“MS-13 turns young girls into sex slaves…yet Ralph Northam supports sanctuary cities…” That’s the text from a radio ad from Virginia GOP Governor candidate Ed Gillespie, as tweeted by Fenit Nirappil, a Virginia politics reporter from The Washington Post. That comes on the heels of a series of TV ads with a similar topic and theme “Kill, Rape, Control.”
If you haven’t heard of it, MS-13 is a criminal gang based in Los Angeles but at least present in a number of American cities. It’s made up predominantly of Central Americans. But it’s seen more broadly as a Hispanic gang. It’s not made up. It’s a violent, merciless organization that preys mainly on immigrants, especially the undocumented who can’t easily seek protection. The key point here is that MS-13 has become a staple of right-wing media. You may not have heard of them. But your crazy right-wing uncle definitely has.
From what I understand the race is close. I don’t have a good sense of who will win. The Democrats have held the Virginia governorship, which is term-limited at a single four year term, for three of the last four terms going back to 2002.
What’s notable about this is Gillespie.
It’s hard to know what counts as a GOP ‘moderate’ these days. By any measure, Gillespie is not one. He’s really a career lobbyist and political operative who’s been trying for the last few years to get into elective office. (In this sense, he’s similar to the current governor, Terry McAuliffe.) He’s best seen as a money, establishment Republican. He doesn’t strike me as terribly ideological. The key is that he’s not a Trumper. He’s not someone I would expect to see running a raft of heavily race-based, snarling campaign ads.
Anything to win, I guess. But Gillespie is the kind of Republican who you’d normally expect to see saying Republicans need to expand their support among growing demographic groups. He’s not a Steve King type you wouldn’t be surprised to see going full race-baiting Trumper in Virginia. But he’s clearly decided this is his path to victory, a doubling down on Trumpism and the Trump base. It certainly seems possible that he might win.
If he does win, or if it seems like it helped him, I would expect this to be a major theme of 2018 mid-term campaigns and not just in deep red districts.