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Politics & Policy

Progressive PAC Drops Support for Northam over Sanctuary Cities

The bad news keeps rolling in for the Ralph Northam campaign this week. On Thursday night, the progressive PAC Democracy for America (DFA) announced it will cease doing “any work to directly aid” the Northam campaign as the clock ticks down to Election Day in Virginia’s gubernatorial election.

The PAC — which has close to 42,000 members in Virginia — never formally endorsed Northam, but it has included his campaign in grassroots, get-out-the-vote efforts since he won the Democratic nomination this summer. No longer.

In a public statement Thursday night, the group’s executive director reported that DFA removed Northam’s name from get-out-the-vote calls after his campaign airbrushed lieutenant-governor candidate Justin Fairfax off campaign fliers in order to curry favor with a powerful union, calling the removal of Fairfax a “racist action.”

“For the sake of Democratic comity, we refrained from publicly discussing that decision,” the statement explained. But the group broke its silence yesterday evening after Northam flip-flopped on sanctuary cities, suddenly announcing that, if a Virginia city attempted to declare itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, he would as governor support legislation preventing that city from doing so.

More from yesterday’s DFA statement:

However, after seeing Northam play directly into the hands of Republicans’ racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on sanctuary cities, we refuse to be . . . even remotely complicit in the disastrous, racist, and voter-turnout-depressing campaign Ralph Northam appears intent on running. . . . 

Let’s be really clear: If Ralph Northam wins next Tuesday, it won’t be because he publicly backtracked on his commitment to protecting immigrant families, but in spite of it.

This notable abandonment of Northam by DFA is not only another blow to his campaign, which has already been struggling this week to reach the finish line. It’s also the latest example of the inherent difficulty of running as a Democrat in Virginia. Is it a solidly red state? Certainly not. But a large enough number of its voters remain just conservative enough that Democratic candidates are forced to perform a balancing act on several key issues.

This was evident when Northam’s campaign removed Justin Fairfax from fliers because he wouldn’t cave and support the popular Atlantic Coast Pipeline due to his environmental concerns. And it was evident again when Northam changed his tune on sanctuary cities to sound a bit more like Republican Ed Gillespie — despite having voted against a preemptive ban on sanctuary cities in the past.

In this latest attempt to pacify moderate voters, Northam lost the support of a powerful progressive PAC. While his campaign may not ultimately be damaged by losing DFA’s get-out-the-vote efforts, this latest controversy is certainly poor optics, and it plunged his campaign into further disarray at the end of a week that has already seen several big controversies.


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