Virginia rejects ‘Trumpism’ as Democrats secure major wins - Saudi Gazette

Virginia rejects ‘Trumpism’ as Democrats secure major wins

New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, second right, celebrates at an election-night rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Tuesday. — AFP

RICHMOND, Virginia — Seizing his party’s first major Trump-era victory, Democrat Ralph Northam beat back a charge from Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor, a bruising election that tested the power of President Donald Trump’s fiery nationalism against the energy of the Trump resistance.

In Virginia, like in several contests across America on Tuesday, the Trump resistance won. And it wasn’t close.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist and Army veteran, led longtime Republican operative Gillespie by several points as the final votes ticked in. Democrats also scored victories in the race for New Jersey governor and in Maine, where voters slapped the state’s Republican governor, a Trump ally, by backing a measure to expand Medicaid coverage under former President Barack Obama’s health care law. The Democratic mayors of New York and Boston, both vocal Trump critics, also won re-election easily. And Virginia voters elected the state’s first openly-transgender state representative, among more than a dozen state legislative pickups for Democrats.

The resounding victories marked the GOP’s most significant day of defeat in the young Trump presidency and a rebuke to the president himself as his party eyes a suddenly more threatening midterm election season next year.

“The Democratic Party is back, my friends,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

As Democrats celebrated, Republicans pointed fingers.

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night as he toured Asia, noting that the GOP won a handful of special elections earlier in the year. “With the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”

Despite the criticism, Gillespie did, in more ways than one, embrace what Trump stands for, even if he didn’t welcome Trump into the state to rally voters on his behalf.

The Republican president played a marginal role in Virginia, largely because Republicans on the ground did not want him there, a state he lost last fall, as his approval ratings hover near record lows. The White House instead dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to help Gillespie, although Trump promised Gillespie would “make America great again” in a recorded phone message that went to voters on the election’s final day.

Gillespie, a former aide to President George W. Bush and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, largely reinvented himself as Election Day neared by adopting many of Trump’s racially-tinged nationalist positions. Gillespie warned of the dangers of the Hispanic street gang, MS-13, and highlighted its motto, “Kill, Rape, Control” in a television ad. The New Jersey native vowed to protect Confederate monuments. And he condemned the national anthem protests by NFL players, the vast majority of them black.

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who served under the term-limited, deeply unpopular GOP Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, among several Democrats weighing a presidential bid in 2020, cast his party’s gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia as “the very first statewide rebuttal of the Trump administration.”

“We will not succumb to the politics of fear,” Booker declared.

The day also exposed deepening regional divisions between America’s two major political parties. — AP