A national progressive organization accused Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, of playing “directly into the hands of Republicans’ racist anti-immigrant rhetoric” and announced it would no longer work to directly aid his campaign.
Democracy for America, a political action committee with 1 million members, said they took issue with Northam’s decision to “openly backtrack” on sanctuary cities, which decline to enforce federal immigration laws.
Northam’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, has been hammering Northam in ads for casting a tie-breaking vote against legislation to pre-emptively ban sanctuary cities, which Virginia doesn’t have. This week, Northam said he would sign legislation banning them if a city were to declare itself a sanctuary city. He has previously said he opposes sanctuary cities, though he doesn’t support a pre-emptive ban, his campaign explained.
“After seeing Northam play directly into the hands of Republicans' racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on sanctuary cities, we refuse to be silent any longer and even remotely complicit in the disastrous, racist, and voter-turnout-depressing campaign Ralph Northam appears intent on running,” Charles Chamberlain, DFA’s executive director, said in a statement Thursday night.
The Northam campaign did not respond directly to the statement, but pointed to support from CASA in Action and a statement from state Del. Alfonso Lopez, a former president of the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia, who said Northam has fought for “fair and compassionate” immigration policies.
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who broke ties with DFA in 2016 after founding the organization in 2004, called the announcement “incredibly stupid.”
“I Hope this is inaccurate because it is an incredibly stupid thing to say and deeply discredits the organization which I founded,” he tweeted.
Northam, who has a slim lead over Gillespie, won his primary by nearly 12 percentage points, but he has had trouble energizing the progressive base. Chamberlain said Northam’s “gutless, senseless, and morally debased” decision on sanctuary cities exemplifies why DFA didn’t endorse him in the primary.
He said DFA quietly decided a few weeks ago to remove Northam’s name from tens of thousands of volunteer “get-out-the-vote” calls members were making in Virginia after the state’s Democratic Coordinated Campaign — which he said is dominated by Northam operatives — bought literature for canvassers that left off lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, who would be only the second black man to serve Virginia in a statewide office.
Laborers’ International Union of North America requested the flier without Fairfax because they didn’t endorse him and because he does not support natural gas pipelines supported by the union, according to reports. Northam’s campaign said the fliers represented 0.5% of the literature printed and called Fairfax the best choice for the office.
Chamberlain called the removal of Fairfax a “racist action.”
“We cannot remain silent as an outdated faction of national and state Democratic Party staffers and consultants run the same old, broken, and racist playbook that lost Democrats over 1,000 elected offices since 2008 and allowed a bigoted billionaire to squeak into the White House last fall,” he said.