Tomorrow, June 13, is Virginia's primary election. While Diversity Matters does not provide candidate endorsements, we do track candidate statements and records, and will be sharing our assessments with you. Today we focus on the primary candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.
While we are non-partisan, there is a stark divide between the statements and actions of the Democratic and Republican candidates with respect to some very important recent events, including the neo-Nazi actions to protect Confederate statues in Charlottesville, and the anti-Muslim demonstrations (and counter-demonstrations) this past weekend. Basically, Dems have staked out all the high ground on these issues. Every one of the Democratic candidates has a stated policy position on civil rights; none of the Republicans do. Republican candidates, sadly, are either openly embracing white nationalism, or trying hard not to get in the way of rising intolerance, at least for the primaries. Perhaps the winners will espouse more tolerant views going into next year's general election, but let's not forget their silence around these recent events.
We're tracking statements by all the candidates on what they will do (or have done) to promote diversity and inclusion among their own staff and business partners, what they think the state government can do, and how they are responding to recent acts of hate speech in the state.
Overall the Democratic candidates have stepped up to own the space when it comes to inclusion. We reached out to both the gubernatorial candidates via social media, and Tom Periello replied to us. Here is what he said:
"Virginia is proud of its diversity and I will fight to keep Virginia inclusive and undivided." His "Inclusive Virginia" coalition engages more than 30 immigrant minority community organizations. He hasn't been shy about taking a stand for immigrants and communities of color; his platform proudly notes that he joined protesters at Dulles airport when the original travel ban was issued in January 2017, and states he "will ensure Virginia is a firewall against Donald Trump’s hateful and bigoted agenda by championing anti-discrimination protections and commonsense policies, and taking any and every legal means to combat orders like the travel ban."
Although we heard nothing from Ralph Northram, his official platform contains a number of statements on specific policies he would support that would promote inclusion, including ending discrimination in criminal sentencing and in housing. He opposes the travel ban. He was cautious in his reaction to the Charlottesville protests, saying that local communities needed to make their own decisions about Confederate symbols.
As for the Lieutenant Governor candidates, Gene Rossi replied to us and was willing to get specific about our call to ensure that Virginia state government ensures diversity among its own staff and business partners. He stated that he would insist on anti-discrimination practices in hiring and said he would "encourage and persuade companies that diversity is simply good business!" We also note that of the Lt. Gov. candidates, Rossi's feed was the only one that mentioned his participation in LGBTI rights events this past weekend.
We didn't hear from Justin Fairfax or Susan Platt. Both candidates made strong statements about taking down the Confederate monuments and symbols. Fairfax' statement was more detailed and personal, with specific commitments to the African American community: "At the same time that we rightfully remove from our public square the indefensible and psychologically harmful physical monuments celebrating slavery, the Confederacy, and Jim Crow, we also must do the urgent, difficult, and serious policy work of removing the present-day vestiges of the same, including dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, closing the racial wealth and health gap . . . . increasing diversity among our judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, and continuing the fight against racial gerrymandering and voter suppression."
For Governor: Ed Gillespie has avoided engaging his rivals and taking a clear position on controversial issues such as the confederate memorials (like Northram, he said it should be a local decision). He did reply to a Washington Post article this past weekend that accused him of taking support from an anti-Muslim activist, stating that he "does not condone hatred or discrimination under any circumstance or in any form." However, we make note that when it comes to women's rights, he has been endorsed by the National Right to Life committee.
Frank Wagner is the man in the middle. A Washington Post article on the candidate positions on LGBTI rights noted Wagner's support for anti-discrimination measures in housing and employment. He made a stop in the weekend campaign events at the Philippine cultural center to cultivate Asian-American voters. He opposed removing the Confederate statue in Charlottesville, but refrained from making a strong statement, simply calling it 'political correctness run amok.'
Corey Stewart is the openly intolerant white nationalist. His response to the spate of hate crimes suggest an aggressive anti-diversity agenda. He fanned the flames of the Charlottesville protests, showing up to address the white nationalists and posting numerous provocative statements on social media intended to stir up a white nationalist base (i.e. "I will protect historical monuments from destruction and keep Virginia heritage intact.") He supports the travel ban and has made 'cracking down' on illegal immigration an official plank of his policy platform.
And the Lieutenant Governor candidates on the Republican side: Bryce Reeves was called out by the Washington Post for his openly anti-gay stance and rhetoric, contrasted with Jill Vogel, who has affirmed support for LGBTI rights. However, Vogel opposes women's access to legal abortion. Neither candidate seems to have any statements of support from Latino or African-American communities, nor is there much evidence of outreach to these constituencies, but Reeves has made some efforts to engage Asian-Americans.
Moving on to the general election for Virginia's state legislature: Keep following us, as once the primaries are behind us we'll start taking a closer look at state legislative races and candidates for the general election this November.
We are a non-partisan initiative and will track Democratic, Republican and third party or independent candidates.