POLL: Democrats Perriello and Northam tied ; Gillespie extends lead in GOP race

From Wason Center -NEWPORT NEWS, VA  The establishment candidate holds a big lead in Virginia’s Republican primary for governor, but the “insurgent” Democrat has caught up with that party’s establishment favorite, according to a new survey of voters by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.In the contest for the Democratic nomination, former Congressman Tom Perriello and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam are tied at 26 percent. Perriello entered the race in January, tangling the smooth path to the nomination Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats had planned for Northam. Northam’s share of the vote has not changed since the Wason Center poll released on Feb. 2, while Perriello has gained 11 points. On the Republican side, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (38%) leads his two rivals, Prince William County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (11%) and Virginia Beach state Sen. Frank Wagner (10%).

The party primaries are set for June 13. “Just a few months ago, nobody expected that the real action in this primary would be on the Democratic side, but that’s where it is,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. “With Sanders voters tilting to Perriello and Clinton voters preferring Northam, the Democratic primary for governor looks to be a replay of last year’s presidential primary.”

While Gillespie holds a solid lead for the GOP nomination, the Republican divisions in 2016 cast a shadow on the party’s primary this year, too. “A Trump effect adds some uncertainty to the Republican contest,” said Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director. “Gillespie, the establishment favorite, is underperforming among voters who preferred Trump to all those insider Republicans last year. But Stewart and Wagner don’t seem to be picking them up, either.” Most voters surveyed said they disapprove of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president. Among Virginia voters, Trump’s job approval stands at 37%, with 59% disapproving.

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