In a tweet posted at 10:00pm, President Donald Trump chided Democratic nominee Ralph Northam for supporting the Central American gang MS-13. The tweet simply said, “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!”
This tweet comes on the heels of a recent attack ad by Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, who claimed that Northam, “voted in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the street, increasing the threat of MS 13.”
MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is a criminal gang that has a presence in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area. Trump’s remarks and Gillespie’s attack ad are entirely misleading, however, since the majority of MS-13 violence has been committed by American citizens who are members of the gang. Additionally, their violent activities only make up around one percent of total gang activity in the US.
This is the first time that Trump has seriously weighed in on the Virginia gubernatorial election. The governor’s election, which is one of only two in an off-year election season, is widely considered to be a referendum on Trump’s presidency to date. Gillespie was originally elusive on courting support from the president, but after a near loss to populist primary challenger Corey Stewart – a former Trump surrogate – Gillespie slowly started to switch strategies in the direction of the president. Regardless, polling on the governor’s race varies, with some having Northam up by about 13 percent, while others have the contest closer to 5 percent.