DNC Chair Tom Perez and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner visit U.Va. ahead of Election Day

Gubernatorial campaign attracts major Democratic figures to encourage voter turnout

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Perez and Warner visited Grounds Sunday evening in an effort to encourage students to vote for Democrats.

Hannah Gavin | Cavalier Daily

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) encouraged University students to “Get Out the Vote” on the Lawn Sunday night. The event was hosted by NextGen Virginia, a group working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in Virginia. 

Other local Democratic politicians and candidates appeared for the rally, including Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, House of Delegates candidate Angela Lynn and David Toscano, the Democratic leader of the House of Delegates. Approximately 50 students attended — some of them heading out to canvass following the event.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only states that will be holding gubernatorial elections Tuesday. Virginians will also be voting on candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general. 

Perez, who also served as Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration, said University students should make their voices heard by voting for Democrats Tuesday.

“The millennial generation is going to be leading our world soon enough, and one of the best ways to lead is to get out and vote,” Perez said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, Mark Herring — make sure you vote for them because you have an opportunity to send a message not only to the residents of the Commonwealth but actually to the whole nation that we’re an America that values people who unite like Ralph Northam — not people who divide like Ed Gillespie and Donald Trump.”

Warner, who also served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006, said the gubernatorial election was important as a way of responding to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“In many ways, this election on Tuesday, while critically important … for Virginia’s future, is also going to send a message that’s going to be heard all across this nation,” Warner said. “This is the first time since the presidential election of 2016 that we as Virginians and Americans can send the message that we reject the type of divisive leadership that President Trump is presenting.”

Other prominent Democrats have appeared in Charlottesville to help rally voter turnout, including a visit from U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam’s Charlottesville campaign office last Sunday. 

Ken Stroupe, chief of staff at the University’s Center for Politics, said he believes campaigns are bringing in popular Democratic figures in attempts to increase voter turnout Tuesday, which he believes will determine the election outcome.

“A lot of recent polls have shown a tightening of the race for governor,” Stroupe said. “So, I think this is an effort by the campaigns to turn out their base and to encourage people to get out on Election Day. The election will be won or lost based on which candidate is most effective in getting their voters to the poll on Election Day.”

Sophie Punke, a third-year College student and a deputy campus organizer with NextGen, said she thinks visits from prominent politicians help motivate students who do not realize how soon this important election is taking place.

“I think that politicians, particularly significant ones like Mark Warner, remind students that this election is happening, it’s happening soon, and it’s going to have an impact that directly impacts U.Va. and the U.Va. community,” Punke said. “So, I hope that it instills a sense of urgency in U.Va. students and encourages them to get out to vote in what is, in my opinion, the most important election of 2017.”

Elizabeth Parker, University Democrats campaign chair and a fourth-year College student, also hopes the presence of these national figures will energize University students to vote Tuesday and encourage their peers to do the same.

“I’m really excited to see major national figures coming to Charlottesville to help us get out the vote for statewide candidates,” Parker said. “As you know, having an election in Virginia, especially a gubernatorial election, is really important for U.Va. students, specifically because the governor picks the Board of Visitors here at U.Va. I’m happy they’re here and want to channel that energy for the next two days.”

In a recent poll by The Cavalier Daily, 53 percent of respondents indicated support for Northam, compared to 19 percent for Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and four percent for Libertarian Cliff Hyra. Nineteen percent of students said they were unsure of which candidate they would support in the election. 

Statewide polling results released in recent days have shown a close race between Northam and Gillespie. RealClearPolitics calculates an average lead by Northam of two points. 

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