The liberal showdown in Virginia's gubernatorial race played out earlier this month in Northern Virginia, where Democrat Ralph Northam met with workers at Ronald Reagan National Airport who were campaigning for a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
"We need to work hard to increase the minimum wage," he told NBC News after the event, later adding: "I've been fighting for progressive values in Virginia for the last 10 years."
The very next day, his primary opponent Tom Perriello made the same visit - and his campaign told NBC that he had embraced raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour before Northam did.
Say hello to the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, which increasingly has become a contest to see which candidate is more progressive. And say goodbye to the more centrist Virginia Democratic playbook that current Sen. Mark Warner — and Tim Kaine and Jim Webb, to lesser degrees — used successfully in the state over the last 16 years.
Northam, the state's lieutenant governor, has touted his record fighting the state's transvaginal ultrasound legislation in 2012, as well as pushing for gun-safety reforms.
Perriello, a former Democratic congressman, talks about achieving criminal-justice reform, combating a "rigged" economy and fighting against the Trump administration's "white tribalism."
And it all raises the question: Just how blue is the state that Democrats have won in three-straight presidential elections? Or is it still purple, given the Republicans' control of the state legislature and their gubernatorial victory there eight years ago?
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says Perriello's surprise entry in the contest earlier this year — Northam originally expected no serious competition in the June 13 Democratic primary — made it a race to the left.
"No question Perriello is dragging Northam to the left," Sabato said. "Actually, Northam has moved left during the McAuliffe administration, even before Perriello announced. But now Northam has to stress all of his liberal positions — some of which, on gun control and abortion, may be more to the left than Perriello's record."
But Sabato also notes that President Trump's unpopularity in Virginia — a poll last month had his approval rating at 38 percent in the state — could overshadow this Democratic competition over who is more progressive.
"Trump may generate a larger turnout than usual than usual among Democrats come November. The larger the turnout, the likelier the electorate will resemble last November, and the better the [Democratic] nominee's chances," he said.
Northam, a doctor and Army veteran, says he isn't concerned about a primary dragging the eventual Democratic nominee to the left. "These are things that I've fought for my whole life," he told NBC. "And as a lot of people know, I ran in a very conservative district," referring to his days as a state senator.
Perriello's campaign has a similar response, arguing that pursuing priorities like a $15-per-hour minimum wage "is a fight we welcome" given that it's something even some Trump backers support, says Perriello spokesman Ian Sams.
"Of the two candidates running in the primary, Tom brings bolder arguments than Ralph has brought," Sams adds. "We welcome an argument who can be the most bold."