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EDITORIAL: With a loud statement, Loudoun rebukes the ugly rhetoric of politics

Civility was the secret sauce in the race for Virginia governor.

Three weeks ago, we conducted conversations with the two candidates, conversations we framed as civil.

Tuesday, the candidate who conducted a civil campaign was elected.

Ralph Northam’s victory is a triumph of civility in an uncivil moment, of grace in the face of political ugliness, and of American character in the time of Trump.

We don’t want to minimize the differences in approaches to the issues from Northam and his opponent Ed Gillespie, but we believe a majority of northern Virginians voted for Northam for his display of civility in a political campaign that made most citizens want to turn off their television sets.

We asked Gillespie about those ads during our conversations. He defended them vigorously. Rather than distancing himself from an unpopular president in Virginia, Gillespie mimicked Trump’s repulsive rhetoric and nasty tactics. We were surprised that Gillespie ditched his reputation as a traditional and fair-minded conservative only to adopt the divisive Trump campaign playbook. It didn’t play in Loudoun County, which voted decisively for Northam.

The president responded by rubbing salt in Gillespie’s wound: “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” he tweeted.

Northam’s decisive victory in Tuesday’s election is a stinging and welcome rebuke to President Trump. The outcome of this election brings renewed hope to the Virginia Way, an imperiled idea that stands as a better example of American democracy.

Northam’s personal graciousness and his inclusive, no-drama approach to governing provide a reassuring antidote to the toxic fumes of Trump-era politics. Northam has offered substantive proposals to make progress in health care, the economy and the environment. We applaud Gillespie, too, for his pledge to work with the next governor in the interests of Virginia.

“The doctor is in,” the pediatrician governor-elect announced at his victory party.

It’s a time to heal. We begin with a civil action, our vote.

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