Virginia governor race: Who are Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam?

President Donald Trump expressed his support for the Republican candidate for Virginia governor earlier this month – and accused the Democratic candidate of "fighting for the violent MS-13" gang.

Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are duking it out in next month’s gubernatorial race in the Old Dominion commonwealth. Just one of two states electing governors this year, Virginia is a swing state contest viewed as a possible referendum on Trump's first year in office.

Northam leads Gillespie by 7 percentage points in Fox News' latest polling average. Trump lost to opponent Hillary Clinton by about 5 points in Virginia during the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s a look at the candidates.

Ed Gillespie, Republican

This isn’t Ed Gillespie’s first rodeo when it comes to Virginia politics. The 56-year-old ran against incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2014 and nearly defeated him.

This Tuesday Sept. 26, 2017 photo shows Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, during an interview in Richmond, Va. In a state that stretches from the coal fields to the Chesapeake Bay, environmental issues often play a key role in Virginia's political contests. This year's race for governor is no different. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie is the former National Republican Committee chair and severed as a counselor to former President George W. Bush.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Gillespie is a former chair of the National Republican Committee and served as a counselor to former President George W. Bush for nearly two years. Gillespie touts his leadership within conservative circles on his campaign website, highlighting his time as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and work as a communications aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Gillespie and his wife have three children and live in Fairfax County, Va. He graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


While Trump endorsed Gillespie in a tweet in October, the establishment gubernatorial candidate hasn’t totally embraced the president or his politics on the campaign trail. And he almost lost to an ardent Trump defender in the primary race.

Still, Trump offered his support and encouraged his more than 40 million Twitter followers to “Vote Ed Gillespie!”

Bush is expected to host a fundraiser for Gillespie in Virginia later this month. And Vice President Mike Pence joined him at a weekend rally.

Ralph Northam, Democrat

Ralph Northam, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, is a physician and Army veteran. On his campaign website, he said he is “most proud” of “his career fighting for children – as a pediatric neurologist and volunteer medical director for a pediatric hospice care facility.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, gestures during an interview in Richmond, Va., Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Ralph Northam, Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is the current lieutenant governor of the state.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

While current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is barred by state law from running for reelection, Northam, 58, is expected to govern the commonwealth much as McAuliffe did. He is for greater gun control and abortion rights. He has also promised to “be a brick wall against the discrimination of the Trump administration,” according to his campaign website.


While encouraging Virginians to vote for Gillespie, Trump accused Northam of “fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs [and] sanctuary cities.”

Northam responded on Twitter with a link to his campaign donations website. He has also called the president a “narcissistic maniac” multiple times during the primary.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton headlined a fundraiser for Northam in New York earlier this week. And former Vice President Joe Biden backed Northam during a roundtable event on Saturday.

Former President  Barack Obama is expected to campaign with Northam on Oct. 19.

Northam lives in Norfolk, Va., with his wife. The pair has two children, a son who is a neurosurgery resident and a daughter who is working as a web developer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.