On November 7, voters in Virginia will choose their next governor. The race is between Democrat Ralph Northam, the current lieutenant governor, and Republican Ed Gillespie, the former GOP chairman and adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.
The race has drawn a lot of national interest: Barack Obama campaigned for Northam in Richmond last week, and drew a largely black crowd. But, apart from Obama himself, there remains a disconnect between black politicians and the type of mega-donors the Democratic Party says they need to woo in order to win elections.
In other words: wealthy, white Democratic donors may say they want to see more diverse candidates in office, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re willing to shell out money for that to happen.
Take a recent example from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2006, Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In 2014, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, MAIG merged with Moms Demand Action to form the group Everytown for Gun Safety.
On Monday, Everytown’s political arm announced it would pour $700,000 into the Virginia gubernatorial race—$400,000 to Northam’s campaign and $300,000 to Mark Herring, the state’s Democratic attorney general, who is running for re-election. But the group seemingly forgot to give money to the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, who happens to be a black man. [UPDATE: Following the initial publication of the Post’s report, Everytown finalized a $100,000 donation to the Fairfax campaign.]
Virginia Republican Brian Schoeneman, whose loyalties may be a bit suspect in this case, pointed out the disparity:
Of course, this is a pretty rich line of argument coming from a member of a party that has not won a sizable share of the black vote in over half a century, a party from which many black Republicans have jumped ship over the past year and a half.
And while Everytown is spending $90,000 on radio ads targeting black voters (who make up one-fifth of Virginia’s electorate), Bloomberg and his nonprofit should recognize that this is Not A Good Look. From the Washington Post:
“African-American turnout will be crucial on Nov. 7 — and we want to make sure black voters know what the stakes are in this race,” said Brynne Craig, an Everytown strategist. “Ed Gillespie walks in lock step with the NRA and his policies will make black communities less safe in the Commonwealth.”
“Everyone who is looking at this will make their own judgments about this particular instance,” he said. “This should not have happened, and it should not happen again, and there needs to be robust investment in making sure that we are communicating with African American voters and we are engaging our base.”
This all underscores a divide within Democratic Party leaders and the people they want to vote for them. Democrats (and groups like Everytown) depend heavily on black voters, but have shown they aren’t necessarily willing to put the work in to fill out their bench with diverse candidates downballot.
Still and all, let’s not get distracted from how godawful a candidate Ed Gillespie is, from his barely veiled anti-immigrant rhetoric to his Gomer Pyle grin. And Gillespie is the less racist Republican in the race. Since Gillespie won his primary against Trump diehard Corey Stewart, he has been doing his damnedest to reassure Trump voters in Virginia that while he may wear sweater vests, but he’ll punish immigrants and criminals just as much as you’d like him to.
Check out this nouveau Willie Horton ad Gillespie’s campaign put out just today, which equates giving felons voting rights with endorsing child pornography:
Since Reconstruction, there have been only been three black governors, all Democrats: Virginia’s Douglas Wilder, New York’s David Paterson, and Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick. Over the same time period, 10 black lieutenant governors—four Democrats and six Republicans—have held office.
There are currently three black Republicans in Congress, two black Republican lieutenant governors (in Kentucky and Maryland), and one black Republican attorney general (Indiana AG Curtis Hill). There are zero black governors—Republican or Democrat—currently in office.
Michael Bloomberg and Virginia Democrats: get your shit together!!!
Update, Oct. 24, 6:50 PM: Everytown Communications Director Kate Folmar said the group pledged to give Fairfax campaign $25,000 late last week. The group finalized its contribution of $100,000 to the campaign mid-day Monday, after the Post’s original story came out.
“Up until this election cycle, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund’s focus has been on governors, attorneys general and state legislators because they have the most direct influence on enacting and implementing gun safety laws,” Folmar said in an email. “This year we made an exception to both endorse and give a financial contribution to Justin Fairfax because he is such a strong advocate for gun safety.”
Update, Oct. 24, 7:15 PM: This post’s headline has been updated to reflect Everytown’s donations.