In his return to the political arena, President Barack Obama highlighted the importance of voting for the entire Democratic ticket in this year’s gubernatorial election, at the Richmond Convention Center on Oct. 19.
“You can’t sit this one out… not when the state of our democracy is at stake,” Obama said.
Obama hit the campaign trail to urge Virginians to cast their vote for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is running as the democratic candidate for governor of Virginia.
The national focus on Virginia’s gubernatorial race comes as a result of Virginia’s position to set the tone for the 2018 midterm election. There, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for re-election along with more than 30 seats in the Senate.
Democrats are hoping key states like Virginia and New Jersey will help swing the political pendulum back in the favor of their party since Republicans currently have a majority in Congress and the White House.
“You’ve got really good candidates. You’ve got people who will make you proud. You’ve got people in this race for the right reasons,” Obama said. “At a time when so many of us can be so cynical about government and public service… to have somebody step up who you can trust and who just wants to do right by the people of Virginia — that is worth something.”
Obama isn’t the only high profile politician who has openly endorsed Northam for governor. Former Vice President Joe Biden also campaigned for Northam in northern Virginia earlier this month
As of the day of the rally, Northam had 5.8 percent lead ahead of his opponent Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair and Republican candidate in the race, according to Real Clear Politics.
According to the Northam for Governor campaign, more than 6,000 people turned out for the rally — more than 15,000 people registered online.
Attorney General Mark Herring, who is seeking re-election, and Justin Fairfax, who is running for Lt. Gov. Current Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, and Richmond mayor, Levar Stoney, also took the stage to encourage votes to “keep Virginia blue.”
Many speakers were quick to criticize Gillespie for his attack ads against Northam and his support from President Donald Trump.
“Ed Gillespie seeks to silence our voices,” Stoney said. “In 18 days we can tell them our voice matters more than the NRA. We can tell them our voice matters more than Donald Trump.”
Political hard-hitters like former President George W. Bush and Vice President Mike Pence hit the campaign trail for Gillespie. Trump also endorsed Gillespie through Twitter.
“Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!” Trump tweeted.
Though Gillespie has voiced his allegiance to the current administration, he’s kept his distance from directly pledging his support to Trump’s statements and policy changes including the repeal of DACA and the travel ban.
Unity was a major theme during the rally with calls from both Obama and Northam to look past the divisive rhetoric stemming from Washington D.C.
“We live in a diverse society, that means that we need to be inclusive,” Northam said. “It shouldn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. It shouldn’t matter the color of your skin. It shouldn’t matter the country that you come from or the religion that you practice. In Virginia, we keep our lights on and our doors open.”
Rodrigo Magana, director of communications for Rowdy Rams at VCU, said hearing Obama speak was symbolic for him because it was under his administration Magana received a permanent resident card. As a permanent resident, Magana cannot vote for another five years until he becomes a naturalized citizen, but still encourages his peers to get to the polls.
“If you’re not voting, and not voting for people who are going to support social issues like immigration, which affects me directly, then you’re not following through with your civic duty,” Magana said.
Registration for voting has closed, but the polls will be open on Nov. 7 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find out where you are registered, visit one of the registration tables on campus or vote.org.
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. She is a previous Voice of America intern where she worked with the immigration and TV news teams. She previously interned with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
Facebook | LinkedIn