KIMELMAN: Northam needs to prove he’s focused on the Commonwealth

Northam’s serial absence from campaign events and his aversion to meeting his opponent face to face are indicative of vacuous vision for Virginia


Ralph Northam (right), has only agreed to debate his opponent, Ed Gillespie (left), three times. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Ed Gillespie is facing off against the current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in this year’s race for Governor of Virginia. With two very different visions for the future of Virginia, one would think that both candidates would jump at the chance to explain their policy positions and engage in many debates all across the Commonwealth. While Gillespie has accepted invitations to 11 debates and 15 forums, Northam has only agreed to three debates, one of which has already taken place. Northam’s acceptance of only three debates is a slap in the face to 

Virginians, who deserve the chance to see the clear policy differences between the candidates. It’s no wonder he’s earned the nickname “No Show Northam.”

Northam’s strategy of dodging debates is indicative of a failing campaign that focuses on national issues and is unwilling to address the serious challenges facing the Commonwealth. Northam debated his primary opponent, Tom Perriello, five times, so why will he only agree to three debates against Gillespie? Presumably, he would have more policy differences with his general election opponent than against his primary challenger, so why not take more opportunities to highlight those differences?

It doesn’t stop there — the first debate was held on a Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a time in which practically no one is available to watch TV. If Northam were so confident, why not agree to hold the debate during prime time so the contrast between the two candidates could have been broadcast to as many people as possible?

Furthermore, Northam promoted an alternative event held by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., being held at the exact same time as the first debate. It’s baffling that Northam would actually direct people away from his first in person debate against his Republican opponent. On top of that, it’s puzzling why Kaine would host an alternate event during one of the few debates for Governor. It is clear that the Northam campaign and the Democratic Party will do anything to limit the amount of time that Ralph Northam has to stand on the same stage as Gillespie.

So, the question remains: why won’t Northam debate Gillespie?

The first explanation is possibly what we saw in the first debate, in which Gillespie dominated Northam on tax reform, energy policy, working with the federal government, and a host of other issues. Gillespie’s debate performance was so stellar that directly following the event, the Republican Governors Association invested an additional $2 million into the race, signaling their confidence in Gillespie. Northam’s inability and unwillingness to debate Gillespie is telling of his inability to put forth real policy proposals for Virginians to decide their vote on.

Since becoming his party’s nominee, Northam has run a campaign of smoke and mirrors, deflection and deceit. On Facebook, Twitter and through email, Northam has been incredibly negative, federally focused and light on state-wide policy. On one of the few occasions he wasn’t negative, he asked supporters “How ya doin?’” after the events of Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, before shamelessly asking for donations after they filled out the form (the morality of which is questionable, to say the least).

Northam has also gone out of his way to attack the president and Congressional leadership on many occasions, neither of whom are running for Governor of Virginia. He even attacked Gillespie for saying he wants to work with President Donald Trump in order to keep more military contracts in Virginia, rather than have them go to other states. Northam’s policies have become so backward and unrealistic that he seems to prefer fighting against Trump even if it means hurting Virginians. While this qualifies him to lead the #Resistance, it is not the leadership that Virginia needs or deserves.

Northam’s healthcare stunt, in which his Facebook page streamed video of his staffers reading the entire Senate repeal-and-replace plan of Obamacare to a cardboard cutout of Gillespie, is emblematic of his campaign thus far. The intention of this was to shift the focus of the campaign to Obamacare, even though the governor of Virginia has a grand total of zero votes in the U.S. Senate. Funny enough, Ralph Northam didn’t show up for his own political stunt! Besides being an overall terrible performance, it opened Northam up to one incredibly uncomfortable question: If he wanted to ask Gillespie about health care, couldn’t he do it at a debate?

To convince Virginians to vote for him, Northam has to cut the theatrics, show up for events and provide a positive, policy-related message that can convince people he has a vision for Virginia that’s better than what Gillespie has already laid out.

Adam Kimelman is a third-year College student and Chair of College Republicans.

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