WINCHESTER, VA. — The melodic sounds of a street musician’s trumpet echo through every corner of this old Virginia town as locals shop or make their way to lunch. Daren Johnson has been blowing his horn at the pedestrian mall in the shadow of the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum for over an hour. He performs for two reasons: “To make some extra cash and to share a little bit of lightness. We are exhausted as a country,” he said, “a direct result of last year’s election.”
Johnson and his wife were tireless volunteers for Hillary Clinton last year. They knocked on doors, they made phone calls, they were invested. When she lost, the couple was devastated. Now, Johnson doesn’t even know who is running for governor.
“I’ve voted every year for the past 46 years, always informed, always enthusiastic, always involved in the process. Now, it’s really hard to care,” Johnson said.
The upcoming gubernatorial election in Virginia is one of only two happening in the country this year, along with New Jersey. The race pits Ralph Northam, the current lieutenant governor and a Democrat, against Ed Gillespie, a former George W. Bush administration official and Republican National Committee chairman.
Northam should have a comfortable lead right now. Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing governor he currently serves under, is popular and generally seen as successful. Plus, Virginians have historically elected governors from the party opposite to a president who’s won the year before. In 2001, Democrat Mark Warner won one year after George W. Bush was elected; in 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell won one year after Barack Obama took the state.
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