- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2017

Democrat Ralph Northam has inched up his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, according to a new poll released hours before they debate for a third and final time on Monday night.

The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed that Mr. Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, has a 49 percent to 42 percent lead over Mr. Gillespie among the state’s likely voters.

Libertarian Cliff Hyra received the support of 3 percent of voters, and 6 percent remain undecided in the poll, which has margin of error or plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Last month, the same poll showed Mr. Northam leading by a 47 percent to 41 percent margin.

“The movement we see in this tracking poll runs in the Democrats’ favor, and all three continue to hold their advantage,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.

Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Northam are set to debate at 7 p.m. at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and the forum is expected to focus in large part on issues of importance to the rural regions of the state.

The debate is the first showdown since Mr. Gillespie started running attack ads painting Mr. Northam as weak on immigration and accusing him of blocking a ban on sanctuary cities that has increased the threat of MS-13 gang.

The poll showed the issue of immigration resonates with Mr. Gillespie’s voters, and analysts say the Republican is attempting to use the issue to energize his base of voters and soften Mr. Northam’s support in Northern Virginia.

Gillespie’s focus on crime and immigration appear to be attempts to appeal to his base, specifically those Republicans who voted for his primary opponent,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center.

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