Setting up a nice counterpoint to the Republican Party’s strident assault on women’s issues and other social matters, Ralph S. Northam, one of two good options, was selected as lieutenant governor candidate for the Democratic Party in Tuesday’s primary. Winning the attorney general nomination was Mark R. Herring.
The two should be valuable counterpoints to E.W. Jackson, the Republican’s choice for lieutenant governor, and Mark Obenshain, the GOP attorney general candidate. Those two have been noted for over-the-top positions on birth control and abortion that have proved enormously divisive.
Northam, a Norfolk pediatric neurologist who defeated technology guru Aneesh Chopra, ran a freedom-of-choice campaign on women’s issues, pointing out that his profession has given him a special knowledge of the privacy that needs to cloak health issues. As a state senator, he fought last year to stop the Republicans’ pathetic bill requiring trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman could have a legal abortion.
Chopra would have made a decent candidate as well. The former top technology officer for Gov. Tim Kaine and President Obama, he symbolizes the importance of Virginia’s tech sector, where many of the state’s jobs have been created over the past two decades. He would have helped draw attention to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s quest to create jobs.
Voters, however, seemed to say that the Republican troika of hard-liners, led by gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, required a strong counterattack on social issues.
Jackson only fueled skepticism about his candidacy at a press conference Wednesday when he talked about his past, which includes a bankruptcy and a spotty career in the broadcast media. His statement that he smoked marijuana makes no difference (who hasn’t under the age of 70) but his continued statements that gays and lesbians are “sick” and his claims that Planned Parenthood led a eugenics movement against African-Americans are absurd.
It is rather sad for the state that such wedge issues dominate attention when there are so many other important problems to address. Another disturbing point was that yesterday’s turnout was only a poor 140,000 voters. Either voters don’t care or they are tired of Virginia’s off-year state electoral system.
The lax showing still showed more voter involvement than the convention the Republicans held last month in lieu of a statewide primary. Cuccinelli maneuvered to have the convention to ensure that he would beat out Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling as gubernatorial candidate. At the convention, the hard-right-leaning delegates went for candidates of the same stripe.