Virginia’s candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general are fighting for voters’ attention in a campaign season dominated by the increasingly nasty race for governor.
Two down-ballot hopefuls campaigned in Roanoke today, working to sway voters with 40 days remaining until Election Day. Sen. Mark Obenshain, the Republican candidate for attorney general, picked up the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business this morning in northwest Roanoke. Sen Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, greeted the lunch crowd at the Roanoke Weiner Stand and toured the City Market with Mayor David Bowers.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week suggests that all four candidates in the down-ballot races have some work to do to make themselves more familiar to voters. In the survey of 1,005 likely voters, 79 percent said they don’t know enough about Obenshain to have an opinion and 88 percent said they don’t’ know enough about Democrat Mark Herring. In the lieutenant governor’s race, 87 percent said they don’t know enough about Northam and 72 percent said they don’t know enough about Republican E.W. Jackson.
Obenshain acknowledged today that the gubernatorial candidates have largely sucked the oxygen out of the political conversation, but said he believes he is breaking through with voters. His first television ad is airing in the Roanoke market.
“As this race has developed, I’ve been traveling talking about my positive vision for what I’m going to do as attorney general,” Obenshain said. “With the ever-present negative ads that people have seen for the past two years — whether it’s in presidential politics or gubernatorial politics — my experience is people have found our positive approach to be refreshing.
“Whether it’s me on the campaign trail talking about what I’m actually going to do as attorney general or our ads — which aren’t running down the opposition but talking about my accomplishment and my focus — that, in an odd kind of way, has had the ability to garner attention the likes of which I really hadn’t anticipated and I’m proud of that.”
Obenshain visited Naff Auto Sales on Melrose Avenue to claim the endorsement of NFIB, which has a long history of backing Republican candidates. The organization has 5,500 dues-paying members in Virginia.
Nicole Riley, state director of NFIB/Virginia, said Obenshain has a 100 percent voting record on supporting the organization’s policy priorities. She lauded Obenshain for sponsoring the state constitutional amendment limiting government’s eminent domain authority and for sponsoring a bill prohibiting mandatory project labor agreements in state construction contracts.
Herring also claimed a significant business endorsement Thursday, getting the backing of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. The influential Northern Virginia organization endorsed the entire Democratic ticket one day after sponsoring a debate between the candidates for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The Fairfax chamber endorsed Republican Bob McDonnell for governor in 2009. The NFIB has endorsed Cuccinelli but has not declared a preference for lieutenant governor.
Northam was in Roanoke two days after facing Jackson in their first debate at George Mason University.
“As a result of that, I think people are starting to pay attention, ” Northam said of the debate.
“Our main job, and I think we’re doing it well, is on Nov. 5 people need to know who I am and who E.W. Jackson is and to be able to make a good choice,” Northam said.