"Virginia voters: Have you sent in your absentee ballot for 2017? Now’s the time!" If you’re registered to vote in the Commonwealth, you may have gotten that very call from a DA volunteer.
We're working to get out the vote for one of the most closely watched elections of 2017 — the Governorship of the Commonwealth of Virginia, supporting Dem candidate and current Lt Governor Ralph Northam. Northam believes in a Virginia that works for everyone, including voters abroad. That's especially important this year. This is one election where Virginians abroad can truly swing the results.
We sat down to hear a bit more from the man himself (virtually) to learn more about his candidacy and what Virginians abroad can expect to see from a Governor Northam.
As current Lieutenant Governor, you must have a keen understanding of the challenges ahead for Virginia’s next Governor. What made you decide to run?
I want to build on Virginia's economic progress and defend our values against those who want to take us back. I’ve spent my life in service-oriented careers — from being an Army doctor, to being the volunteer medical director at a hospice center, to being a senator and lieutenant governor. I care about Virginia, and I want to make sure we keep moving forward.
You’ve never lost a state election. What’s your secret? Have you shared it with other Dems?
I don’t think it’s a secret, I just try to put Virginians first in every decision I make, and stick to what I believe even when I’m pressured. That turns out voters. I don’t think I’m alone, though. Democrats across the Commonwealth do that same thing every day.
Let’s talk issues. Voter disenfranchisement is a critical one for Americans overseas. What will you do to fight for Virginia voters?
I understand the importance of expanding access to voting, and standing up to disenfranchisement, including for those who’ve served this country. As governor, I’ll work on creating a culture of transparency that fosters participation from every Virginian, no matter who they are, no matter where they are.
Encouraging every Virginian to engage in civic life makes our democracy stronger. That’s why we should be doing everything we can to empower participation, not extinguish it. Republicans in Richmond have been systematically disempowering Virginia voters for years. I’ve fought against them, especially during my time on the Privileges and Elections committee.
From passing unnecessary and restrictive voter ID laws to gerrymandering our congressional and state legislative districts beyond reason or recognition, Republicans have proven time and time again that their priority isn’t expanding democracy—it’s suppressing the voices of their opposition.
I’m committed to holding our elected officials accountable all year, especially when they are voting to place barriers in the way of fair redistricting processes. That’s why I put forward “Virginia Votes,” a series of proposals to expand voting rights and increase government transparency in the Commonwealth, including same-day voter registration and no-excuse early voting, ending the practice of unrecorded voice votes in the General Assembly, and repealing Virginia’s unnecessary and onerous voter identification law.
As Americans overseas, we’ve seen the success of universal health care in our current countries of residence. Even if ACA is saved this year, state insurance markets continue to remain a serious issue. How will you ensure that Virginians abroad will be able to return home to affordable options and not become “health care refugees?"
As a doctor, the fundamental principle that guides my work is do no harm. I’ve fought each and every version of Trumpcare that would have put hundreds of thousands of Virginians at risk and senselessly harm the commonwealth’s health care system, all for political gain.
In the richest country in the world, no family should be one medical emergency or illness away from financial demise. We have all the tools to lead and innovate on making access to quality, affordable healthcare real for thousands of Virginians. As governor, I’ll keep fighting to expand Medicaid in the commonwealth and work to close our coverage gap for good.
Americans abroad are closely watching immigration policy shifts back home, from ICE raids and threats to DACA, to Muslim Ban expansion including countries where we live and have families. What will you do to protect the safety and security of immigrants at home, and to ensure safe passage back home for dual citizen Americans?
One in 8 Virginians was born outside the US. We’re a community of immigrants, and I believe our strength lies in our diversity. I oppose legislation that would bar individuals from entering our commonwealth based on race, religion, or country of origin — legislation like President Trump’s Muslim ban.
I support the work of the Virginia Office of Newcomer Services, which helps immigrant and refugee communities gain economic self-sufficiency and social integration. I also believe localities should make the best decisions to keep their communities safe. I want to make sure they have the resources necessary to put violent criminals in prison, regardless of their immigration status. It's up to the federal government to step up and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
It’s important to note that no locality in Virginia is defying federal immigration law; they are protecting their citizens and respecting the constitution. When asked to go further than federal immigration law, it puts municipalities in legal jeopardy for holding a person without due process. Republican sheriffs in Virginia have chosen to not go further than current law for that very reason.
Many Americans live in countries that make environmental policy a top priority, and many are in countries that are increasingly less safe because of environmental threats. What will you do to ensure that Virginia leads the change toward environmental reform, even with opposition at the federal level?
Having grown up with the Chesapeake Bay as my backyard, it’s not hard to understand why I’ve fought so hard to protect it. The Trump administration has already begun its all-out assault on the environmental protections that keep Virginians healthy and make our communities great places to live. I know it’s going to be a tough go of it. But I won’t let that deter me.
We need a full accounting of the costs and environmental impact of coal ash sites before permits are issued for their closure. I’ll oppose lifting the 35 year ban on uranium mining, allowing localities to regulate or oppose fracking, and work to ensure environmentally responsible permitting processes for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline projects.
Clean energy innovation must be a priority for us. We need to remove barriers to the development and use of clean energy by encouraging competition and energy choice while facilitating decentralized generation and building electric and clean vehicle infrastructure. I’ll continue to work to help reduce carbon emissions and ready Virginia to link to a multi-state carbon allowance trading program.
When it comes to the Bay, I’ll commit to an acreage goal of preserving and expanding wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, and oyster beds. I'll also continue to oppose offshore drilling and work with our partners in Hampton Roads to build coastal resilience to sea level rise and strengthen vulnerable communities.
Throughout these efforts, making sure that vulnerable communities have a voice in these matters is vital, which is why I’ll form an environmental justice task force to address environmental threats in vulnerable communities, particularly in the areas of urban air quality, energy infrastructure siting, and drinking water.
Democrats, historically, do not turn out in midterms like they do in presidential election years. Americans abroad don’t either. What’s your plea to convince Dems around the world that it’s worth their effort to send in their absentee ballot?
The stakes are just too high. In 2013, our Attorney General Mark Herring won by just 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast. That goes to show just how vital it is that you get out to vote, and you make sure that everyone you know votes. Each and every vote matters.
GOP candidate Ed Gillespie is out to win, and he’ll stop at nothing. He recently began airing a fearmongering ad that twists the facts in an attempt to frighten voters. And the truth is, it's going to be a close race. Polls have us within a few points of each other.
Virginia can’t afford to stay home and let a candidate like Ed Gillespie get elected — who would devastate our commonwealth’s essential revenue in order to give a tax break to the wealthy.
We can’t afford to elect Ed Gillespie who would defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia.
We can’t afford to elect Ed Gillespie who lobbied for corporations that laid off hundreds of Virginians, and who won’t take a stance against Trumpcare which would strip hundreds of thousands of Virginians of their healthcare.
In a state where 165 votes can determine an election, we say Virginians abroad can’t afford to sit this one out, either.
Registered to vote but haven’t requested your ballot? Visit votefromabroad.org to complete, print, sign, and return your forms ahead of November 7 elections.
Requested but haven’t received your ballot? Other questions? Talk to us at gotv at democratsabroad dot org
Learn more about Northam on the issues: campaign website