Tom Perriello is hoping to win the Democratic Party nomination for Virginia’s Governor. He’s in a tight race with Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, the only other candidate in the race.
Perriello has earned populist support and his claim to fame is voting in favor of Obamacare during his single term in the House of Representatives. The 42-year-old Charlottesville-native represented Virginia’s fifth Congressional district, which covers a large swath of central Virginia. He only served from 2009 to 2011, since he lost re-election to Republican Robert Hurt.
After his time in the House, the unmarried Perriello served in the Obama administration as a diplomat. From 2014 to 2015, he was a Special Representative to the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Then, he was appointed U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a role he held until December 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about where Perriello stands on key issues.
1. Perriello Is Pro-Choice & Apologized for Voting for the Stupak Amendment
Perriello is pro-choice, but has had to repeatedly answer questions about his decision to vote for the controversial Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a.: Obamacare), even after apologizing for it on Facebook. The measure banned federal funding for “any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion” except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. It was included in the House version of Obamacare, but was dropped by the Senate.
On January 6, Perriello issued a long apology on Facebook, insisting that he has always been pro-choice and noted that he voted against attempts to stop Planned Parenthood funding. Perriello wrote:
This vote caused real pain to constituents and other women. I appreciate that some of these brave women and reproductive justice advocates took time to tell me their stories and educate me about the full implications of that vote. After my term in Congress ended– and as the far right accelerated its systematic rollback of access to reproductive health care at the local, state, and national level — I put these lessons into action, including through my work at the Center for American Progress, in efforts to fight back against the War on Women. This included advocacy in Virginia and across the country to challenge a lack of family planning services and access to abortion care. Thanks to reproductive justice advocates in the state of Virginia, I came to better understand the intersection between denial of service and race and class.
This didn’t stop Perriello from having to face questions about his current pro-choice stance. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch interview in April, Perriello tried to turn the critics’ attention to his rival, since Northam has admitted to voting for Republican President George W. Bush. Perriello told the Times-Dispatch that Northam supported “the most anti-choice president” in history.
“I’m very proud of having supported always the foundations of Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to choose,” Perriello said in April. “It’s true I’m the only Democrat in the race that’s done that. When Ralph Northam was supporting, twice, the most anti-choice president in the history of the United States, I was working to try to push back against the political power of the religious right with every fiber of my being.”
2. Perriello Considers the NRA a ‘Nut-Job Extremist Organization’
When Perriello was running for Congress, he tried to establish himself as a centrist who could appeal to voters in a historically Republican district. (Perriello’s predecessor, Virgil Goode, was first elected as a Democrat, but changed to an Independent before joining the GOP in 2002.) This meant taking NRA donations during his Congressional campaigns. As The Washington Post notes, Perriello got an A rating from the NRA and $6,000 in donations from the group for his 2010 campaign.
While running for Governor, Perriello has done an about-face. “Now they’ve really become a nut-job extremist organization, as I’ve called them before, that is much more interested in representing the gunmakers than responsible gun owners,” Perriello said in a radio interview on WAMU.
During this campaign, Perriello (and Northam as well) got an F rating from the National Rifle Association.
In a statement on his website, Perriello notes that he did grow up around guns, but believes the “extreme stances of the corporate gun lobby represent giant gun companies, not most gun owners who understand the need for commonsense gun safety measures.” As governor, Perriello wants to start universal background checks and to “keep guns out of the hands of intimate partner abusers and stalkers.”
3. Perriello Doesn’t Want to Add Charter Schools in Virginia
Expansion of public charter schools is a hot-button issue in Virginia, as the state only has nine of them. Both Democratic candidates oppose adding public charter schools and would instead rather see more funding go to public schools. He also wants to bring universal pre-kindergarten to Virginia.
“The performance of charter schools has simply not exceeded performance within the system, despite years of investments,” Perriello told the Washington Post. “There have also been many legitimate concerns raised in how these have proceeded. Vouchers are also a plan that often make policymakers feel good about the few cases they appear to help, instead of focusing us on how to fix the system as a whole.”
Perriello told the Post that he’s the “only candidate” who wants to use revenues to give teachers a raise, add more counselors in schools and give universe pre-kindergarten.
“We are also expanding options to restore career and technical training programs in high schools, and I’m the only candidate to provide two years of apprenticeship programs, trade school or community college education,” Perriello told the Post.
Oddly enough, Perriello’s stance on charter schools is another change from his time in Congress. As the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools notes, Perriello was among the Democrats who co-sponsored a House resolution to mark National Charter Schools Week in 2009, which also called for more support of charters schools nationwide.
Perriello also said in a statement that he wants to ensure Virginians get paid family leave and guaranteed medical leave.
4. Perriello Wants to See Virginia Have a $15 Minimum Wage
Perriello is pushing for a $15 minimum wage in Virginia, but so is Northam. As the Washington Post notes, Virginia still follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25. (Northam broke a State Senate tie to pass a $10.25 minimum wage in 2014, but it failed in the Republican House of Delegates.)
Perriellio announced his support for a $15 minimum wage in first in January, with Northam following the very next day.
Mother Jones notes that Perriello has fallen in line with many other populist Democratic ideas. He’s promised to stop two natural gas pipelines and endorsed free community college. He’s also trying to show that he can enact environmental policies without hurting the economy of coal country and farming.
Perriello posted a list of 13 ways he’ll try to protect the environment in Virginia. He also called for the state to join the State Climate Alliance after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement.
5. Perriello’s Campaign Crushed an Ambulance to Show What he Thinks of the AHCA
In 2010, Perriello lost re-election because he voted for Obamacare. Now, he’s embracing that and has made it clear that he doesn’t support the Republican American Health Care Act. In May, his campaign released an ad where he crushed an ambulance, telling viewers that Republicans are trying to do that to affordable health care.
“Republican leaders are trying to do this to affordable health care,” Perriello says in the ad. “Together, we can stop Donald Trump, raise wages and build an economy that works everyone… And we’ll make sure this never happens in Virginia.”
On his website, Perriello vows to make sure healtchare stays affordable for Virginians. “It is not only the right thing to do, it will save our state money and support a healthier and more productive workforce,” his site reads.
Periello also opposed the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.
“My first obligation as Governor is to guarantee the long-term safety, economic security, health, and individual rights of Virginians,” Periello said in a statement. “These interests are not served by these pipelines. It’s time to move beyond lazy, last-generation ideas and let Virginians create the clean energy jobs and businesses of tomorrow. For a fraction of the cost, we can create a cleaner, more efficient, more job-rich Virginia for all and make our Commonwealth greater than it’s ever been.”