President Barack Obama returns to the campaign trail on Thursday to fire up voters in a crucial Virginia governor race. His appearance at a Richmond rally comes on the behalf of gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, who hopes the former president will help him excite Black voters. However, racial tensions are on edge among Virginia’s Democrats, which threatens to dampen Black turnout on Election Day.
The tension stems from Northam omitting Justin Fairfax, the Black candidate for lieutenant governor, from a group of campaign fliers that lists Democrats running for office, The Washington Post reports.
“It reeks of subtle racism, if not a tone deafness about how we are going to win in November,” Quentin James, the founder of Collective PAC that supports black candidates, told The Post.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America is behind the decision to omit the only Black candidate on the ticket, which includes Attorney General Mark Herring. Fairfax disapproved of two proposed natural gas pipelines that the union supports, so union leaders refused to endorse Fairfax.
This controversy is flaring weeks ahead of the election in a tight race between Northam and his Republican rival Ed Gillespie. Political analysts say that the Democrat cannot afford to underperform with Black voters.
Northam’s campaign said the fliers the omit Fairfax account for about 1,000 of the 1.5 million pieces of campaign literature. And the homes that receive the controversial fliers will also receive campaign literature that includes Fairfax.
However, James is unmoved. “Leaving Justin Fairfax off…even if it’s only for a small universe of union members, still sends the wrong message,” he told the newspaper.
Fairfax, a 38-year-old attorney, told The Post that the omission was a “mistake,” but he declined to characterize Northam’s decision as racist.
Meanwhile, Fairfax is also receiving subtle racist attacks from the right. His Republican opponent, Jill Holtzman Vogel, raised a question during their last debate about whether Fairfax can “talk intelligently” about issues.
If Fairfax wins, he will become the first African American elected statewide in Virginia since Douglas Wilder became governor in 1989.
SOURCE: Washington Post