Doug Wilder's first year as Lieutenant Governor

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Virginia Tech


In 1989, L. Douglas Wilder became the first black American to be elected Governor in any state when he was elected Governor of Virginia. His victory was the fruit of labors that spanned a twenty-year political career. He entered politics at a time when Virginia was emerging from the control of a political machine headed by Harry Byrd, Sr.

The win in 1989 was the direct result of Wilder being able to position himself while serving as the Commonwealth's Lieutenant Governor. Specifically crucial was Wilder's first year in office. During that period, he was able to establish himself as an independent voice. In doing so, he distanced himself from the questionable policies of Governor Gerald Baliles. Wilder's boldness deterred others from challenging his nomination in 1989. In addition, Wilder demonstrated that he could overcome political troubles, such as criticism he received for accepting speaking fees from in-state organizations.

Wilder's success can be explained by a marketing theory known as positioning. That theory holds that politicians have to create an independent position in the public eye. In doing so, the candidate may have to reinvent himself or herself to appeal to the widest range of voters.



positioning, Robb, politics, Wilder, Virginia, marketing