Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Who Will Best Lead Virginia?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Who Will Best Lead Virginia?

Changing our minds about anything can be a challenging effort, especially if we have to do it in a very public way.

Generally, when we decide significant things, we weigh the pros and cons, research the topic for various points of view, discuss it with our friends and those whose opinions we share, and then we decide. Sometimes it is for mundane things like where to go for vacation, how much to spend on a car or where to have a special meal or outing.

But sometimes it can have major significance, such as how we vote in an election.

This is the challenge facing voters and statewide and local politicians as we edge toward the June 13 Democratic primary.

On Feb. 24, 2015, Dr. Ralph Northam, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, declared his intent to run for Virginia’s governor. He had the field almost to himself until Jan. 5, 2017, when former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello decided to challenge him.

In the many months when Northam crisscrossed the state, raising millions of dollars, he was viewed as the “presumptive Democratic nominee,” by himself and his party colleagues. They fell in lockstep to support him in the race.

But this isn’t the same race as it was two years ago, and it may be time for voters and politicians to examine more closely the two candidates.

As CNN noted in its coverage of this close race, “Perriello is viewed as a progressive champion among Virginia Democrats while Northam is view viewed as a more traditional, moderate Democrat.” In other words, one wants to shake things up and the other favors the “don’t make waves” approach.

Isn’t it time we ask our state politicians why they continue to support someone who has openly declared that he voted for former President George Bush twice? Shouldn’t he be running in the GOP Primary? Why are our elected Virginia Democratic politicians continuing to support a candidate who freely advocates for fracking, drilling in the Atlantic and letting Dominion Power have the major say in the state’s energy and environmental policies? He has voted against Climate Change improvement policies, in a state with the second most vulnerable coastline.

Northam is a decent, hard-working, empathetic man who has brought health care to many. He is a great doctor! No one denies this. But very few lieutenant governors ever make it up the next rung of the ladder.

It’s time for politicians and their constituents to examine the stark differences in their leadership style. Northam, in the Washington Post, claims “the Virginia way is, at the end of the day, we are going to do what’s in the best interest of Virginia.” In response, Perriello challenges that “Leadership is about making tough choices. It’s not about accepting a ‘Virginia way’ that has choked too much of the kind of solutions we need for a new generation.”

We encourage people to “change their minds” in the privacy of the voting booth, or in the public conversation surrounding this election. We either go forward or backward. That’s the choice, not marching in tandem with a campaign vision fashioned 15 months ago, not one for now.

Kathleen M. Burns