Look at Democrat Ralph Northam’s campaign for Virginia Governor, and I wouldn’t blame you if you thought he was running for Senate, or even President. After all, the man has been obsessively trying to score political points attacking Donald Trump. He has also been talking more about federal health care policy than what he’d do as Governor.
Northam has a couple hand-selected policy points, but by and large he has been running a negative campaign focused on trying to ride anti-Trump sentiment to a victory.
We will find out in November if Northam’s decision to give more time to national issues than Virginia issues is good politics. What we already know is that it’s not good policy for the people of Virginia, who spent months trying to figure out Northam’s position on key issues, like energy development in the Commonwealth.
On the flip side, Republican Ed Gillespie is in the midst of the most substantive, policy-driven campaign that I can remember.
In fact, Gillespie has launched a new website putting all of his major policy initiatives front and center. On this site you can find:
- Gillespie’s tax plan
- Gillespie’s education plan
- Gillespie’s regulatory reform plan
- Gillespie’s plan to battle the opioid crisis
- Gillespie’s public safety plan
- Gillespie’s government transparency plan
- Gillespie’s government reform plan
- Gillespie’s plan for veterans
- Gillespie’s agriculture and forestry plan
These plans aren’t the generic press releases pretending to be policy that most candidates introduce to try to get media coverage. Each plan has meat behind it, substantive proposals that one can weigh and judge on their merits. This is the type of serious policy-driven campaign that seems absent from American politics over the last decade.
This isn’t to say the Gillespie campaign isn’t also “going negative” on Ralph Northam. There are still ads running pushing folks to a website slamming Northam for his lax attendance record as Lieutenant Governor. Those attacks aren’t the centerpiece of the campaign, however, unlike Northam’s obsession with President Trump and now-defunct “Trumpcare”.
Americans constantly say they are yearning for real solutions, and yet political campaigns often get bogged down in process stories and weak attacks levied to try to get a bit of free media coverage. Virginians have an opportunity to reward a candidate who appeals to our better angels, and is laying out his full agenda in front of voters to be judged.
Will Virginians reward a truly policy-driven campaign? We’ll find out soon enough.