Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., speaks at the Northam For Governor election night party at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Voters in Virginia and New Jersey gave Democratic gubernatorial candidates large victories Tuesday and sent a clear message of rebuke to Republican President Donald Trump.

In Virginia’s hard-fought contest, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie. In New Jersey, front-running Democrat Phil Murphy overcame Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to succeed unpopular GOP Gov. Chris Christie.

“The days of division are over. We will move forward,” Murphy said in his victory speech.

The wins in Virginia and New Jersey are a morale boost to Democrats who had so far been unable to channel anti-Trump energy into success at the ballot box in a major election this year.

“The people are gonna rise up. They’re not gonna take what he says and this is not fake news,” said Leanna Barnes, a 76-year-old from East Orange, New Jersey, who voted for Murphy and added she saw his victory as a message to the president.

Virginia college student Tamia Mallory said she began paying attention to her state’s gubernatorial race when she saw tweets from Trump endorsing Gillespie. That motivated her to examine the race and find out who was running against Gillespie, she said.

“It was kind of an anti-Trump vote,” Mallory said.

Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, repeatedly sought during long months of divisive campaigning to tie Gillespie to the president. His victory was in large part due to the surge in anti-Trump sentiment since the president took office. Democrats said they had record levels of enthusiasm heading into the race in Virginia, a swing-state and the only Southern state that Trump lost last year.

Gillespie, meanwhile, sought to keep Trump at a distance throughout the campaign but tried to rally the president’s supporters with hard-edge attack ads focused on illegal immigration and preserving Confederate statues. The strategy was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as race baiting, but drew praise from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and others as a canny way to win a state that voted for Hillary Clinton last year.

Trump lent limited pre-election support to Gillespie with robocalls and tweets.

In one call, Trump said Gillespie shared his views on immigration and crime and would help “Make America Great Again.” Trump also said Northam would be a “total disaster” for Virginia.

But after Tuesday’s loss, Trump suggested that Gillespie hurt himself by not more closely aligning himself with the president.

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Trump said in a tweet after Northam won. He also pointed out that Republicans have won every special election to the U.S. House since he was elected.

Northam’s victory is a blow to Republicans, who were hoping that Gillespie could provide a possible roadmap for moderate Republicans to follow in next year’s midterm elections. Several Republicans have announced plans to retire next year instead of seeking re-election.

Gillespie struck a humble tone in his concession speech as he offered support to Northam.

He wiped tears from his eyes while thanking his wife and said the million people who voted for him love Virginia, and so do those who disagree with them.

“And I know they too are rooting for our new governor to succeed because we all love the commonwealth of Virginia,” Gillespie said.

The mood was subdued at Gillespie’s party at a Richmond-area hotel, with supporters not shocked at the outcome but surprised at how poorly Republicans did. Democrats swept all three of Virginia’s statewide races, including contests for attorney general and lieutenant governor. Several incumbent state House Republicans also lost their seats.

Gillespie supporter Elsa Smith said Republicans needed to do a better job of appealing to minorities if they want to win future races.

“We are not taking care of the demographics the way we should,” said Smith, an owner of a Spanish translation business.

Democrats were gleeful at Northam’s victory party. U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly called Northam the “perfect antidote” to the president.

“This is a comprehensive victory from the statehouse to the courthouse. Thank you, President Trump,” Connolly said.

The Democratic victories are another sign of Virginia’s shift toward a more liberal electorate. Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009 and now have won four out of the last five gubernatorial contests. Northam banked heavily during the campaign on his near-perfect political resume and tried to cast himself as the low-key doctor with a strong Southern drawl as the healer to Trump’s divisiveness.

A pediatric neurologist and Army doctor, Northam made health care reform a centerpiece of his political career and current campaign, winning key allies along the way. As a state senator he was a leading opponent of a Republican effort to mandate ultrasounds before abortions in 2012, winning him strong support from well-funded abortion-rights groups.

PHOTO: AP

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11 thoughts on “New Jersey, Virginia Elect Democratic Governors

  1. specialt757 on said:

    As far as VA is concern, the dems in northern VA took it over the top, without them, that #45 ass bootlicker Gillespie would have won. Those crackers in the south and far west are true #45 supporters and they are the ones who need services the most. Again, fighting against their own best interests. That’s what racists do.

  2. FallMornings on said:

    A lot of them on both sides need to be kicked to the curb. Many are old and have worn out their welcome. The Country needs younger persons in Congress and the House. L, I’m all for a third party. Didn’t the Country have more than two parties at one time?

  3. specialt757 on said:

    Hoodie, you sound stupid, as usual. If they were supposed to lose, why did they waste all that time and money on running negative campaign? And waste all that money on those awful tv commercials? They banked on the fact people loved trump when people HATE TRUMP. That was stupid in itself. Congrats to all the dems that won, NOW DO SOMETHING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND MOVE THE COUNTRY FORWARD. I guess Brazille’s “bombshell” didn’t discourage the masses, looks like no one really cares.

    • Special, all the people really cared about was health care. They saw how #45 was trying to sabotage the ACA (Obamacare), and they couldn’t have that. He told them that he cared about Americans while trying to kill them in the next sentence. hahaha!!! The majority of whites need that insurance to help them with their children’s opioid addition.

      • specialt757 on said:

        Yes, they do, especially since #45 declared opioid a “health crisis” but didn’t throw money behind it, not enough anyway. And what was allotted for it, hasn’t “trickled” down to those in need. Yeah, I’m starting to believe more and more God has a plan, and it’s slowly coming into view.

      • Passing Through!! on said:

        trump don’t give a damn about the Opioid crises 52,000 people died in 2015 90% of them were white. That speech he gave on fighting addiction was nothing more than a public service announcement. Besides the 90% of those white addicts are poor and no where near being in the 1% that he cares about he’s not for the poor or working class black or white, and they all deserve the no help that they will get for voting for this fool. Racist vote with their race not for what’s in their best interest. If Obama would offer all of them healthcare they would still vote for the white racist who wants to kick 30 million people off of insurance.

    • Passing Through!! on said:

      However you sugarcoat your s**t to make it taste better. And you going to need a whole lot of sugar over the next few weeks as we get closer to IMPEACHMENT!

  4. Looks like there was some voter backlash as folks voted for Dems in both NJ and VA.
    Some of us are not buying into the b.s. that Chump and his cronies are selling.

    However, the Democrats should not be getting too happy.
    They are a LOST PARTY-what do they even stand for these days?

    This country needs a Third Party. One that is independent of big $$$ and supports
    the average working class.

    2018 might just see a lot of politicians from both parties getting kicked to the curb!!!!!!!!!

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