Virginia Democrats vying to be face of Trump resistance

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Northam's win capped off fierce competition on the Democratic side, with Northam facing off against former congressman Tom Perriello.

Perriello nonetheless drew major support from the Sanders wing of the party, and coverage of the race often cast it as a fight between the Democratic progressive and centrist wings. Pollsters say the race is just too close to call. Northam had the support of the state Democratic Party's core constituencies, including teachers groups and African-American political and religious leaders.

Democrats have an advantage going into the general since Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonEx-aide: Trump "frustrated" by Russian Federation probe Northam defeats Sanders-backed candidate in Va.gov primary OPINION: Firing Mueller may be legal, but it would not be right MORE carried Virginia in 2016 - and won it by a larger margin than former President Obama.

Meanwhile, Northam has the state's Democratic establishment in his corner - McAuliffe and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the latter Clinton's running mate a year ago.

"All I am going to do is put forward ideas that will get Virginia going again", Gillespie said.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello is running as a liberal crusader who has the support of national Democrats such as Sens. Mark Warner in 2014.

Perriello joined the race as resistance to the Trump agenda began to boom, and promised on the stump to make Virginia a bulwark against it.

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A variety of Virginia politicos to whom CNN spoke peg the magic number at 375,000 voters - above that number could be good for Perriello, but below that should indicate a Northam win. As evidence that the race is heating up, late last week it was reported that Mr. Perriello had loaned his campaign some $150,000 and that a PAC favoring Mr. Northam had launched attacks against Mr. Perriello.

At a town hall in Richmond a month earlier, Perriello suggested those votes would hamstring Northam in a general election debate with the likely GOP nominee, Ed Gillespie, who served as the Republican National Committee chair during Bush's re-election campaign before eventually working in his White House for 18 months. Voters are choosing candidates in races for governor, lieutenant governor and the House of Delegates, and some local offices.

Polling stations are open Tuesday between 6 a.m.to 7 p.m.to determine who will take the place of the current Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who can't run for a second consecutive term under the term limit law unique to Virginia.

In the Republican primary for Governor, Ed Gillespie has a lead of fewer than 2000 votes over Corey Stewart, with Frank Wagner running a distant third.

At first expected to cruise to the nomination without a serious challenge, Northam countered with a broader slate of state-based support. "That's what people want to know - what will you do if we trust you with the governorship of the commonwealth we love - and I am telling them every single day what I will do if I am given that opportunity".

One of Perriello's sharpest divisions with Northam is over two proposed natural gas pipelines in Virginia, both of which are strongly opposed by environmentalists and some landowners.

Perriello ratcheted up attacks on Trump ahead of Tuesday's vote, calling the primary the "firewall against the hate and bigotry of the administration". Elections officials say poll workers are taking provisional ballots in the parking lot.

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