a lot of Democratic voters who are very federally-oriented — there are probably 250,000 Democratic voters who are in the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” category.

The problem with Democratic organizing up there, natives tell me, is that so many of our Democratic target voters are so hard, and so expensive, to access. Many of them live in high-rises that can’t be canvassed. Many have cell phones, and it is hard to survey them and get them into the GOTV process. The result was that in 2013 and 2014, those doing polls of the race had to make some sampling assumptions, with no way of knowing whether their assumptions were valid. As we saw in both years, they were NOT valid.

How, then, to mobilize those 250,000 federally-oriented voters to come vote in a primary, and to feel invested enough in the campaign to come out in November?

This is where I think Tom Perriello has the advantage. Ralph Northam strikes me as the kind of candidate who just won’t inspire those federally-oriented voters to come to the polls. I’ve been toiling in these vineyards for almost 40 years, and I have seen a lot of very nice Democratic candidates who couldn’t get federally-oriented voters to the polls. Tom may be able to. And the primary will be a test. If he wins the primary, it will probably be because he has inspired some of these federally-oriented voters — the ones we will need desperately in November. If he loses the primary, and if we do not see some energizing of the Presidential-only voters, we need to make darn sure we have a better strategy for reaching them than we did in 2013 and 2014.

So I support Tom because I like and trust him; because his campaign against the legal corruption in Richmond is badly needed; and because he gives us the best chance to win.

Please join me in voting for Tom Perriello on June 13.

  • Dr. C W Blankenship

    I understand that you favor Perriello but you do not provide any clear evidence that he would move the vote any better than Northam. Fact is Perriello has never run a state wide race and Northam has. I will be voting for Northam but if Perriello wins then I will be voting for him in the Fall. Items that irk me about Perriello, 1. An endorsement from Bernie is not a plus. Bernie is not a Democrat. 2. Stop trying to give the impression that Obama has endorsed you for Governor – he has not. 3. Knock off the Bush bashing – Trump is the enemy and we will need some of the moderate Bush Republicans to vote Democratic.

    • 1. Bernie’s caucused with Democrats for years and he was allowed by the DNC to run for the Democratic nomination for President, so…

      2. Obama hasn’t personally, but many of his top aides, including Valerie Jarrett (one of his closest friends, advisers, etc.) has.

      3. I get that we’d like to have more moderate Republicans come over and support our candidates, but the only reason Dubya looks even semi acceptable is because Trump is so heinous, evil, incompetent, corrupt, authoritarian, dangerous, etc.

      • Dr. C W Blankenship

        1. I know Bernie very well. He vowed to never become a Democrat. He became a Democrat just to run for President and then quickly renounced his membership in the Democratic Party when he lost the race for the nomination. The DNC did not allow Bernie to run – they had no choice when he became a Democrat. There are a number of issues I agree with Bernie but that still does not change the fact that he is not a Democrat and should not have any say in the party.If you want a voice in there party then join the party.

        2. It is dishonest to give the impression that Obama has endorsed when he has not. Former top aides are free to do as they please and they have a right to express their opinion and while Valerie Jarrett is very close to Obama – she is not Obama.

        3. Bush bashing is non productive. I don’t disagree with your assessment but it serves no purpose to go down that road.

        • Mike H

          The false narratives on Tom Perriello have been stunning. Obama singled out Tom Perriello as the ONLY Democrat he chose to campaign for in person for Perriello’s 2010 election. Tom Perriello was rightly credited as a hero who sacrificed his seat in Congress to support the ACA and had the courage to voluntarily face 18,000+ often hostile constituents in his district at 23 in person town halls to defend his decision. Shortly thereafter, Ralph Northam (a physician!) sheepishly distanced himself from the ACA, calling health care a “privilege, not a right” in a disappointing act of political self-preservation.

          Obama’s words of praise for Tom Perriello are no less relevant now than they were then. He reiterated them recently in praising all those, including Tom Perriello, who put the nation’s health care before their own political self interest. To suggest that reminding people of Obama’s perspective on Tom Perriello is dishonest or has in any way expired is an incredibly jaded accusation. Tom earned every accolade Obama offered, and I’m glad people have been reminded of that fact.

          • Dr. C W Blankenship

            Glad that President Obama thinks so highly of Perriello but it still is not an endorsement.

          • Mike H

            Nobody said it was. That’s another false narrative that’s being created and perpetuated by comments like yours. It is not at all uncommon for candidates to feature accolades bestowed upon them by influential figures in their advertising and general campaigning. Nor is it dishonest for Perriello to share Obama’s live testimonial to who Tom is and what he stands for. Those sentiments haven’t expired. Why should anyone conclude Obama does not continue to feel exactly the same way about him today?

            Not one member of the Perriello campaign has claimed a formal endorsement from Obama. But it is not at all an unfair representation to share what our former President had to say about him when he voluntarily chose to speak in person on his behalf.

          • Dr. C W Blankenship

            I am glad that you are committed to Tom Perriello but do not lose sight of the objective of electing Democrats. If Perriello wins the primary I will support and vote for him. I only hope that should he lose you will support and vote for Northam.

          • Mike H

            I myself will vote Northam over Gillespie. But, you’ve nailed the greatest danger the Democrats face, IMO. I could not be more convinced that Perriello’s draw with independents and even Trump-voting conservatives is far stronger than Northam’s and that Ralph Northam could actually LOSE to Gillespie. Dems are grossly underestimating the tsunami of progressive independent energy that will reinforce the Dem base if Perriello’s nominated. Likewise, he brings Trump voters who are equally sickened by Democrats and Republicans who take Dominion $ and continue to enable monopolization and automation to simply destroy local economies. Perriello is the most impressive cross spectrum coalition builder I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years voting Dem. He’s like the best of Obama, Hillary and Bernie in a single candidate! I think the Dems would be insane to pass on him. He’s got huge landslide potential and gives them the best shot at flipping the HOD as well.

          • I haven’t met a Perriello supporter yet who has said they won’t support Northam if he wins the nomination. Not sure why Northam people keep raising this, as it it were an actual concern or issue…very odd.

          • Mike H

            I definitely have met Perriello supporters who will not vote Northam, though I am not one myself. That’s what Dems don’t seem to understand. The majority of the general electorate are not Dems and many of them (including progressive independents) are not especially fond of the Democratic Party right now.

            I don’t think the Dems have to worry about actual Dems who support Perriello not voting Northam. The Dems will unite and the vast majority will. It’s the rest of the electorate they absolutely should worry about losing. I’ve heard from non-Dems supporting Perriello because of his opposition to the pipelines and Dominion $ who have expressly said they WILL NOT vote Northam if he’s nominated. Some of them will not vote at all. Some fall into the third party voter class who might consider that option if available. And some will return to Gillespie.

            This is a very real risk that is not new. In fact, it’s been a contributing factor to countless Dem general election losses nationwide that they should be winning.

          • Interesting. If that’s true it’s a strong reason to nominate Tom. Might be worth a diary of its own, come to think of it…

          • O P

            That is extremely interesting. It may be worth it for those people who want to vote Northam in primary to think twice- this may be when you have to choose Gillespie or Perriello. Because if Gillespie wins because Democratic Party loses Perriello voters (as will happen the same way it happened with Hillary). The question of whom to vote for may need to be rethought by Northam dems if you truly want a democratic governor.

          • Sharon Ponton

            Agreed. There are many non-Dems voting for Perriello who would never vote for Northam because of his Pipeline stance and the money he takes from Dominion.

            Establishment Dems do not understand the abuses Dominion has thrust upon landowners and communities regarding the proposed ACP, many of whom will vote for Tom because he has had the audacity to stand with them, instead of Dominion. Many young people will also stand with Tom, but never Northam. If you’ve watched carefully, it’s been young people who have bird dogged Northam at campaign events urging him to stand against pipelines. Northam refuses, and parrots Governor McAuliffe on the issue. Northam is just as condescending as McAuliffe in his responses to these young voters.

          • The big question for June 13 is whether young people will show up in large number or not. If they do, I think Tom will win. If they don’t, Tom probably won’t win.

          • Sharon Ponton

            True, Lowell. There is another group folks aren’t accounting for…Republican landowners who have been ignored by their elected leaders about the property rights issue. Many of these folks see Tom as a way forward to protect their properties. Signs like the one included here are popping up along the pipeline routes. https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4283/34704927490_28ac1a266c_b.jpg

    • Travis Neal

      Amen!! There is literally no evidence to support this theory. In fact, only evidence to the contrary, which is why Republicans are begging Dems to nominate TP:


      “SIDE NOTE: Please, if you are a Democrat reading this? Please vote for Tom… please please please vote for the Soros-funded whackadoodle… I promise, we’ll make it up to you in December… kinda… sorta…”

      • Mike H

        Did you direct the same sarcasm at Hillary Clinton? Soros was her 6th largest donor at $10.5M. That said, Tom Perriello has been very open about how disgusted we all should be by the big $ in politics and his support for publicly financed elections. His refusal to accept any contributions from state “regulated” monopolies is an important first step that has since been adopted by all three Democratic Lieutenant Gov candidates and 60+ candidates for the House of Delegates. That’s leadership!

        The Republicans know all too well Perriello is a far stronger general election opponent which is why they’ve trained so much attention on him already. One of our state’s foremost political blogger’s, Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato), noted that Ed Gillespie should do everything he can to avoid having to debate Tom Perriello if Perriello is the nominee. They know full well Perriello has landslide potential and would crush Gillespie in person.

        • Travis Neal

          Sad you believe that from the guy who funds his campaign from only a few large donors… But yea, off year gubernatorial debates are truly what decide elections in VA because just soooo many people watch them…

          • Mike H

            I do believe it and it’s not sad. What is sad is that Ben Tribbett also noted that it is obvious that the Northam campaign is counting on low turnout to secure the nomination. Right out of the Republican playbook.

            Meanwhile, Perriello has been barnstorming the state, providing unprecedented live, unfiltered access to voters. He’s conducted over 350 live town halls and similar forums, reaching over 250,000 Virginia voters in just 4 months! And he starts each appearance welcoming people to tape and broadcast him however they see fit. What other politician does that?!?! It’s incredible.

            You can catch Perriello once again this Saturday at his Hampton Town Hall. Coincidentally (or not?), Northam cancelled his town hall just this week. It *was* scheduled for the same day. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fe1b1b7bd61a3f44105f3f1ffa7b96b3b04d4022bbc079d99b6f4ded3597b3c8.jpg

      • woodrowfan

        I saw a lot of Democratic blogs begging the republicans to nominate Trump for the same reason. the other side doesn’t always see clearly who will be strongest. (I am undecided between Perriello and Northam. I better decide quick. I vote Monday).

    • JodyM

      Obama hasn’t come out right and endorsed Perriello for this election, but Perriello was the only house candidate that Obama campaigned for in 2010. Do you really think his impression of Tom Perriello has changed? Read this speech from Obama on May 8, 2017. We all know one of the people he was talking about was Tom Perriello. I don’t think this was just a coincidence.


      “I’ve been thinking on this notion of political courage this weekend, in particular about some of the men and women who were elected to Congress the same year I was elected to the White House. Many of them were new to Washington, their entire careers ahead of them. And in that very first term, they had to take tough vote after tough vote because we were in crisis.

      They took votes to save the financial system and the economy, even when it was
      highly unpopular. They took votes to save the auto industry when even in Michigan people didn’t want to see bailouts. They took votes to crack down on abuses on Wall Street, despite pressure from lobbyists and sometimes their donors.

      And they found themselves in the midst of a great debate, a debate that had been going on for decades, a debate that the Kennedy family had participated in and helped lead: a debate about whether a nation as wealthy as the United
      States of America would finally make healthcare not a privilege but a right for all Americans.

      And there was a reason why healthcare reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard. It involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering.

      And so by the time the vote came up to pass the Affordable Care Act, these
      freshmen congressmen and women knew that they had to make a choice. That
      they had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy, and even death, but that this same vote would likely cost them their new seats, perhaps end their political careers.

      And these men and women did the right thing. They did the hard thing. Theirs was a profile in courage. Because of that vote, 20 million people got health insurance who didn’t have it before.

      And most of them — and most of them did lose their seats, but they were true to what President Kennedy defined in his book as a congressional profile in courage: the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office, the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than a desire to maintain office, a conscience, personal standard of ethics, integrity, morality that is stronger than the pressures of public disapproval or party disapproval, a faith that the right course would ultimately be vindicated, a faith that overcame fear of public reprisal.

      It was a personal sacrifice. But I know, because I’ve spoken to many of them, that they thought and still think it was worth it.”

    • Dann Fox

      Friends, you are fighting on the same side. Yes, [CANDIDATE X] would be better than [CANDIDATE Y], but either will be much better than [DUH, IT’S GONNA BE ED GILLESPIE]. For the sake of our Commonwealth and our slice of the country, may the better man win. Now shake hands and let’s get to work.

  • JodyM

    I would add to this argument that (thankfully!) the base will come out in November and support whoever the democratic candidate is because both candidates are very strong in issues that many democrats care about. What we need though are the “disillusioned voters–young, minorities, and rural voters. Perriello is speaking to these voters in a way that no one has for years and in the Washington Post Poll leads Northam in all three of these categories:

    – Perriello leads (41%-21%) among voters age 18-39
    – Perriello leads (58%-20%) in SW Virginia
    – Perriello leads (35%-29%) among non-white voters


    • Exactly!!!

    • Dr. C W Blankenship

      I will say it again. I fully plan to support Perriello if he wins the primary but I will vote for Northam in the primary. I only hope you will also give unqualified support to the Democratic nominee regardless.

      • O P

        Why? It makes absolutely no sense to support a label over policy- Perriello’s policies are better, go further, and, unlike Northam, who has gotten complacent and doesn’t care about answering voters’ concerns, Perriello is working his behind off to make sure Virginia actually gets ahead. Not to mention do you really want a candidate that has been bought off? Notham will keep Virginia barely above water. Perriello will get us on the boat.

        • Agreed — Perriello’s proposed policies are simply better (e.g, would do more good for more Virginians) than Northam’s. This really isn’t that complicated.

          • Dr. C W Blankenship

            I do not agree.

        • Dr. C W Blankenship

          Do you really think attacking Northam will win people over to your side. I have been voting since 1968. I have never missed a vote even when I was serving in the army overseas or working overseas. I worked for three Democratic Governors and have worked in more campaigns than I want to admit to. I do not think Periello’s policies are better and your comment that Northam has been bought off is offensive and unsubstantiated. My whole family and all of my friends are voting for Northam. If Perriello does win the primary I will support him.

        • Bharat Krishnan

          I’d say not giving unqualified support to the Democratic nominee is really fucking dumb. Ed Gillespie or whatever yahoo on the other side will ruin our state like NC has been ruined.