On Tuesday, he barely defeated Corey Stewart, a former Trump state campaign chairman who made preserving Virginia's Confederate history a top campaign issue.
Ed Gillespie won the Republican nomination for Governor in a Tuesday primary, but his margin over 2nd-place finisher Corey Stewart was slightly more than 4300 votes.
In last year's Presidential election, the bombastic Trump easily won in Floyd County and most of Southwestern Virginia but lost overall in the state because of Northern Virginia and Tidewater voters who now control the overall election results for the Commonwealth.
Virginia's establishment-favored lieutenant governor - won the state's Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating a Bernie Sanders-backed former congressman and dealing a blow to the party's rising progressive wing. Felty, a 48-year-old surgical assistant, said a GOP victory in Virginia would wrestle back the "narrative being touted in the mainstream media that the Democrats are gaining traction" under Trump.
In Floyd County, however, the results were a different picture with Perriello taking 73.91 percent of the local vote and Northam only getting 26.09. Looking at county-level maps of the two races, Perriello's campaign manager, Brennan Gilmore, noted that his candidate-whose old congressional district included a rural area around Charlottesville-won numerous same interior counties as Stewart.
"There is one word you will never hear from me, and that's unity", Stewart said in his campaign.
He'll go on to face Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the General Election in November.
Running on his decade of experience at the statehouse and ability to push pragmatic progressive change in what will likely remain a GOP-controlled General Assembly, Northam's strength with traditionally active Democratic constituencies carried him through and avoided a potentially embarrassing repudiation of Democratic leaders by the party's base. Perriello in turn had a campaign ad in which he promised to "stop Donald Trump" while an ambulance, symbolizing Obamacare, was crushed behind him.
Gillespie's strength in Fairfax County seemed to be providing the edge as final returns came trickling in. The Northam-Perriello race drew the most press interest because it was seen as a proxy for ideological battles in the Democratic party.
Thank you Virginia! We're the match that will spark a progressive wildfire that spreads across the country. Northam released a commercial in which he called Trump a "narcissistic maniac". Stewart, known better around the state for his love of Confederate memorials than his county-government work, was supposed to fizzle against Gillespie, an establishment pick who almost picked off Mark Warner's US Senate seat in 2014.
Even though he held on to a lead that dwindled in the closing days, Mr. Gillespie enters the general election wounded, having failed to crack 50 percent in a race he was expected to dominate.
Susan Platt, a former chief of staff for former Vice President Joe Biden, came in 39 percent of the vote, and longtime Justice Department prosecutor Gene Rossi trailed the field with under 12 percent.
But it's unclear how much Stewart supporters will rally behind Gillespie. He's accused Gillespie of trying to mislead voters with unrealistic promises to cut taxes as governor, while calling for a gas tax increase himself to pay for transportation projects. That's the type of enthusiasm Democrats have been banking on to build a midterm election backlash to Trump, and the 2017 Virginia race will be a critical test of whether or not they can do that.
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