Virginia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ralph Northam omitted any mention of Justin Fairfax, the party’s African American candidate for lieutenant governor, from about a thousand pieces of campaign literature, a move Fairfax called a “mistake” and that has stoked tensions within the Democratic ticket and threatens to alienate African American voters three weeks before Election Day.
The palm cards with photos of Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) were produced for canvassers with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which asked that Fairfax be excluded because it did not endorse him. Fairfax has spoken critically of two proposed natural gas pipelines that the union supports.
The literature was a sliver of the 1.5 million pieces produced by the Northam campaign, and homes that received palm cards without Fairfax also received literature with the entire ticket, the Northam campaign said.
Nevertheless, a photo of two palm cards – one with and one without Fairfax – made its way around social media this week and provoked outrage.
“It reeks of subtle racism, if not a tone deafness about how we are going to win in November,” said Quentin James, the founder of Collective PAC that supports black candidates, including Fairfax. “Leaving Justin Fairfax off…even if it’s only for a small universe of union members, still sends the wrong message.”
In an interview Wednesday, Fairfax called the move to exclude him a “mistake” by the Northam campaign but wouldn’t go as far to call it racism.
“Everyone who is looking at this will make their own judgements about this particular instance,” he said. “This should not have happened, and it should not happen again, and there needs to be robust investment in making sure that we are communicating with African American voters and we are engaging our base.”
Hours later, Fairfax’s campaign released a more conciliatory statement.
“This is a strong ticket and one that is working well together,” it said. “One piece of literature does not change that. Voters from across the Commonwealth have responded enthusiastically to Justin’s candidacy and the entire Democratic ticket. They are excited about our plan to offer more educational opportunity, economic growth, and more access to health care and they will reject the divisive and cynical politics of our opponents. That’s why Justin’s been endorsed by organizations like the VA AFL-CIO, Virginia Education Association and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.”
Some black leaders called the issue a distraction.
SOURCE: Fenit Nirappil
The Washington Post