Let me just state two things right off the bat. First, the "moderate" Northam versus a "leftist" Perriello (a la Hillary vs. Bernie) narrative is silly, un-helpful, and not applicable. Second, despite my endorsement, should Tom Perriello win the Virginia gubernatorial primary, I will be among the first people to sign up to help get him elected in the general election. He's not a bad guy or a terrible candidate. I voted for Bernie but hit the pavement for Hillary when it came time. I knew then and I know now what is at stake.
For now, here are are my thoughts as to why I support the current Lt. Governor, Ralph Northam:
Ralph Northam has state-level experience both legislating and governing. He has a voting record, a record of getting things done, and a network of relationships. Tom Perriello does not. He has no state-level experience or record. People criticize Tom Perriello for having been a pro-NRA and anti-reproductive rights member of Congress. Others criticize Northam for voting for George W. Bush. Neither of those matter to me right now. I believe both of them when they say they are in much different places now and, frankly, I am somewhat sympathetic to Tom Perriello's explanation of why he did what he did at that time. In fact, what concerns me more about Tom Perriello is his lack of voting record or platform on most of the other issues. Again, Ralph Northam has a solid, favorable voting record.
Almost every state-level office holder, Virginia's senators, and most if not all of Virginia's Democratic members of the U.S. House have endorsed Ralph Northam. The Perriello campaign tries to dismiss this as "back room establishment." First of all, that's dismissive of individual voters like me who support Northam and implies that we can't think for ourselves. Second, um, those members of the "back room establishment" are the people who have actually done the nitty gritty (and super important) local- and state-level work that Perriello hasn't and who are closest to constituents. You know who's even more establishment and even more distant from Virginia voters? The Obama officials who all endorsed Perriello. It doesn't get much more centrist establishment than John Podesta.
So, yes, Tom Perriello is running as an Obama Democrat. I would give almost anything to have Obama back as president right now. But Obama was a centrist, not a Bernie Sanders populist. Furthermore, I am a strong supporter of public education and a student of education policy and President Obama's education policies were, for the most part, awful. Northam has a record of supporting public education in Virginia. If Perriello is running as an Obama Democrat, that means I have to assume he is running on Obama's education policies. In fact, the only inkling I have of Tom Perriello's position on public education and education policy is his affiliation with Democrats for Education Reform: He was their "Reformer of the Month" in June 2010. Yuck. That is a big fat red flag as far as I am concerned. DFER, or Democrats for Emulating Republicans, as I like to call them, are neo-liberal, hedge-fundy, anti-union, and pro-privatization and apparently somewhat sweet on Betsy DeVos. That's not to say that Perriello feels the same way, but he hasn't exactly walked back his DFER affiliation, either.
I grudgingly respect what Tom Perriello is trying to do, but I'd respect him a lot more if he had returned home to run for Board of Supervisors or House of Delegates first.