WASHINGTON — Voters in Virginia are preparing to head to the polls to elect a new governor in just over a week as Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam begin the final stretch of their campaigns.
“This has been a pretty close and competitive race the whole time,” election analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics Kyle Kondik said.
“The bulk of the polling data and the natural environmental political factors going on right now suggest you’d probably rather be Northam than Gillespie, but I don’t think anybody should be shocked if Gillespie were to win,” Kondik said.
Virginia’s race is one of the most competitive on a national level, and the contest could be an early referendum on President Donald Trump’s political popularity ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
“What Democrats are hoping for is that anger at the White House translates to political participation,” Kondik said.
Big names in both major political parties have been flocking to Virginia.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder spent the weekend trying to rally Democrats around the statewide ticket.
Former President Barack Obama rallied with the ticket earlier this month, and Holder, the country’s first black attorney general, invoked civil rights icons to motivate Virginians to vote when he spoke Sunday.
“Too many people sacrificed too much to give everybody the right to vote,” Holder said.
Gillespie had events scheduled Sunday evening with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Monday with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Gillespie, a White House adviser to President George W. Bush and former lobbyist, has run on lower taxes, tougher policies toward immigrants who are in the state illegally and preserving the state’s Confederate statues.
Northam, the current lieutenant governor, has pledged to continue many of the policies of current term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Northam has promised increased spending in public education, tighter gun rules and strong support for abortion rights.
For an in-depth look at the candidates and their positions, check out WTOP’s election blog, Reality check: 2017 Virginia governor race.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.