Home 2017 Races Ralph Northam’s Disinformation Campaign Against Tom Perriello

Ralph Northam’s Disinformation Campaign Against Tom Perriello


by MHig

I’m a progressive Virginian who has voted for Democrats for over two decades. Like many who’ve also voted for Democrats all those years, I was brutally awakened by Trump’s election and have spent a good amount of my time since participating in the various resistance movements (e.g. Women’s March, Dulles airport protests, Muslim ban protests, ACA repeal opposition efforts, etc.). Uncharacteristically for me, I’ve also been highly engaged in the VA Democratic gubernatorial primary process (e.g. attending town halls and candidate debate forums online and in-person, contributing to social media dialogue, etc.) and have been further awakened by what I’ve observed as well as the sheer magnitude of the stakes.

These days, you can frequently find me at any number of the seemingly endless schedule of Tom Perriello town halls where you can count me among the many “new people I’ve never seen before” popping up at Perriello events, noted by statewide political blogger, Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) during his recent interview on the John Fredericks show. From Day 1, I was impressed not only with Tom Perriello’s vision of Virginia as a “firewall against Trump”, but also his acknowledgement that though resistance to the Trump agenda is imperative, “it is not enough to assume people will simply vote for a ‘D’ after our names. We have to go out there and offer a positive vision to earn their votes.” He’s earned mine with just that.

At the same time, I entered this primary process with a generally positive impression of Ralph Northam and was content to vote for him versus Ed Gillespie (assuming he’s the Republican nominee), despite my strong disagreement with Northam on the pipelines and his personal investment in/campaign contributions from Dominion.

That said, I’ve since become deeply troubled by seemingly obsessive efforts by the Northam campaign and its supporters to define Tom Perriello in present form by the few and openly acknowledged mistakes from his past, while whitewashing Northam’s own mistakes and evolution on issues and prior votes. It’s becoming a consistent pattern that, in my opinion, ultimately devolves to the fact that they both have evolved to get where they are today and the few real, current differences between them do not favor Northam (e.g. refuses to oppose the proposed fracked gas pipelines, only Democratic candidate for governor or lieutenant governor who has accepted Dominion contributions to his/her current campaign, voted twice for the George W. Bush administration in which the likely Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, served).

At the two debates/candidate forums I’ve attended in person, I have now seen Ralph Northam respond that he couldn’t remember his post-Virginia Tech, NRA-supported vote in the Virginia Senate to bar VA municipalities from fingerprinting concealed carry handgun applicants when asked to explain it by the Executive Director of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation. On a recent Kojo Nmamdi show broadcast, Northam falsely claimed, “I’m the only one who does not have an A rating from the NRA” in reference to all other gubernatorial candidates in the race. Northam made that claim despite knowing full well that Perriello is graded “F” by the NRA, as evidenced by his revised talking points before the Kojo interview that reflected that fact. At their first debate on April 29th, Ralph Northam accused Perriello’s campaign of being funded by the NRA. Also false.

On Dominion’s proposed fracked gas pipelines, Northam has repeatedly dodged direct questions on his position (despite Governor McAuliffe’s radio interview response that Northam told him he supports them), and he’s given unconvincing justification for his personal investments in and campaign contributions from Dominion. More importantly, Perriello’s opposition to the pipelines and refusal to accept campaign contributions from Dominion offers greater appeal to the 66% of Virginians who now believe it is inappropriate for candidates for governor to accept campaign contributions from Dominion as well as broad, counterintuitive coalitions of Democrats, independents and conservatives who will be critical to ensuring a general election victory.

The appeal is not just environmental. Perriello’s position better serves the economic (far less expensive investment required to expand and accelerate job/small business growth in the booming clean/renewable energy, weatherization and energy efficiency sectors than investing billions in new fossil fuel infrastructure), private land, campaign finance reform and moral interests of Virginians. Anyone who thinks free-market conservatives are incapable of grasping the positive implications of Perriello’s distributed energy sourcing vision is kidding themselves. As Perriello wisely notes, “Virginia voters care less about whether or not you’re left or right. They care more about whether or not you’re helping them move up or down.” And despite claims to the contrary, Perriello regularly commends Dominion’s good acts on the campaign trail. I’ve heard him cite Dominion’s excellent veteran job placement performance specifically, and I join him in commending them for it.

I don’t fault either candidate in perpetuity for their mistakes of the past, not even Northam’s two votes for George W. Bush (albeit an inescapable, if unfortunate, current handicap if he were to face Gillespie). Nor do I fault Northam’s previous, politically expedient claim that health care should be a privilege, not a right after Tom Perriello sacrificed his seat in Congress to defend the opposite perspective. They’re both human. But, I do fault Northam for his mistakes of the present, his tendency to avoid honoring uncomfortable questions with straightforward answers, and both the Northam campaign’s and its surrogates’ tactics to portray Perriello as anti-women and less committed to common sense gun safety measures when he is and stands strongly for the exact opposite of both characterizations.

I still believe Ralph Northam and the many good people who support him stand for so much better than this troublesome trend suggests. I’m still inclined to vote for Northam in the general if he wins the nomination, though I could not be more convinced that Perriello is the stronger general election candidate who’s done far more to earn the privilege of representing the Democratic Party as their nominee. At the same time, I commend other contributors to Blue Virginia who’ve preceded me in the unenviable task of calling out both the Northam campaign and its surrogates (including the disappointing complicity of some NARAL representatives) for contributing to the Perriello disinformation campaign. To this voter, it’s done more harm than good.

While neither Tom Perriello nor Ralph Northam boast perfect records (they’re both human), both offer Virginians rock solid platforms on women’s issues and gun safety (with evidence to support), despite any attempts by the Northam camp to suggest otherwise. At the end of the day, one of the most striking differences I’ve observed between the two candidates is that Perriello openly owns and discusses his few regrets and mistakes, while Northam either can’t remember his or suggests they don’t exist with “never wavered” language that his record simply does not reflect. Northam would be wise to address challenges to his own record with Perriello’s openness and authenticity. Likewise, he and his supporters would do well to focus less of their energy on discrediting Perriello’s broadly appealing forward vision and platform through disinformation, and more of their efforts on proffering their own.

  • A_Siegel

    Eloquent discussion, with much overlap with my thinking. As I wrote in ‘Choosing Tom’, http://getenergysmartnow.com/2017/04/14/choosing-tom/

    As part of “Why not Northam?” one of the times “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?’”

  • Video: Tom Perriello Town Hall in Arlington


  • Trip Ericson

    I grew up in the 5th district and then went to UVA, also in the 5th district, and had the privilege of voting for Tom Perriello twice already. As much as I agree with his positions and everything that was said here about him, what I love most about him is how much of a statesman he is. When other Democratic politicians were hiding over the Affordable Care Act, I attended one of many town halls he held in unfriendly territory over the issue.

    I’ll never forget a conversation I had in 2011. I went to what was supposed to be a fun non-political event, and it wound up that everyone besides myself was in the local tea party and knew each other, so there was a ton of political conversation that I wisely stayed out of. At the end, the host of the event walked me to my car and he said he got the impression that I wasn’t a tea partier. I said no, and he apologized, but I took the opportunity to ask what he thought about Tom Perriello. He said that as much as he disagreed with Tom Perriello, he loved the fact that Tom would listen. His group could call Tom Perriello’s office and either get an answer from the person on the phone, or they could schedule a meeting with him, and he would have a conversation with them, and they could make their points and he could make his and it was all very positive. By contrast, he said, the Republican that replaced him (Robert Hurt) wouldn’t even answer their calls. I could tell how torn he was by the situation, but it wasn’t as surprising as you might suspect when in a 60-40 Republican district in a wave election, Tom only lost 50-47. Clearly, this guy was not alone in his opinion of Tom Perriello.

    After much deliberation, I’ve decided to vote for Tom in the primary. I’m hopeful that he can make the same sort of connections with people statewide that he made in the 5th district.

    • Lawrence Gaughan

      I may not be well known or well regarded. I even have ONE piece of bad press that my fellow progressives like to attack me with. But I am a sensitive, intuitive human being, I am an anti-establishment progressive. I am an intelligent person. I was born and raised in Charlottesville, where I live and work and even ran for the 5th District seat and received the most votes for the least amount of money spent in the history of that district. I too voted for Perriello twice in 2008 and 2010. But I am not voting for him ever again. My reason is that I see him as an opportunist, not someone who has the empathy and the ability to genuinely care. I wish I did not feel this way about him, and I wish I could get beyond my personal views and vote for him. I have asked people to give me one single reason to vote for him again, but nobody has offered one. I will gladly vote for Ralph in the primary, but man, I wish I had a different impression of Perriello.

  • Video: Tom Perriello town hall in Hernon, VA


  • Nice endorsement from Tom Perriello’s former colleague in the House of Representatives Rosa DeLauro…

    Today I am endorsing my friend Tom Perriello for Governor of Virginia.

    Not many people know that Tom was once my constituent, for years, while he studied in New Haven. Of course he was later my colleague, when he was elected to Congress by a razor-thin margin in 2008 representing a red district in Virginia. But whether as a citizen or Congressman, Tom Perriello has always been a progressive champion.

    In Congress, Tom was a bold voice against corporate greed. He spoke passionately against executives from insurance and drug companies and helped limit reckless Wall Street speculation. I admired his bravery, especially when he voted to pass the Affordable Care Act, support climate change legislation, and prevent a depression through the Recovery Act.

    He always stuck to his values, even if they cost him his seat. Tom wasn’t motivated by power or influence; he was motivated by helping struggling families in his district. It’s a conviction too often lost in politics.

    We need his voice and his conviction leading progressives in the fight against Trump. Will you commit to do everything you can between now and Election Day to ensure he’s Virginia’s next Governor?

    Some of his values stem from Tom’s Catholic upbringing. Tom and I are both people of faith: the church taught us to respect hard work, our community, our families, and our responsibilities to one another. Tom knows that religion works best when it brings people together. He understands that public service at its core is about caring for each other and the neediest among us.

    Those convictions made Tom a key figure in the progressive faith community, where he spent years organizing the fight against the religious right and Republicans’ self-fashioned monopoly on religion. He has challenged the church’s moral priorities, helping to shift the national conversation away from what happens in the bedroom toward issues of social justice.

    Like many people of faith, throughout his career Tom has wrestled with these difficult questions of right and wrong. It is now well-known that, during the health care fight, Tom sought to balance his constituents’ views with his own, leading to his support for the Stupak amendment. But I was there, and I know that in our negotiations of the Affordable Care Act, Tom never wavered in his commitment to passing this bill. In fact, he did all he could to soften the compromise to make it less restrictive on women. Ultimately, he and I were unsuccessful in this attempt, but when Republicans tried to reattach this amendment to ACA before final passage, Tom helped defeat the effort. And through it all Tom fought to make sure pre- and post-natal care were included in the bill. He supported its provision for no-cost contraception coverage. He helped us make sure being a woman would no longer be a pre-existing condition.

    Unequivocally, Tom’s leadership — publicly in holding dozens of town halls in his district explaining the bill, and in defending it in his reelection campaign, and privately in helping us negotiate choppy waters of a broad and diverse Democratic caucus — helped make the Affordable Care Act a reality.

    After he lost his seat, Tom didn’t give up the fight; he went on to lead progressive causes at the Center for American Progress, from fighting for commonsense gun reforms to opposing top-down tax cuts and budget policies that left working families behind to taking on the War on Women. I have always known Tom as a capable, smart, and bold leader. And in these troubling times, I know he would make an excellent governor.

  • Donelle Nunes Sawyer

    I’m afraid you err! Tom Periello even boasted about his grade A rating from the NRA in 2010. https://votesmart.org/interest-group/219/rating/5587#.WTXZ1VKZPXF