RICHMOND, Va. — 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 trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to succeed unpopular GOP Gov. Chris Christie.
The victors said Tuesday’s electoral results had far-reaching repercussions in a sharply divided country.
“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we do not condone hatred and bigotry,” Northam said.
“The days of division are over. We will move forward,” Murphy said in his own victory speech, invoking Trump by name as he looked headed to a double digit win. Murphy, who earned a fortune at Goldman Sachs before serving as Barack Obama’s ambassador to Germany, delivered his address in the same spot as Christie in his 2013 re-election — after Christie won big over his Democratic rival.
The wins in both states 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 called his victory 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 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.