Gillespie, Northam Meet For Final Debate

Oct 10, 2017

Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, left, shakes hands with Republican challenger Ed Gillespie after a debate at the University of Virginia-Wise in Wise, Va., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia’s two major party candidates are closing in on the final days of a heated campaign. They made some of their closing comments in rural Virginia. 

The third and final debate between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie took place in Wise County, where the candidates were asked about what can be done to keep millennials in rural Virginia. Gillespie took the opportunity to return to a theme of his campaign, attacking Northam for a lack of attendance. In this case, it was Northam’s role as a board member for the Center for Rural Virginia. “Sadly, he did not attend a single one of those meetings during his time as lieutenant governor, did not show up. I will make it a priority,” Gillespie said

Northam shot back that he served as an Army doctor during Desert Storm, and then as a state senator. As lieutenant governor, he said, he did not miss one minute of presiding over the state Senate. “I guess while I’ve been showing up and serving the commonwealth in Virginia, you’ve been a K Street lobbyist in Washington," Northam responded. "So the only time you have showed up is when you got paid.”

When given an opportunity to ask each other questions, Gillespie asked Northam about sanctuary cities. The lieutenant governor responded that sanctuary cities don't exist in Virginia so it’s not really a problem. Northam asked Gillespie about bump stocks, those modifications that can transform firearms into automatic weapons. Gillespie said he would support a ban.

The debate illustrated  the narrative each is trying to cast about their opponent. Democrat Ralph Northam says Republican Ed Gillespie part of the Washington swamp, a wealthy man hoping to help his wealthy buddies by giving them lower taxes.  “My opponent, Ed Gillespie, is a DC lobbyist," Northam said at the debate. "He believes in giving tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the working class, which will put a $1.4 billion hole in our budget.”

Gillespie is trying to frame Northam as a tax-and-spend liberal, someone who will hold Virginia back instead of unleashing economic growth.  “The lieutenant governor, I appreciate his service to our country and the commonwealth, but his policies will take us in the wrong direction. Higher taxes and higher electric bills and fewer jobs is not where we need to go in Virginia,” Gillespie told the audience.

Polls have consistently shown Northam ahead, although some of those leads are within the margin of error. Gillespie has not been ahead in any of the polls for months but voters will have the final say when they cast a ballot on November 7th.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.