POLITICS
01/05/2017 07:00 am ET Updated Jan 05, 2017

Tom Perriello Jumps Into Virginia Gubernatorial Race

As a congressman, Perriello was a progressive ally of President Barack Obama's, despite representing a more conservative district.
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) has decided to run for governor of Virginia.
Douglas Graham/Getty Images
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) has decided to run for governor of Virginia.

Tom Perriello announced that he is running for governor of Virginia Thursday, giving Democrats a competitive primary between a progressive former congressman and the current lieutenant governor of the state for the 2017 election. 

“I’m running for Governor of Virginia because our state must be a firewall against hate, corruption, and an assault on the Virginia values of decency and progress. That is a wall worth building!” Perriello said an email to supporters Thursday morning, which was shared with The Huffington Post. 

“The next Governor can block the radical redistricting that has held back our promise and progress. If we hand the system back to the people, together we can demand better wages, more time with family, paid family leave, and better, more affordable education,” he added. 

Virginia limits its governors to one term, and outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) had hoped for an uncontentious primary. He, along with Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, have already endorsed Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and all three men said they would still back him despite the new development. Perriello’s announcement took by surprise some Virginia political observers, who expected that the nomination was essentially locked up by Northam.

Perriello called Northam on Wednesday evening and informed him of his candidacy, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Perriello was elected to Congress in 2008 and was a steadfast ally of the newly elected President Barack Obama. Despite representing a conservative-leaning district, Perriello was a favorite of progressives and voted in favor of the stimulus package, cap-and-trade legislation and the Affordable Care Act (although he upset some members of his party with his more conservative stance on abortion). 

Perriello was the only House member whom Obama made a special campaign stop for during the 2010 cycle. Perriello lost to Republican Robert Hurt by about 4 percentage points, a relatively close margin considering that he ran as a progressive in a year when the tea party swept the midterm elections.

Since then, Perriello has led the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, and more recently was the State Department’s special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Four Republicans are running for the nomination on the other side: former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie (who is considered the front-runner in the primary), Prince William County Executive and former state co-chair of Donald Trump’s campaign Corey Stewart, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and state Sen. Frank Wagner (R). 

Perriello alluded to Gillespie and Stewart in his announcement email Wednesday, saying that “Virginia is under threat” if it elects one of the GOP candidates. 

“The main Republican challengers include the corporate D.C. lobbyist who wrote the playbook that sold out the middle class and American Dream to the highest bidder,” he said. “His team rigged the district maps to ensure our legislature reflected his clients instead of our citizens. The other is a top Trump acolyte who sows fear and racial hatred, denies climate change, and stoked the war on women.”

Read the full email: 

Sender: Tom Perriello
Subject: I choose to fight - I’m running for Governor

Friend ―

Future generations will ask what we did at this moment to defend our values and our Commonwealth.  

I’m running for Governor of Virginia because our state must be a firewall against hate, corruption, and an assault on the Virginia values of decency and progress. That is a wall worth building!

This election is not just about the next four years ― but the next generation. The next Governor can block the radical redistricting that has held back our promise and progress. If we hand the system back to the people, together we can demand better wages, more time with family, paid family leave, and better, more affordable education.

This is a fight to reclaim the politics of our state for the people and the problem-solvers.

You and I can fight together ― and if we stand strong by our values and refuse to back down, we will win.

Virginia is the state that gave my father, the son of working class immigrants, a shot at a UVA education and the American Dream. It is the state that instilled my sense of hope in progress, watching the former Confederate capital elect the nation’s first African-American Governor. 

Raised in the shadows of Thomas Jefferson and Barbara Johns, I was taught our democracy was not an inheritance but a charge we are expected to protect and expand with each generation.

That Virginia is under threat. The main Republican challengers include the corporate D.C. lobbyist who wrote the playbook that sold out the middle class and American Dream to the highest bidder. His team rigged the district maps to ensure our legislature reflected his clients instead of our citizens. 

The other is a top Trump acolyte who sows fear and racial hatred, denies climate change, and stoked the war on women.

I am proud that Virginians have rejected these values again and again ― and we’ll do it again this year, together. I know how to fight, and I know how to win. With your help, Virginia will continue its tradition of being a leading force for the sanctity of our social contract, our democracy, and our common good. 

Please join today, and be a founding member of this Virginia movement:

I’ll be​ hitting the road in the coming weeks ― ​f​rom Arlington to Abingdon, from Harrisonburg to Hampton ― to offer up ideas, but more importantly, to listen to yours.​ I hope to see you on the trail. 

Thanks,

Tom​

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