Home 2019 Elections Choosing Tom …

Choosing Tom …


by Adam Siegel

Virginia Democrats face a real choice in the primary as to who will be the Democratic nominee for (and next) Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia: current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam or former Congressman Tom Perriello.  For those with an understanding of climate change’s challenges, risks, and opportunities, the choice is quite clear:

Tom Perriello for Governor.


While I expect to be helping get Tom Perriello elected as the next Governor of Virginia come November, I — and would hope this is true for all those concerned about climate change, clean energy, reality-based policy-making (as opposed to #AlternativeFacts’ dystopias) — will work just as passionately to get Ralph Northam elected if he is the nominee.

While there is a meaningful difference between Perriello and Northam, as discussed after the fold, both of them are the light of day across a swath of policy/moral/ethical arenas compared to the dark dystopia and hatred that dominate the potential GOP nominees.

Why care?

For too long, as a Virginian, the vast majority of my political focus has been — in essence — to the north east, to DC and national politics.  With the Commonwealth gerrymandered into GOP legislative domination (honestly, this should be a highly competitive legislature, with a rough balance between the parties in both chambers, if democracy truly ruled) and Virginia Democrats dominated by Third Way pre-compromising and the climate-denialist Dominion Power (here, here, …) representing the Commonwealth’s most powerful political force (through contributions and otherwise), with one having limited hours in a day and a life to lead, again, my attention has local (in my County/community) and north east to DC rather than south east to Richmond. 2017 demands that this change …

  • The Commonwealth’s elections will be critical sign posts in the Trump era — will Democracy flourish and rebuke the @RealDonaldTrump kleptocratic kakistocracy* and it’s GOP enablers or will our descent into dystopia accelerate.
  • For too long, Virginia has been behind the curve on creating a clean-energy future (for example, ranked 35th of states in energy efficiency and with mediocre solar/clean energy programs) despite its tremendous resources (human, business, fiscal, educational, natural). This can — and should — change.
  • A real choice exists in defining the Commonwealth’s future — a continued ‘muddling through’, on a range of issues, or seizing Virginians’ passion to help achieve real change across a spectrum of issues and arenas.

Why Tom?

Considering these points drives my decision to support Tom Perriello

  • Climate / clean energy leader:
    Tom Perriello against pipelines

    Tom is calling for Virginia to take a leading role in combining smart climate actions with economic development. He leaned forward in calling for opposition to unnecessary and damaging pipelines with highlighting that these aren’t just bad for the environment but will also be harmful economically. He isn’t new to this arena, having been truly “Energy Smart” in his founding of Avaaz, his Congressional campaign in 2008, and his term in office.  Perriello came close to keeping his seat, in a R-leaning district during the Tea Party mania, even as he was one of the very few Representatives to robustly defend his support for the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security Act.

  • Progressive: Tom has seized the mantle of a progressive vision and has made clear that Virginia’s governor’s mansion can stand as a real bulwark against Trump overreach for Virginians and the rest of the nation. And, he has a vision — a call — for a progressive populism to bring real results to Virginians from the DC suburbs to mountain ‘coal’ country.
  • Experienced around world across range of issues: from human rights in Sierre Leone to helping drive better approaches in the Department of State to his Congressional term to running a major PAC, Tom has a rich set of experiences that — uniformly — impress me and provide substance for a robust world view.
  • Thinker/motivator: Having had the chance to watch Tom and read some of his work over the years, his intellect and thoughtfulness has impressed me.

In addition, Tom is generating real enthusiasm — whether the huge numbers of page views on Facebook or the size of audiences or his impressive fundraising or his position in the polls — that bodes well for devastating his GOP (climate-zombie) opponent in November and having coat-tails to get other Democratic candidates elected.

Why not Ralph?

While my choice is primary ‘for Tom’, several things have driven me ‘away from’ Ralph Northam in the primary:

  • Late to the game supporting Democratic candidates as Northam:

Northam says he can’t remember whether he backed Democrats in any governor or Senate races. And rumors about his political leanings before his career persist: There’s a running joke in Richmond that the first Democrat he ever voted for was himself.”

  • Links to Dominion Virginia Power (“Dominion Power has donated nearly $100,000 to Northam’s campaigns over the years.”) suggest continued lip service to climate (virtual green washing) from the Governor’s mansion, as has occurred under Terry (here, here), rather than aggressive efforts to move Virginia to the front of the pack.
  • Energy level:  perhaps unfairly from and uniquely to me, but Northam fails to create enthusiasm — over the past decade, I cannot recall a single moment whether watching videos, reading emails or news reports, where I sat up straight expressing ‘yes’ with enthusiasm.
  • Style of reacting to Perriello’s challenge: Reading the barrage of emails and communications from Northam and a range of surrogates — all the messages about endorsements and attacks on Perriello (such as for not being active in the Commonwealth while he was serving the nation around the world) — created an uneasy feeling. (That uneasiness has simply strengthened with more than over-the-top (profanity-laden) surrogate attacks on Perriello.) In essence, it has felt like being told ‘Support Ralph because he is the anointed one and it is his turn … and, who the [blank] is that Tom guy to think he can challenge that anointment?’

As per the note above, when it comes to the general: on the off chance that Ralph Northam is the Democratic Party nominee, I will have no hesitation supporting him. Strengths include his military background, his strong support for women’s reproductive rights and more sensible health insurance programs for Virginians, his experience in and knowledge of Richmond, his robust relationships with Democratic politicians across the Commonwealth, … And, well, do take a look at his issues page. There is a lot of value there and much to hope becomes Commonwealth policy.

A thought past the primary … As an aside, in my decades as a voter in the Commonwealth, this is the first time that I can recall feeling like I face a primary with two good choices.  When either of them is sworn in as Virginia’s next Governor, the Commonwealth will be served by someone in the Governor’s mansion who believes in & is an example of ethical and competent public service.  A hope from this voter: that the two of them and their supporters find a way that they battle through the primary such that they can coalesce to fight together to keep the Governor’s mansion blue.  And, that there be an honest path for the primary loser to have a genuine offer for a meaningful path for service to the Commonwealth’s future within the next Governor’s administration.


Kakistocracy is, sadly, truly a key term for understanding the Trump regime: ‘government by the least qualified and/or most unprincipled in society.”  When it comes to Virginia this year, Northam and Perriello should figure out how to ‘fight’ through the primary to then work together through November to keep kakistocracy out of the Governor’s mansion.

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