Clinton returns to campaign trail, for Virginia gov candidate

Hillary Clinton plans to return to the campaign trail Wednesday night, to headline a New York fundraiser for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam.

Clinton said after her failed 2016 White House bid that she’d never run again for public office. But she seems to remain popular and bankable in some party circles. Her ongoing 25-city, North American tour promoting her book “What Happened” is selling tickets costing several hundred dollars apiece.

Northam, raising money in the final stretch, is in a tight gubernatorial race with Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. They are competing for the open seat of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton family fundraiser who must leave the Virginia governor’s mansion because of term limits.

The most recent averaging of polls by the nonpartisan RealClearPolitics shows Northam leading by 4.4 percentage points, with Election Day just a month away.

Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, is facing Gillespie in one of only two gubernatorial contests this year -- the other playing out in New Jersey

CORRECTS LOCATION TO MCLEAN, VIRGINIA Gubernatorial candidates Republican Ed Gillespie, left, and Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam debate in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. The two major party candidates in Virginia's closely watched race for governor argued in mostly cordial tones Tuesday over taxes, President Donald Trump and what Virginia should do with its numerous monuments to the Confederacy. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Sept. 19, 2017: Virginia gubernatorial candidates Republican Ed Gillespie, left, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam debate in McLean, Va. Hillary Clinton is planning to fundraise for Northam in the final stretch.  (AP)

And like essentially all of the special congressional contests this year, the Virginia gubernatorial race is being portrayed as a referendum on President Trump's first year in office and a preview of the 2018 midterm elections.

Clinton last year beat Trump by roughly 5 percentage points in Virginia, the only southern state Trump lost.

Much of Virginia remains conservative -- including the rural southwest and coastal Navy communities. However, northern Virginia, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, has become a growing liberal stronghold.

Former President George W. Bush is slated to headline a fundraiser for Gillespie on Oct. 16 in northern Virginia.

Gillespie was a senior White House adviser during Bush's presidency. Bush has given $50,000 to Gillespie's campaign and political action committee.

Northam leading Gillespie in fundraising, $15.6 million to $10.4 million, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.