Tom Perriello enters Democratic Party gubernatorial race

Former Fifth District congressman Tom Perriello announced Thursday that he will run for the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 2017.

“Future generations will ask what we did at this moment to defend our values and our Commonwealth. I’m running for Governor of Virginia because our state must be a firewall against hate, corruption and an assault on the Virginia values of decency and progress. That is a wall worth building,” Perriello said in a message to supporters.

Perriello, who represented the conservative Fifth District in Congress for one term, from 2009-2011, before serving in the State Department in the Obama administration, will challenge the sitting lieutenant governor, Ralph Northam, for the Democratic nomination.

Northam had been presumed to have a clear path at the nomination after Attorney General Mark Herring decided in 2015 to focus his attention in 2017 on running for re-election to that post.

The VMI alum, Gulf War veteran and pediatric neurologist had gained the support of the current governor, Terry McAuliffe, and the state’s two Democratic United States senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

Spokespeople for McAuliffe and Kaine have confirmed their continued support for Northam, who despite winning his statewide race in 2013 is largely unknown by Virginia voters, according to recent polls.

Perriello went public with his intentions after making a round of phone calls to top Virginia Democrats Wednesday night to let them know of his candidacy firsthand.

Some had hoped to talk him out of running for the nomination, aiming to avoid a contested nomination battle heading into the fall general election.

The Republican side of the dance card has three candidates vying for the party nomination: Ed Gillespie, Frank Wagner and Corey Stewart.

One top Virginia Democrat, State Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, told the Washington Post that Perriello has a “better chance of flapping his wings and flying to the moon than getting within 50 points of that nomination.”

“I’ve heard of some harebrained things, but this takes the cake,” said Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

The Northam campaign in a statement touted its continued support from top Democrats.

“Ralph Northam is proud to have the support of Governor McAuliffe and Democrats across Virginia, including all of our statewide elected officials, and will continue to fight back against attempts by Republicans to discriminate against the LGBT community and limit women’s access to reproductive health care,” Brad Komar, Northam’s campaign manager, told the Post in an email.

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