UPDATE, January 6, 3:29 p.m.: Perriello issued a statement on Facebook claiming he has “always been pro-choice and a supporter of Roe v. Wade” and expressing “regret” for his vote on the Stupak Amendment. He vowed that if elected, he would “work to roll back harmful restrictions on the right to choose and on abortion providers here in Virginia, oppose a 20-week abortion ban, make contraception more readily available, and ensure abortion care is safe, compassionate and accessible for women when they need it.”
Tom Perriello, Democrat who opposed federal funding for abortion care while in Congress, on Thursday unexpectedly entered the race to replace term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in Virginia.
“I’m running for Governor of Virginia because our state must be a firewall against hate, corruption and an assault on the Virginia values of decency and progress,” Perriello said in a letter to supporters posted to his campaign website after announcing his candidacy in a video and an email to supporters.
“The next Governor can block the radical redistricting that has held back our promise and progress,” he said in the letter. “If we hand the system back to the people, together we can demand better wages, more time with family, paid family leave and better, more affordable education.”
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The former congressman will face Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in Virginia’s June 13 primary ahead of the state’s 2017 election. Northam was expected to obtain the party’s nomination after Democrats “sought to clear the field for Mr. Northam, hoping to give him a head start in fund-raising and organization, while at least three Republicans vie for the nomination,” according to the New York Times.
Northam campaign manager Brad Komar in an emailed statement to the Washington Post highlighted the lieutenant governor’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights.
“Ralph Northam is proud to have the support of Governor McAuliffe and Democrats across Virginia, including all of our statewide elected officials, and will continue to fight back against attempts by Republicans to discriminate against the LGBT community and limit women’s access to reproductive health care,” he said.
Perriello was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, narrowly unseating a Republican incumbent whose hostile statements about undocumented immigrants had come under scrutiny.
Though Perriello claimed in a February 2008 interview to “firmly believe that abortion should not be criminalized” and that he was against “any action that seeks to coerce women by reducing access to care or making the process less safe,” he publicly vowed to oppose any federal funding for abortion care.
That became an issue when health-care reform was being considered in Congress. Perriello voted for the anti-choice Stupak amendment, which would have prevented subsidized health plans on the insurance exchange from covering abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.
The Perriello campaign did not return a request by Rewire to clarify the candidate’s stance on reproductive health care, including whether he still opposes federal funding for abortion care.
That position, however, would put him out of step with the current Democratic Party, which adopted language opposing the Hyde Amendment’s annual appropriations ban on most federal funding for abortions in its 2016 platform.