By Jeff Hulbert
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam may have great aspirations for his radical gun control plans for 2020, but “his people” aren’t having any of it.
“Ralph Northam has stirred up a hornet’s nest,“ declared Jerry Pinkston, as he braced against the cold wind blowing across the plaza at the Accomack County Administration Building.
Outfitted in a leather jacket adorned with an NRA patch, Pinkston was visibly agitated when discussing the person who once worked the nearby farm fields, but who now occupies the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
“Ralph Northam has stirred up the worst kind of hornet’s nest,” Pinkston repeated, shaking his head.
A few strides away on the bricks, Jim Kaczmarek—another Accomack County resident—said he isn’t alone in wondering what led Ralph Northam to reject the God and guns traditions of an upbringing just down the road in Onancock, Virginia.
“I know a lot of people in the community who know Ralph Northam, and they say this is not the same Ralph Northam they grew up and went to high school with”, Kaczmarek said. “It is not the same person”.
Governor Northam hails from this tightly-knit community, where the weathered bricks in the small town of Accomac (the town name is missing the ‘k’) contrast sharply with the brilliant white-washed architectural majesty of the Virginia Statehouse far to the west across the Chesapeake Bay.
Ralph Northam’s roots on the gun-friendly Eastern Shore run deep. His family here has reluctantly acknowledged a slave-owning history in the early 19th century.
Northam was raised on the family’s 75-acre bay shore farm in Accomack County, where his father—a returning World War II veteran—won election to three terms as the Commonwealth Attorney there.
The elder Northam later served as a Circuit Court judge, following in the footsteps of his own father, also a Circuit Court judge.
The crowd of gun owners who were gathered on a plaza — one crossed regularly by several generations of Northam’s family — are incensed by the Governor’s repudiation of the tradition of gun ownership on his home turf.
They have converged on the Accomack town center to demand that the Northam and his Democrat allies in Richmond be forcefully told by local officials to back off from their drastic proposed gun control propositions.
Not surprisingly, the Governor’s unexpected political “evolution” continued to be Topic A out on the sidewalk in front of the Administration Building.
There, Jim Kaczmarek said he was not finished with his assessment of Northam as dramatically out-of-step with his former neighbors, who continue to cherish hunting traditions and gun ownership.
“I have people tellin’ me that grew up with him saying that he was actually a conservative kind of guy back in the younger days. And nobody can figure out why everything changed so radically. Is he just pandering for votes? The people he grew up with want to know what in the world happened.”
For others willing to discuss the arc of Northam’s life from local farm boy to high-level gun-grabber in the Statehouse, most say they are mystified by the betrayal.
Kelly Ford, a safety manager at a nearby federal facility, was unsparing in his criticism of Northam.
A lot of people here don’t like him. He’s a liar, he tells lies, he tells lies about gun violence. He’s bought and paid for by Bloomberg. He’s answering his master…that’s all he’s doing there.
On this day, the pleas by the assembled gun owners before the Accomack County Board of Supervisors were part of a recent grassroots campaign by rural Virginians all across the Old Dominion to declare Second Amendment sanctuary status in every jurisdiction possible.
Proponents say it’s a tactic to blunt the momentum of gun-hating Democrats, who’ve recently seized control of the state legislature.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore folks, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and about 30 miles of bay waters separating them from the rest of the Old Dominion, have long felt either resentful or grateful about their isolation from other Virginians.
The Shore locals often express the sense that they are “the forgotten part” of the Commonwealth, and that legislators in Richmond are not mindful of their needs.
That irritation seems to be right at the surface when Shore residents hear that Richmond Democrats have finally decided to pay attention to this isolated peninsula, but only to hand down far-reaching gun control restrictions, and even possibly confiscate arms by way of a National Guard call-out.
Before filing in to testify to her county board, Crystal Zodun expressed her dismay at Governor Northam’s rejection of his roots, and the casting aside what she calls “the benefits of growing up on the Eastern Shore.”
“This is a loving community, but, you know, I don’t think we are thrilled with what he is doing now.”, Zodun says. “I just think he’s misled”.
“I’m horrified at what he’s turned into and what he believes, and I pray for him.”
Donald Hart, Jr., Chairman of the Supervisors Board, says it has now become the entire board’s obligation to make the three-hour trek to Richmond—via the 18-mile Bay Bridge/Tunnel span linking them to the Virginia mainland— to demand that Accomack County gun owners be left alone.
“We have to stick up for ourselves more than anybody else because if we don’t we will be left out. We know how to fight”.
Ben Loyola, a Virginia Beach resident, says he has become so incensed by Ralph Northam’s betrayal of Second Amendment rights—and of his own community—that he made the 90-minute trip up Eastern Shore peninsula to stand in solidarity in Accomack with his fellow gun owners.
But before taking his testimony turn before the Board, Loyola—who is running in the race for the Republican nomination to Virginia’s Second Congressional District seat—issued his blunt sidewalk assessment of the Governor:
I’d say Ralph Northam has betrayed the people and abandoned the folks here. He’s embraced his hard left socialist agenda, vilifying gun owners and basically throwing the Second Amendment away. He wants to make legal gun owners into felons, and we just got to stop that.
By day’s end, 25 supporters of the Second Amendment had stepped to the podium in Accomack County to insist that their county leaders stand with them against the infringers across the Bay. By a unanimous vote of the Board, the Supervisors pledged to do just that.
Curiously, there was no outbreak of applause in the board room when the Supervisors committed to stand up for Eastern Shore ways in Richmond.
Not a single clap was heard. It was as if church had let out—with folks leaving, heads bowed.
It seems there is no joy in a mission to confront a “Shore boy” who seems to have forgotten where he came from.
Jeff Hulbert is the founder of Patriot Picket.