Home Ralph Northam Live Blog: First Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Debate of 2017 (4/29)

Live Blog: First Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Debate of 2017 (4/29)


I’m going to attempt to live blog the first Democratic gubernatorial debate of 2017, starting at 7 pm and supposedly being live streamed here. Meanwhile, check out the above photo, by Chris Ambrose, of “Excited supporters of Ralph Northam and Tom Periello outside the first gubernatorial debate.” Also see the image, below, by Catherine Read of the inside of the debate hall (at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax).

7:58 pm: Tom Perriello’s closing statement – this is an incredibly exciting moment after the “most overtly racist campaign of my lifetime,” the “toxic misogyny” of Trump, etc. But we got up off our couches, organized and resisted. Pushback on travel ban, repeal of the ACA, etc. Too many parents scared that they might be deported. Noncompliance with the Trump administration’s unconstitutional acts. Virginia is more diverse, inclusive than ever, but we have great economic challenges, with weak leaders like Trump and Gillespie, who won’t distance himself from the hate and bigotry of the Trump administration. We need to resist that hate, stand for a bold agenda, “make this a Commonwealth for all.” Northam says these elections have “tremendous, tremendous consequences.” We need to harness the energy we’re seeing and take back our majority in the House of Delegates. People looking for a leader who can win statewide, stand up to Ed Gillespie, continue to promote economic opportunity for all Virginians, fight for our children and families across Virginia. “When you look into the eyes of a baby, you don’t see the hate and the bigotry…” What world will those babies grow up in? That’s what this election is about – our future.

7:54 pm: Question on the environment. Northam says the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay helped motivate him to get into politics; has opposed offshore drilling, fracking, uranium mining, etc. On “the pipeline” (Lowell’s note: it’s two pipelines, not one), Northam says they have to be done with “transparency” and “science,” but this is an “interstate” project, so there’s only so much Virginia can do. Perriello says today was the climate march, he was down on the Mall, this is the existential crisis of our time. “We are going to need a massive stepup in our work at the state level” on enviro protection, given Trump’s assault on the environment. Says he’s opposed the two pipelines, should instead be investing that money in clean energy. Perriello asks Northam if he had conversations with Dominion before changing his position on the pipelines. “Leadership is about doing your homework.” Northam says he’s had a lot of discussions with a lot of different people, a “working relationship” with Dominion. Says we need jobs in Virginia. On renewable energy, says he wants 30% by 2030.

7:51 pm: Question on abortion. Perriello says he strongly supports Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to choose, meaningful and affordable access to that right, has proposed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose in Virginia. Says he supported Planned Parenthood funding. Must continue to fight for this here in Virginia, be a “brick wall” against legislation limiting a woman’s right to choose here in Virginia. Northam says he led the fight against bills like “personhood,” transvaginal ultrasound, TRAP legislation, etc. Says Republican legislation is aimed at “shaming a woman.” No excuse for male legislators to tell women what they can/can’t do with their own bodies. “These people are not going away…we need to have a Democrat in the governor’s office” to ensure these bills don’t become law.

7:47 pm: Question on death penalty, gun laws. Northam says he’s opposed to the death penalty, favors life in prison without the possibility of parole. Says he has a unique perspective on guns. “There is no reason [to] have assault weapons on our streets.” We have smart gun technology, “what are we waiting for?” Let’s have “responsible gun ownership” with things like “universal background checks,” “assault weapons ban.” Perriello says the next governor needs to continue vetoing any legislation that make gun laws even more permissive. Need to have universal background checks, use smart gun technology. Need to get responsible gun owners to distance themselves from the NRA. Honored to have been endorsed by Michael Bloomberg’s gun violence prevention group [UPDATE: I didn’t get this exactly right; Tom’s exact quote here was “I’m honored to have been endorsed by the head of Bloomberg’s ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’, who helped build the organization that passed – who believe that I can build the coalition needed to make our communities more safe.”] Northam says we need to reinstate one handgun per month.

7:44 pm: Question on transportation. Perriello says he was on the Transportation Committee, wanted a larger stimulus to invest in transit, rail, etc. Need to bring together a coalition across the state, that’s why he’s spending so much time in “red counties” in Virginia this election cycle. The people are “10 years ahead of the policy makers right now.” Northam says as a business owner in Hampton Roads, he knows how important transportation is. Points to transportation bill under Gov. McDonnell, including a regional “gas” tax. Problem is we’re losing revenue due to low price of gasoline. Need to fix that problem so that Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads get the revenue they need.

7:41 pm: Question on dedicated funding for Metro. Northam says he used to ride the Metro everywhere, is sorry about the problems there. Metro is “vitally important to the economy of Northern Virginia; we need to fix it.” Says Metro is making progress, that when issues are taken care of, Virginia will do its part. Perriello says Metro could head into spiral, that we need to look at both governance and revenue issues, look at this regionally and as a statewide challenge. Maybe pair with rural broadband investment in rural areas.

7:35 pm: Question on college education funding, costs. Perriello says we need to move to a P (universal pre-K) through 14 (at least two years of post-high-school education) approach. Says he has proposed all of this, explained how it will be paid for, that it “makes us money,” especially compared to “school to prison pipeline.” “This is the right way for us to grow the economy” and the middle class in Virginia. Northam talks about medical students in debt by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s not sustainable. Those of us who live in Virginia should have “first dibs” on getting into Virginia colleges and university, but Richmond underfunds higher education, which causes the problem. Perriello agrees; can’t lecture our universities when Virginia’s state government doesn’t invest in those universities. Northam says he’s rolled out the “G3” program, “we should all have some skin in the game” when it comes to paying for higher education. Perriello says he’s a “huge believer in public service.” However, Perriello says a job has to be $28,000 minimum to cover child care costs. Don’t need people to do community service if people can get a job.

7:31 pm: Question from John Cook (R) on adjusting the local composite index (LCI). Northam says this has been addressed numerous times in Richmond, but that it “opens up a can of worms” every time. Says it’s “sensitive,” “difficult discussion to have.” Really need to focus on K-12 education, attract/retain good teachers. All children should have access to pre-K education; that’s where the gap between the haves and have nots starts. Perriello says the LCI is a constant challenge. This is really something that should be driven by need, and there actually is a lot of need in Fairfax in terms of sheer numbers of people living in poverty. Funding formula should reflect that. Legislature needs to stop balancing the budget using gimmicks, on the backs of teachers, etc.

7:28 pm: Question about bringing the Redskins to Virginia and the name of the team. Perriello says he likes the team, not the name. Also that most stadium deals do NOT work out well for taxpayers, “the devil’s in the details.” Need to ensure smart growth, good jobs, quality of life. Northam says he wears “burgundy and gold” on Sunday afternoons, that it would be “great for Virginia” if the team comes to Virginia, but we don’t want to spend taxpayer money. On the name, “Redskins” is “offensive to people” and we “have to be very sensitive” about that; he would encourage them to change the name but it’s ultimately the team’s decision.

7:25 pm: Question on creating jobs. Northam say it’s impossible to support yourself and/or your family on $7.25/hour. He says that he’s worked with Gov. McAuliffe to diversify Virginia’s economy, emphasis on “STEAM” education, workforce development, affordable higher education. Perriello says he’s the first Democratic candidate in Virginia history to stand for $15/hour, free community college, etc. Slams “trickle down economics,” says Virginia GOP is crushing the middle class. We need to invest in education, fundamentally change the way we think about economics.

7:20 pm: Perriello question to Northam about what he’s learned most from his “great service as Lt. Governor.” Northam says Tom made a great point on “leverage.” Northam says it would be great if Dems could be “proactive” rather than “reactive,” maybe even win back the House of Delegates. “Sometimes if you can’t change minds, you have to change seats.”  Northam asks Perriello about not taking money from Dominion, notes that some of his money has come from the NRA. Perriello says he has been a supporter of the DISCLOSE Act. He says the stuff being said about Avaaz has been ridiculous, that he has not taken a penny of NRA money in this election and has called them a “nutjob extremist organization.” Perriello says we need much deeper, comprehensive campaign finance reform in this country, that our system is “absolutely broken.” Northam follows up on the NRA, wonders what changed about the NRA that made Perriello change his description of that organization. Perriello says he’s fought the NRA, didn’t take a big lobbying job after Congress, worked for the Center for American Progress and went hard after the NRA.

7:15 pm: Question about personalities, governing style that allows working across the aisle. Northam says it’s been a privilege to have worked in the State Senate (since 2008) and as LG. References the smoking ban, says he stuck to it, “educate folks,” get the “leadership to fall in line,” “reach across the aisle” and “the rest is history.” Perriello says he’s worked as a peace negotiator in Africa, and we could use a little of that in Richmond sometimes. Perriello says it’s a simple strategy — you listen, you assume you have something to learn, and then you look for leverage. Northam says Perriello has a “fine personality,” Perriello says he has no objections. Big laugh from the crowd.

7:12 pm: Question on campaign finance and ethics. Perriello says our campaign finance system is broken and corrupt. We have got to change to a publicly financed campaign finance system and have major ethics reform. Perriello notes he has refused to take money from Dominion Power. There has to be a clear difference between the parties – e.g., opposing the pipelines, refusing to take money from Dominion Power. Northam refers to the “small person,” the “small man” also having a voice. Touts his own leadership on ethics reform, calls for comprehensive finance reform program, nonpartisan redistricting.

7:08 pm: Question whether this is a change election. Northam says he knows how to win, even in a conservative district. Northam also says people want someone who will stand up to the “hatred” and “recklessness” in Washington right now, and has been a consistent champion for progressive values. And Northam says voters want someone with experience. In response to the “estabslishment” label, Northam says, “I am very proud to have a tremendous amount of grassroots support,” also that he’s proud to have the support of Senators Kaine, Warner, etc.  Perriello says Gov. McAuliffe has done a great job, but the minimum wage in Virginia is a “poverty wage.” Cites opioid epidemic and other problems, need for change and not sticking with the status quo. Perriello says we need a fighter who knows how to win the election AND brings the House of Delegates with us, so we can pass legislation that will help Virginia families.

7:06 pm: NBC4’s live stream finally seems to be working…why six minutes late and in the middle of Ralph Northam’s opening statement is beyond me. As for Northam’s opening statement seems fairly standard, including the “narcissistic maniac” line about Donald Trump. Big round of applause for Northam, seems like the crowd might favor him.


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