RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump is weighing in on the Virginia's governor's race.
Trump attacked Democrat Ralph Northam on immigration issues in a tweet late Thursday, accusing Northam of "fighting" on behalf of violent MS-13 gang members. Trump urged Virginians to vote for Republican Ed Gillespie.
Gillespie — a consummate Washington insider — has sought to keep Trump at arm's length throughout the campaign while also trying to rally Trump supporters with hard-edged attacks on Northam over immigration.
During a conference call with reporters Friday, Gillespie repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he welcomed Trump's endorsement.
"The fact is, I guess I'm a little surprised that it's news that the Republican president is in support of the Republican nominee for governor," Gillespie said.
When asked why his campaign had not retweeted the president's endorsement, Gillespie said Trump has about 40 million followers on Twitter. "I think that obviously that got out there without the need for a retweet," he said.
Northam responded on Twitter, saying he's been expecting Trump's attack and asked supporters for donations.
Virginia is just one of two states electing governors this year, a swing state contest viewed as a possible referendum on Trump's first year in office.
MS-13 has become a target of Trump in seeking support for a broader immigration crackdown.