Because Virginia’s constitution does not permit current Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) to run for another term, there is no incumbent for voters to assess when they vote for a new governor on November 7th.

A Libertarian convention and regular primaries earlier this summer resulted in a three-way race amongst Republican Ed Gillespie, Democrat Ralph Northam, and (nonstarter) Libertarian Cliff Hyra.

According to Real Clear Politics averages, Northam was leading Gillespie last month by 4.4 points.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2017/governor/va/virginia_governor_gillespie_vs_northam-6197.html

Hillary Clinton, who in 2016 won Virginia and its 13 electoral votes, has pledged to fundraise for Northam.  Virginia leans Democrat, with its sitting governor and both of its senators being Democrats.  On the other hand, Virginia’s House of Delegates and its Senate is controlled by Republicans.

While energy and the environment are key issues in next month’s gubernatorial election, another issue is taking center stage in light of the Las Vegas mass shooting:  the Second Amendment.

Northam is calling for strict gun laws, while Gillespie maintains his stance as a proponent of the Second Amendment.

The Washington Post reports:

The Las Vegas mass shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history, pushed gun control to the front of the neck-and-neck race for Virginia governor on Monday.

At a previously scheduled forum in Vienna that was held hours after a gunman killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie offered condolences.

But the partisan divide over guns in Virginia, a Southern state with a strong gun tradition that was shaken by the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, was immediately evident.

Northam, a former Army doctor who has an F rating from the National Rifle Association, decried what he called “a proliferation of guns” in society and urged gun-control measures.

Gillespie, who has an A rating and an endorsement from the NRA, asked for a moment of silence, later telling reporters that it was too soon to discuss policy.

Gun-grabbing groups are pouring money into Northam’s campaign, while the NRA is countering with its own ad blast.

WaPo continues:

Americans for Responsible Solutions, Giffords’s gun-control group, has pledged to spend $150,000 on pro-Northam mailings.

Northam is also backed by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, a group bankrolled by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) that is spending at least $700,000 on his campaign.

“In light of the tragedy in Las Vegas, today is a day for resolve,” said Kate Folmar, an Everytown spokeswoman. “In this governor’s race, Virginians have a clear choice between a candidate who believes we must do much to prevent such tragedies, Ralph Northam, and a candidate who does not, Ed Gillespie.”

Meanwhile, the NRA, which had planned to run political advertising in Virginia starting Tuesday through Election Day on Nov. 7, delayed those commercials for one week, according to a media buying firm and a Richmond television station.

The gun rights group plans to spend more than $750,000 on commercials in the Richmond and Roanoke markets, according to filings reviewed by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

While Virginia is hardly West Virginia (where Senator Joe Manchin (D) famously shot the cap and trade bill in a campaign ad), it’s not exactly anti-gun deep blue, either.  Virginia is an open carry and reciprocal concealed carry state.  So the right of Americans to own guns may be a defining factor as Virginians head to the polls next month.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has more on gun rights becoming key in the Virginia governor’s race.

Guns were already on the radar for Monday in Virginia’s governor’s race, but the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night forced both campaigns to react amid another round of debate over the political response to mass shootings.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam called the shooting a “terrorist attack” and reiterated his calls for tighter gun restrictions. Republican Ed Gillespie, whose promises to preserve gun rights have earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, called the violence an “act of evil,” but did not weigh in on the question of whether the latest tragedy should compel new approaches to gun policy.

. . . . Northam has advocated for universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and reinstating Virginia’s former law limiting handgun purchases to one per month. Democrats have introduced a variety of gun control bills in recent General Assembly sessions, but the Republican-controlled legislature routinely blocks efforts to add new restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms.

Gillespie has vowed to “defend and advance” gun rights. In its August endorsements, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund called Gillespie “a strong supporter of our constitutional rights who will stand up to Michael Bloomberg and his out-of-state gun control groups.”

Republicans currently hold 34 governorships, including those that constitute the surprising “takeover” of New England.

However, it will be interesting to see how much or how little Charlottesville and the Vegas shooting influence Virginia’s voters.