Current Position: Governor since 2018
"Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live."
Before he was inaugurated as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam served as an Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, business owner, state Senator and Lieutenant Governor.
A native of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Governor Northam was educated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he graduated with distinction.
After graduation, Governor Northam was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served eight years of active duty and rose to the rank of major.
He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School and then traveled to San Antonio for a pediatric residency, where he met his wife Pamela, a pediatric occupational therapist at the same hospital. Governor Northam did his residencies at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and served as chief neurological resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As an Army doctor, he served in Germany, treating soldiers wounded in Operation Desert Storm.
When Governor Northam and Pamela returned home, they chose to build their life in Hampton Roads. He began practicing pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. He established Children’s Specialty Group, his current medical practice, to provide expert pediatric care for patients. Governor Northam also served as assistant professor of neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he taught medicine and ethics.
Governor Northam volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he spent 18 years caring for terminally ill children.
Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live.
Governor Northam is the first native of the Eastern Shore to serve as Governor since Governor Henry A. Wise took office 1856. He is also the first VMI Keydet to serve as Governor since Governor Westmoreland Davis took office in 1918.
Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam have two adult children: Wes, a neurosurgical resident in Chapel Hill, and Aubrey, a web developer in Richmond.
Prior to entering politics, Northam voted for Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, a fact that opponents raised in later Democratic primaries. Northam says that he was apolitical at the time and regretted those votes, saying: “Politically, there was no question, I was underinformed.”
Virginia State Senate
Northam first ran for office in 2007 in the Virginia 6th Senate district, which includes the Eastern Shore of Virginia; Mathews County, on the Middle Peninsula; and parts of the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. On November 6, 2007, he defeated Nick Rerras, a two-term Republican incumbent, 17,307 votes to 14,499.
He was re-elected in November 2011, defeating Ben Loyola Jr., a defense contractor, 16,606 votes to 12,622.
One of Northam’s first major activities as a state legislator was to lead an effort to pass a ban on smoking in restaurants in Virginia. The bill failed the first time, but was passed the next year and signed into law by Governor Tim Kaine.
In 2009, Northam—a self-described “conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues” was the subject of an attempt by state Senate Republicans to get him to switch parties. This action would have given Republicans control of the State Senate, but after news of the imminent switch broke on Twitter, Democrats held a closed-door meeting, and Northam reiterated that he was not leaving the party. He later said, “I guess it’s nice to be wanted, but I’m a Democrat, and that’s where I’m staying.”
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
Northam ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in the 2013 election. Northam competed against U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra for the Democratic nomination. On June 11, 2013, Northam won the Democratic primary over Chopra with 54% of the vote to Chopra’s 46%.
On November 5, 2013, Northam was elected as Virginia’s 40th Lieutenant Governor over Republican E. W. Jackson by a 10% margin, receiving 55% of the vote to Jackson’s 45%.Northam was the first Democrat since Tim Kaine in 2001 to be elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
2017 gubernatorial election
In February 2015, just over a year into his term as lieutenant governor, Northam confirmed his interest in running for Governor of Virginia in 2017. He made these intentions official on November 17, 2015, via an email to supporters.
Northam faced former congressman Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary. The primary campaign was seen as a proxy battle between the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party, represented by Perriello, and the wing, represented by Northam. On June 13, 2017, Northam won the Democratic nomination with 56% of the vote to Perriello’s 44%. He faced Republican nominee Ed Gillespie in the general election.
Northam’s campaign funds were heavily depleted by the end of the primary race. He was left with around $1.75 million, which amounted to roughly half of Gillespie’s remaining funds. But by the end of summer 2017 Northam’s war chest had grown “twice as large [as Gillespie’s] heading into the last two months of the campaign, according to finance reports.” Northam led Gillespie among small donors, as well: “5,900 donations under $100 to Gillespie’s 2,100.”
In October 2017, the Northam campaign released a small number of flyers omitting Northam’s running-mate for Lieutenant Governor,Justin Fairfax. These were released at the request of Laborers’ International Union of North America, which had endorsed Northam (and Northam’s running mate for Attorney General, Mark Herring, who was included on the flyer), but not Fairfax. LIUNA explained that Fairfax opposes the construction of natural gas pipelines that are favored by the organization. As Fairfax is black, while Northam and Herring are both white, some activists criticized the decision to accommodate LIUNA’s request. All houses that received the LIUNA flyers also received standard campaign flyers including Fairfax.
During the campaign, Gillespie and President Donald Trump accused Northam of being responsible for the increased activities of theMS-13 gangs and of being “in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the streets.” Gillespie and Trump said that Northam had been the deciding vote to stop a Republican bill in the state Senate which would have banned sanctuary cities and that this contributed to the surge in MS-13 violence; a notion that FactCheck.org found to be “misleading”. TheWashington Post and CNN noted that there are no actual sanctuary cities in Virginia. Gillespie himself acknowledged that Virginia did not have sanctuary cities. The Washington Post furthermore noted that there is no evidence that sanctuary cities increase crime or gang activity, and that Virginia communities with higher immigrant populations have lower crime rates.
Later that month, the Latino Victory Fund, which supports Northam, released an ad in which a pickup truck, adorned with a Gillespie bumper sticker, a “Don’t tread on me” license plate, and a Confederate flag, chases down minority children and corners them in an alley—one of the children in the ad then wakes up, revealing the scene to have been a nightmare. Although Northam and his campaign were not involved with the ad, Northam initially defended it, saying Gillespie’s own ads “have promoted fearmongering, hatred, bigotry, racial divisiveness,” and adding, “I mean, it’s upset a lot of communities, and they have the right to express their views as well.” The ad was pulled the following day in the hours after the terrorist attack in New York City, in which a man killed several people by running them over with a truck. Northam then distanced himself from the ad, re-emphasizing that it was not released by his campaign and saying that it is not one that he would have chosen to run. A spokesman for the campaign said that the Latino Victory Fund’s decision to pull the ad was “appropriate and the right thing to do.” FOX 5 DC reported that the Northam campaign had accepted $62,000 as an in-kind media contribution from the Latino Victory Fund.
In the final week of the campaign, Northam stated that he would as governor sign a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Virginia similar to a bill he had voted against in the state Senate earlier in 2017. In response, the progressive group Democracy for America stated that it stopped direct aid of Northam’s campaign. Howard Dean, who founded Democracy for America, but left the organization in 2016, wrote on Twitter that the organization had discredited itself and called its decision to stop aiding Northam’s campaign “incredibly stupid”. Democracy for America had already stopped collecting data for Northam and had ceased mentioning him in get-out-the-vote calls due to his campaign’s decision to remove Justin Fairfax from certain campaign fliers.
Northam held campaign rallies with former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden during the general election campaign.
According to the Washington Post, Northam owns stock in several companies “doing extensive work in Virginia”. Northam has stated that if elected governor, he would place his financial investments into a blind trust, so as to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, as of November 3, 2017, Northam has raised $33.8 million to Gillespie’s $24.5 million.
Northam was elected 73rd Governor of Virginia on November 7, 2017, defeating Ed Gillespie in the general election with a larger-than-expected nine-point margin of victory.
Governor of Virginia
Northam was sworn in as Governor of Virginia at noon on January 13, 2018 at the State Capitol. He became the second Eastern Shore native to serve as Governor of Virginia, after Henry A. Wise (who was elected in 1855) and the second alumnus of Virginia Military Institute to serve as governor, after Westmoreland Davis (who was elected in 1917). A majority of Northam’s cabinet secretaries are female, a first in Virginia history. Residents from every county in Virginia attended Northam’s inauguration (which reportedly marked another first for the state) and twenty-six groups participated in the inaugural parade, which has been called the largest and most diverse in state history.
The Washington Post described Northam as a moderate state senator who moved to the left on some issues during the 2017 gubernatorial Democratic primary, such as support for a $15 minimum wage and opposition to a state constitutional amendment enshrining right-to-work legislation.
Northam supports abortion rights. In the Virginia General Assembly, he opposed a bill to mandate vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, and voted against the bill when it was revised to mandate only abdominal ultrasounds. He was endorsed in the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial primary by the abortion rights group NARAL and its Virginia affiliate. Northam has argued for reducing abortion rates through education and expanding access to contraceptives.Planned Parenthood pledged to spend $3 million supporting Northam in his 2017 general election campaign for governor. Northam opposes banning abortions after 20 weeks through a state version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
On the controversies over public monuments to the Confederacy, in June 2017 Northam stated that the statues in the state Capitol that the General Assembly has jurisdiction over “should be taken down and moved into museums”, and that the decision on other statues “belongs to local communities.” He has said that there should be more public memorials to historical Virginia civil rights leaders such as Barbara Rose Johns, Oliver Hill, and Samuel Wilbert Tucker. In August 2017, Northam took a firmer stance, saying, “I believe these statues should be taken down and moved into museums. As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate for that approach and work with localities on this issue.”According to the Washington Post, Northam later reverted to his original stance that decisions on the monuments should be made locally.
Ralph Northam is opposed to the death penalty. As governor, there have been no executions in the Commonwealth.
Northam has proposed an increase in Virginia’s minimum wage from its current level, $7.25 an hour, to $15 an hour. During his 2017 campaign for governor, Northam was endorsed by the Laborers’ International Union of North America; the union praised Northam for his opposition to a “right-to-work” amendment to the Virginia state constitution.[Northam criticized the repeal of the car tax under former Governor Jim Gilmore because of its impact on both K-12 and higher education, saying Virginia still has not recovered.
Northam “has called for phasing out the grocery tax on low-income people and ending business taxes in struggling rural areas.” He has called for a bipartisan reform commission to make recommendations on state tax policy.
Northam has proposed making it free for students to pursue a community college education or apprenticeship in a high-demand field (such as cybersecurity and early-childhood education) under the condition that they commit to a year of paid public service.
Northam opposes public funding for private schools.
Environment and energy
Northam accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and as a candidate for governor vowed to lead efforts to fight climate change. He has pledged, if elected, to bring Virginia into the United States Climate Alliance, a multi-state agreement to upholdgreenhouse gas emissions standards. Northam has emphasized the negative effects of climate change-induced sea level rise on Virginia’s Tidewater region.
During his 2017 campaign for governor, Northam pledged if elected to continue implementing the total maximum daily load limits for nitrogen and phosphorus discharges into Chesapeake Bay, a policy that had reduced harmful algal blooms. Northam said he would continue this policy even if the federal government under Donald Trump cut or eliminated funding for the program. During his campaign, Northam was endorsed by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the Virginia Sierra Club.
Northam has offered conditional support for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, provided that the pipeline’s construction is deemed to be environmentally safe. He has avoided taking a firm stance on other pipelines such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He opposes both offshore drilling and fracking.
According to the Washington Post, Northam favors the “reinstatement of Virginia’s ‘one-gun-a-month’ law limiting purchases, as well as a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.”
Northam supports the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), although he has argued that it is in need of improvement. He also supports a federal Medicaid expansion in Virginia. After Republican attempts to repeal the law, he called for members of Congress to “put a stop to the uncertainty and work on stabilizing and building on the Affordable Care Act’s progress.”
He opposes a single-payer healthcare system in Virginia, preferring that such a plan would be run by the federal government, but supports the creation of a state-run public health insurance option.
In his 2007 campaign for state Senate, Northam “advocated for Virginia being ‘even more stringent than we are now in fighting illegal immigration,’ and said the state should act as ‘strong partners’ with federal law enforcement.” Northam’s rhetoric shifted in his 2017 gubernatorial campaign. In 2017 Northam pledged to “stand up against ICE” so that “people, especially immigrants, in Virginia aren’t living in fear,” saying: “Something that we are very proud of in Virginia is that we are inclusive.” He continued by saying “We will do everything we can to make sure immigrants are comfortable living here.” Northam opposed President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which offered temporary stay for unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as minors. Northam said Trump’s “decision lacks compassion, lacks moral sense, and lacks economic sense.” Northam supports granting state driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to unlawful immigrants.
In February 2017, Northam cast a tie-breaking vote in the state Senate against a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Virginia. Northam said he was “proud to break a tie when Republicans tried to scapegoat immigrants for political gain” and that he was “glad to put a stop to” the bill. In an October 2017 debate, Northam said he did not support sanctuary cities, stating that there currently were none in Virginia, but Northam declined to say whether he would sign a bill as governor that was similar to the one he voted against in the Senate. In November 2017, Northam said that he would indeed sign a bill similar to the one he voted against. As Governor, Ralph Northam vetoed a law banning sanctuary cities.
Northam favors decriminalizing marijuana.
During his 2017 campaign for governor, Northam has said that if elected, he will only approve a map of new Virginia legislative and congressional boundaries in the post-2020 redistricting that is drawn by a nonpartisan commission.
In a political commercial called “Listening,” run during the Virginia Democratic primary, Northam described the importance to him of listening—as a doctor, to his patients and as lieutenant governor, to his constituents. He ended with, “I’ve been listening carefully to Donald Trump, and I think he’s a narcissistic maniac.” As the general election drew near Northam said, “[I]f Donald Trump is helping Virginia, I’ll work with him.” Northam explained the “softer tone”: “I think people already know [their opinions of Trump] and they are judging for themselves. What we are talking about as we move forward are the policies that are coming out of Washington that are so detrimental to Virginia”.
|Northam, Ralph (D)Winner||$36,776,255||1,409,175||53.90%|
|Gillespie, Ed (R)||$29,314,607||1,175,731||44.97%|
|Hyra, Cliff (L)||$76,073||27,987||1.07%|
|Republican||Benito Loyola Jr.||12,622||43.13%||-3.39|
|Republican||E. W. Jackson||980,257||44.54%||-11.97|
Meet the Candidates for Governor: Ralph Northam
Published: May 17, 2017 By NBC News