Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Charlottesville Unrest Was a Factor for Many Virginia Voters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Charlottesville Unrest Was a Factor for Many Virginia Voters

Article excerpt

RICHMOND, Va. * Unease over violent white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville this summer and President Donald Trump's response loomed in the minds of many Virginia voters during Tuesday's elections in which Democrats made significant gains, according to progressive advocacy groups and interviews with voters.

The governor's race was one of Virginia's most racially charged in recent memory, and voters were peppered with ads that referenced the August violence.

A political organization that mounted a months-long black voter outreach campaign surveyed minority voters, and most said they saw their vote as a way to push back against white supremacy. Some voters interviewed this week told The Associated Press the same thing.

And in Charlottesville itself, which saw an increased voter turnout, one of the most vocal critics of the local government's response to the rallies won a City Council seat.

"I think folks really decided that it was important to send a message that the divisiveness is not something that Virginia stands for, and we really want to be an inclusive and welcoming state," said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a progressive group that worked on voter outreach in communities of color.

Democrats swept all three statewide races Tuesday, with Ralph Northam defeating Republican Ed Gillespie in the governor's race by nearly 9 points. The party also has a shot at retaking control of the House of Delegates after picking up at least 15 seats. Three races that will determine control of the chamber were too close to call Saturday.

The Rev. Seth Wispelwey, who was among the clergy facing down the white nationalists during the Aug. 12 protests, said people "had their consciences scandalized by this summer in Virginia." He noted that in the House, a slew of conservative white men were replaced by "candidates who represent precisely who the white supremacists seek to dehumanize. …

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