By Julio Lainez, America’s Voice Virginia State Director
This year, Virginia is ground zero for electoral politics and immigration issues are playing a key role in the state’s contests.
Tonight we will hear from the two candidates vying to replace Gov. Terry McAuliffe as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two candidates with two completely different views on issues that affect Virginia’s immigrant and refugee communities on a daily basis. The 13 thousand DACA recipient in Virginia who have been adversely affected by the Trump administration’s decision to end the program will especially be paying close attention to what the candidates will have to say.
It seems like Ed Gillespie has unfortunately moved to the extreme right in order to placate to the most extreme views of the Republican party. He has gambled on division and hate to win him some votes. “Ed Gillespie’s desperate rightward shift on immigration — no doubt to placate to the Corey Stewart wing of the GOP — has destroyed any semblance of credibility he had left on the issue,” added Frank Sharry, AV’s Executive Director.
Gillespie beat out Corey Stewart for the Republican nomination in a nail-biter. Stewart, a Minnesota-born conservative, used the Trumpian “Take Back Virginia” as a campaign slogan, and railed against “illegal immigration,” “transgender bathrooms,” while holding rallies at Confederate sites.
For Democrats, the Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello primary brought more than 540,000 voters to the polls, dwarfing GOP totals, signalling enthusiasm for the party. However, recent polling suggests that while enthusiasm was high during the primaries, the race as it stands now is neck-and-neck. A poll of likely voters from Suffolk University finds the race deadlocked at 42 percent, and 12 percent of likely voters are still undecided. A poll from the University of Mary Washington released on Monday had Northam with a 5-point lead (44 to 39), but that fell within the poll’s margin of error of 5.2 percent.
As with other elections, turnout and voter enthusiasm will be key for the governor’s race, as well as races down the ballot. Voters will also be electing a new Lieutenant Governor in a campaign between Democrat Justin Fairfax and Republican Jill Voge. Mark Herring, who has been a champion for civil rights, is running for reelection as Attorney General against John Adams.
In addition, all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are also on the ballot. Currently, Republicans control that body by a margin of 66 to 34. With a slate of very competitive Democratic candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates — including many who are immigrants and refugees themselves like Elizabeth Guzman in District 31 and Kathy Tran in District 42– this year’s elections will be pivotal for immigrant and refugee communities across the commonwealth. “Virginians, like me, are ready and willing to support candidates who lead who offer concrete and constructive reforms on the toughest issues facing our state and our nation,” added Frank Sharry. “But we are not interested in politicians who put their finger to the wind and make vague statements that end up putting at risk tens of thousands of Virginian families.”
Follow the Virginia debate tonight at 7 p.m. on your local NBC station in Virginia and Washington, DC, or on NBCWashington.com online. Follow Julio Lainez (@JulioCLainez), America’s Voice Virginia State Director, and America’s Voice (@AmericasVoice) on Twitter as we livetweet the debate.