- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2017

Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s pledge this week to support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants has thrust the issue of immigration to the forefront of the state’s 2017 gubernatorial race — establishing a clear dividing line between candidates more than nine months out from Election Day.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, a Republican, has slammed the Mr. Northam’s stance and rolled it into an attack against Ed Gillespie, calling on his top rival in the Republican primary race to come out against Mr. Northam’s “blatant disregard for the law.”

“We could easily see establishment darling Ed Gillespie engaging in the same dangerous behavior and putting the lives of Virginians at risk,” Mr. Stewart said in a statement.

Mr. Gillespie, though, appeared to nip the issue in the bud, saying Mr. Northam is under pressure to outflank former Rep. Tom Perriello, who recently jumped into the Democratic race, on the issue.

“Virginia plain and simply should not give legal identification to illegal immigrants,” Mr. Gillespie said. “This far-left position by Lt. Gov. Northam is clearly the Perriello effect, and it is out of touch with the concerns of Virginians.”

A Mason-Dixon poll Friday that showed Mr. Gillespie outpacing Mr. Stewart in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Northam and Mr. Perriello, who represented the 5th Congressional District from 2009 to 2011.

Mr. Stewart has made a name for himself through his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, and is vowing on his campaign website to continue that fight.

He also is hoping to tap into the populist wave that Donald Trump rode to victory in the 2016 presidential race — in part by painting Mr. Gillespie as “weak” on immigration and as the ultimate establishment Republican.

“Even more dangerous than a liberal Democrat is a Republican who would give us the same policies Northam would if he were governor,” Mr. Stewart warned. “Republicans have sold out Americans for far too long.”

The issue of driver’s licenses surfaced Thursday when Mr. Northam was asked where he stood on a proposal to grant temporary driver’s licenses to people who can’t receive a permanent one because of their immigration status.

“We need to make sure that we have immigration reform for this county, we make sure that we have a pathway to citizenship in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we need to make sure that people have access to driver’s licenses,” he said.

A total of 12 states — including California, Colorado and Maryland — and the District of Columbia allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, according to a breakdown of state laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Sen. Frank Wagner and businessman Denver Riggleman are also running in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

The Mason-Dixon poll released Friday showed Mr. Gillespie leading Mr. Northam by 3 percentage points and Mr. Perriello by 9 percentage points.

Mr. Northam, meanwhile, leads Mr. Stewart by 8 percentage points and Mr. Perriello by 2 percentage points.

“This is the second straight public poll to show that Ed Gillespie is the best candidate to unify the Republican Party in June and the Commonwealth in November,” said Gillespie campaign manager Chris Leavitt. “Ed’s positive vision, commitment to putting forward substantive policies, and campaign to engage all Virginians is resonating.”

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