That’s Not How This is Supposed to Work, Virginia

Most of the country is getting a break from elections this year. (Except for places where 2018 races are already ridiculous.) Unfortunately for voters in Virginia, though, they’ve found themselves subject to a mean, nasty, and crazy Governor’s race.

Virginia limits its Governor to one term, so every four years voters see a bare-knuckled brawl between two new names. Add this year’s political climate, and the rise of Trumpism and Anti-Trumpism and you’ve got yourself a big ball of nasty.

Both candidates are incredibly qualified for the job. The Democrat, Ralph Northam, was an Army Major who treated medical evacuation injuries during Desert Storm and later focused on pediatric neurology. He was a State Senator and is currently Lieutenant Governor. Ed Gillespie, the Republican, served as a top advisor to President George W. Bush, Gov. John Kasich, and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, as well as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. You can’t question their qualifications.

Instead of a high-minded campaign of issues like jobs, taxes, higher education and battling opioids the campaign has devolved into a tribal, mean-spirited, low brow campaign that has even led to Gillespie, once considered a relatively pragmatic conservative, to air a TV ad promising to keep Confederate statues up. Northam has claimed Gillespie has done everything that President Trump does short of sharing underpants. These are the same divisive tactics that got us into this mess.

You’re going to hear a lot of pundits predict the Virginia race is a preview of what to expect in 2018. We have to expect better from our candidates. We have to hold horrible discourse and divisive tactics accountable. We have to nominate better candidates from both parties that are less extreme and more pragmatic.

Because Virginia is screwing it up for the rest of us.


Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at

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