Eleven months out from the Virginia gubernatorial election, Democratic lieutenant governor Ralph Northam leads the four Republican candidates for the race in a new poll released by Quinnipiac University:
- Northam 38
Ed Gillespie 34
- Northam 39
Rob Wittman 30
- Northam 39
Frank Wagner 30
- Northam 38
Corey Stewart 29
Gillespie – the former chairman of the Republican National Committee – leads the Republican field in large part from name recognition after his narrow loss to Mark Warner in the 2014 Virginia Senate race:
- Gillespie 24
- Wittman 10
- Wagner 4
- Stewart 4
The majority of Republican voters – 57 percent – are undecided. It should also be noted that Wittman dropped out of the race last week.
Virginia governors approve of the job Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing 52-30. McAuliffe can’t run for reelection because Virginia state law limits governors to one term. Broken down into political demographics:
- Democrats approve 75-8.
- Independents approve 52-32.
- Republicans disapprove 57-27.
Virginia is a rare bright spot in the south for Democrats, and one of their big success stories over the past decade in state and presidential election cycles. Democrats currently hold all five statewide elected offices – governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and both U.S. Senate seats – in what had previously been a Republican-leaning state.
Rob Wittman – a House Republican who represents the Hampton Roads area of Virginia in Congress – announced he would not be a candidate for the Republican nomination in the Virginia gubernatorial race next year. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch his reasons for staying in the House:
In an interview, Wittman said he decided to stay in Congress in part to ensure Virginia has representation on the House Armed Services Committee and its naval subcommittee, which oversees military programs of vital importance to the Hampton Roads region.
“I think the best place for me to serve right now is staying there in Congress,” Wittman said. “Especially now with an administration coming in that’s committed to rebuilding our military.”
Wittman had previously been considered a contender for Tim Kaine’s Senate seat in the event Kaine ascended to the vice presidency. With his exit from the race, the Republican field for 2017 as it stands now is former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, Donald Trump’s former Virginia campaign chairman Corey Stewart, and state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach). Wittman declined to endorse any of them, saying “I respect and admire all three .”
In a statement, Democratic Party of Virginia Communications Director Emily Bolton said, “The anti-establishment electorate that voted for Donald Trump in the primary sent Wittman running for the hills. In fact, this race is so toxic that he refuses to endorse any of the candidates. By the time the primary rolls around, the Republican nominee will emerge a damaged candidate with empty pockets.”