When the polls close on Tuesday, all eyes will be on whether his progressive agenda, embrace of unions and rejection of corporate money could form a blueprint for Democrats preparing to run against Trump in the midterm elections. Both candidates have pledged fierce opposition to Trump and his policies.
Already looking ahead to the November contest, Gillespie has criticized both Democrats as being hostile to charter schools and Virginia's status as a right-to-work state, a business-friendly policy that makes it hard for labor unions to organize.
Virginia's gubernatorial contest has received widespread national attention as the swing state is one of only two states electing new governors this year.
Northam had 55% of the total vote statewide by 8:30 p.m. with 70% of the precincts reporting, an hour-and-a-half after polls closed across the state.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is on track to win the nomination for Virginia governor, CNN has projected. A former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, Gillespie faced a serious challenge from Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
Northam said he'd do everything he could to reach out to Perriello backers.
We're joining Senator Bernie Sanders and endorsing Tom for his bold stand against two fracked natural gas pipelines, the Atlantic Coast pipeline and the Mountain Valley pipeline. His pitch to voters is emotional, saying Trump's victory signaled a new moment in American politics and a more progressive pushback is needed. A third candidate, State Sen.
In his victory speech, Gillespie tried to play peacemaker and asked Stewart supporters to get behind him for the general election. Democrats - Perriello in particular - made much of the campaign a referendum on President Trump.
Democrats are hopeful that trend will carry through to November.
With almost 90 percent of the ballots counted, Gillespie was leading in Virginia's gubernatorial primary by a less than 1 percent margin over Republican rival Corey Stewart in a race that appeared headed to a likely recount.
The turnout in the Democratic primary far exceeded the last one in 2009, when about 320,000 people voted.
All in all, while both parties' establishment candidates won, the night held surprises on both sides and is leaving political insiders scrambling to find explanations for the results.
"Our nominees will be traveling across the Commonwealth providing a clear alternative to the Northam/Perriello race to the left", the site says.
In northern Virginia, some voters told News4 they also preferred Northam for being more middle of the road and for his experience.
"One of the things that gives me hope right now about building this Bobby Kennedy style coalition is when I spend time in communities of color particularly in the urban areas, I hear a lot about reducing poverty", says Periello.
The IBEW said that they made a decision to endorse Perriello after he became the only candidate in the race the race to call for free two-year community college and repealing the state's "right-to-work" law, which allows workers to benefit from union contracts without paying dues to those unions. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen.
"No big deal", Stewart said at the time.
Northam, a 57-year-old pediatric neurologist from Norfolk with a genteel nature cultivated on the rural Eastern Shore, enters the general-election campaign in a strong position.
The survey demonstrates extraordinary grassroots support for Tom Perriello.
A victory for Northam would be an affirmation of the power of Democratic establishment that's backed him, including Sens. Mark Warner, recently lifted to renewed national prominence as a leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
He supports abortion rights, wants to raise the minimum wage and would like to see Medicaid expanded. Northam released a commercial in which he called Trump a "narcissistic maniac".
Nohe adds that he's "struggling a bit" that Republican voters didn't offer any sort of overwhelming rejection of Stewart's more incendiary rhetoric defending Confederate statues and monuments - the chairman often compared people seeking to remove these symbols to terrorists.
Wagner, meanwhile, touted his experience as a veteran lawmaker who can fix the state's congested highways.
Gillespie dominated his challengers in fundraising efforts. McAuliffe can't run for a second consecutive term under Virginia law.