Doug Wilder accuses Kamala Harris of illegal campaigning with church ad for McAuliffe

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Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder accused Vice President Kamala Harris of illegally campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe by having churches play a video endorsement asking attendees for their support.

Mr. Wilder, who is the only Black governor in Virginia’s history, joins the chorus of critics who raised ethical questions about Ms. Harris’ video, which has been accused of violating a rule that prohibits churches and charities from engaging in political campaign tactics.

“Well, it’s very good for her to do that, causing these churches to lose their tax-exempt status,” Mr. Wilder said this week. “If this is legal, then it’s surprising to me.”

Mr. Wilder has been critical of Mr. McAuliffe’s candidacy since he announced his intentions to run for Virginia’s governor in December. 

The 90-year-old former governor accused Mr. McAuliffe of blocking the chances for minority candidates to seek the seat, adding that he will need to secure Black voters to be victorious in the deadlocked race.

“In Virginia, the Democratic candidate has to have a strong turnout of Black Americans,” Mr. Wilder said. “If [Mr. McAuliffe] doesn’t get that, you’re going to see some problems.”

Ms. Harris, who stumped for Mr. McAuliffe in Dumfries on Thursday, is hoping to boost turnout among Black voters. 

Her video is set to play until Election Day, Nov. 2, in Black churches across Virginia on Sundays.

“In 2020, more Virginians voted than ever before. And because you did, you helped send President Joe Biden and me to the White House,” Ms. Harris says in the video. “This year, I know that you will send Terry McAuliffe back to Richmond.”

The vice president encouraged congregants to cast their ballots after their church service, noting that Virginians can vote on Sundays. Early voting in the state started in mid-September.

“Please, vote after today’s service,” Ms. Harris said. “And if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote.”

Mr. McAuliffe is in a tie with Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, with less than two weeks left until polls close.

Both candidates hold 46% support, according to a recent Monmouth University poll.

The poll, conducted from Oct. 16-19, surveyed 1,005 registered voters and had an error margin of +/-3.1%.

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