The race between the democratic candidates for Governor is neck and neck in the polls. One of the reasons is that there are several similarities between former Congressman Tom Perriello and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in what they hope to accomplish as Governor. But there are some notable differences, too.
For our interview with each gubernatorial candidate, we asked them to select an interview site that tells us something about who they are. Tom Perriello chose to meet with us at a Town Hall he was holding at a Henrico Library.
He explained holding many town halls throughout his campaign has been the cornerstone of his outreach to voters. "We believe one of the things that's going to bring us back together, not just to excite Democrats this year, but reach across the political aisle, is to give people unfiltered access to a candidate," he said.
Perriello says his top priorities as Governor would be job creation, inclusiveness, and education.
"We really want to change the mentality from a K to 12 education to a P through 14. In today's economy, we need that universal Pre-K year and at least two years of higher learning," he said.
That's why he wants to make community college and trade school free and offer a student debt refinancing program.
Perriello also wants to raise minimum wage to $15, saying $7.25 is just too low.
"What happens is people either end up not working at all because it's not enough to cover child care and transportation. Or they end up working two minimum wage jobs, still making less than 35 thousand a year," he said.
Perriello and Northam are similar in both wanting a $15 minimum wage, and free community college.
But one area where they differ is on the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Northam has called for a strict environmental review of the pipelines. Perriello opposes building them altogether.
Said Perriello, "We could be creating tens of thousands of jobs, good paying jobs across Virginia, if we took that $6.7 billion, even a fraction of it, and put it into weatherization of homes and buildings, put it into wind and solar, put it into refurbishing the infrastructure that already exists, including making existing pipelines go two ways."
Perriello supports universal background checks for gun sales and responds to having taken campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association when he ran for Congress.
"When I was in Congress we didn't have a major legislative fight" regarding gun control issues, Perriello explained. But in 2012, he said, "When President Obama did decide he was going to take on the issue of gun safety after Sandy Hook, I stood with him."
Perriello says his experience as a Congressman, a diplomat, and a non-profit leader have prepared him to be Governor.
"Really it's been about a life of service, my life has been in the non-profit sector. Just trying to solve problems that are getting in the way of people getting a fair shot," he said.