by Taikein Cooper, Prince Edward County Democratic Committee Chair
In early January, I received an alert from the Richmond Times Dispatch that the following day, Tom Perriello would announce his entrance to the race for Governor of Virginia. I was excited that my former Congressman would be running for Governor, but torn for several reasons: the timing, and also that I had endorsed Ralph Northam last fall, when it appeared that he was the only candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. I shared these concerns with my inner circle, and told them that Tom would have to earn my endorsement. Over the past four months, Tom has done that — and this is how.
VISION: We need a governor who has a vision for Virginia, beyond fundraising and opposing President Trump. I receive daily emails in response to words and actions from either Trump or Congressional Republicans. As a millennial, I have minimal interest in daily donation requests. I want to learn about what you would do as Governor. Last week, the American Health Care Act narrowly passed the House. I thought to myself, “This could be Ralph Northam’s moment. As a doctor, Northam should present a state version of the Affordable Care Act to insure all Virginians, much like Romney did in Massachusetts.” Unfortunately, I received a stale email asking for $5 to oppose Trump – a request that led me on a short Twitter tirade. Conversely, Perriello’s email inspired me to do more. He did not ask for money, but the email made me want to contribute financially to his campaign because it showed resolve and the tenacity needed to stimulate progress for all Virginians. Aside from the previous example, Northam has consistently missed opportunities to show us his vision to carry Virginia forward. Their campaigns have shown me that Northam is satisfied with merely pointing at the proverbial burning building; meanwhile, Perriello is trying to put the fire out.
HISTORY: There has been healthy discussion about Tom Perriello’s history in Congress. He was my former Congressman and, truthfully, I am not a fan of a few of his votes. However, two things need to be said: 1) Some are characterizing Tom Perriello as “a fly-by-night Progressive,” which is simply not true. He has taken the time to listen to issues from organizers throughout Virginia, learned from his past experiences, and developed into an amazing candidate for Governor of Virginia. It is unfair that some are critiquing votes made almost a decade ago without putting things into context. Most Americans were not “progressive” in 2009. If we, as individuals and as a nation, can evolve, so can Perriello. 2) Comparatively, I prefer Perriello’s history far more than I do Northam’s. I was offended when Northam admitted to voting for George W. Bush, twice! If Northam had the audacity to vote for one of the worst Presidents in American history twice, then who else has he supported? As a State Senator, Northam had several questionable votes regarding gun safety. He opposed fingerprint background checks, supported The Castle Doctrine and opposed gun buyback programs. To make matters worse, when asked about these votes he says that he does not “recall,” which is the political way of saying, “You got me, but I do not want to be accused of lying.” Perriello has taken responsibility for past decisions, and has been transparent about his shortcomings. Even more troubling, Republicans approached Northam numerous times about switching parties. Why? I assure you of this: Republicans were adamant about getting rid of Perriello as soon as they could. They had no interest in courting him to their side because they knew that it would never happen.
My decision to endorse Perriello comes after a great deal of observation and conversation. I like and respect Northam considerably, but his background and skillset are not optimal at this time. I will be happy to support whomever is the Democratic nominee for Governor, but I truly hope it is Tom Perriello.