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Virginia Governor Race Heating Up, Expect Tight Dem Primary, Polls Show

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Article Written by Mackay Pierce

Many Roanoke College students may have expected a breather from elec- toral politics after the divisive presidential campaign of 2016. Those people may be out of luck, however, as every year is an election year in the Commonwealth, and currently Republican and Democratic candidates are competing for their party’s nomination to be Virginia’s next governor.

For Democrats, Lieutenant Gov- ernor Ralph Northram and former Con- gressman from Virginia’s fth district Tom Perriello are vying for the democratic nomination. Lieutenant Governor North- ram was long thought to be the party’s presumptive nominee before a late entry by Perriello this January.

The Republican side is slightly more crowded. While ve candidates ini- tially declared for the race, only three now remain. Republican strategist and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Ed Gillsepie is the current frontrunner of the group, followed by for- mer Trump campaign’s Virginia Chairman

Corey Stewart and Virginia Beach area State Senator Frank Wagner.

Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion research took some early polling on the race in mid-January. At that time, they showed Northram tied with Per- reillo, who had only just recently joined the race. Each candidate held roughly 12 percent support with 76 percent of likely voters undecided. The Republican side was a little more uneven, however, as Gillespie held 24 percent support of likely voters while each of his opponents re- mained in single digits with 62 percent of likely voters undecided. In projections on possible general election matchups, the Roanoke poll indicated that either North- ram or Perreillo would defeat each Re- publican candidate with varying degrees of support, though their projected wins over Republican frontrunner Ed Gillespie were within the margin of error.

Fast forward to March 28, last Tuesday, and a new poll released by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Chris- topher Newport University showed some movement in the race. The center con- ducted their own poll in late January that

indicated there was a wider gap between Lieutenant Governor Northram and for- mer Congressman Pereillo. Their new poll, however, shows that Pereillo and North- ram are now tied at 26 percent apiece with 45 percent of likely Democratic primary voters still undecided. This was a jump for Perreillo who gained eleven points since a previous poll conducted by the center in late January.

For Republicans, the Christopher Newport poll af rmed that Ed Gillespie still enjoys a sizeable lead over his prima- ry opponents. Gillespie holds the support of 38 percent of likely Republican prima- ry voters while Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner hold 11 and 10 percent support respectively.

These polls seem to portend that the matchup on the Republican side is set while the Democratic primary is shaping up for a tight horse race. Though nearly two months still remain before the prima- ry date, Perreillo seems to be continuing to pick up steam as he notched an en- dorsement from Senator Bernie Sanders earlier this week and they held a cam- paign event together on April 6.