A top political adviser to Gov. Ralph Northam, who has helped the governor rehabilitate his reputation and career following this year’s scandal over the racist photo in his college yearbook, is assisting Democrat Tulsi Gabbard in her run for president.

Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, has stirred debate among Democrats and recently came under attack by Hillary Clinton.

Northam PAC director Mark Bergman said he is volunteering as a consultant for Gabbard and reached out to her campaign after being impressed by her performance in the second Democratic presidential debate in July.

Bergman, a consultant based in Connecticut who was a longtime resident of Henrico County, has a variety of clients. He was one of the drivers in helping Northam craft his responses to the February yearbook photo scandal and has assisted the governor in his recovery efforts this year, including helping the governor’s PAC, The Way Ahead, raise money for Democratic candidates.

“I didn’t know much about [Gabbard] and I watched her in the debates and was intrigued by her anti-war stance, her criminal justice reform positions and I ... wanted to help,” Bergman said Friday, making clear that this was his personal opinion. “I really like her anti-war positions.”

He said Gabbard is a “compelling figure” and an “important voice” in the Democratic Party. Bergman was quoted in a news report in October on behalf of the Gabbard campaign.

Gabbard, who has a following among some members of the far right, averages 1% in national polling but polled at 3% in Iowa in a Quinnipiac University poll released this week.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, attacked Gabbard during an interview, saying she was “the favorite of the Russians” and Republicans have “got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.”

Gabbard responded on Twitter that Clinton was “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” Gabbard has denied she is planning to run for president as a third-party candidate if she doesn’t win the Democratic nomination.

Asked about the appeal Gabbard has with some members of the right, Bergman said a Democrat needs to appeal to “both sides” in order to win the presidency.

“She appeals to progressives, she appeals to people who are in the middle and she appeals to people who are on the right, and that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “That’s something the party should want.”

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Twitter: @patrickmwilson

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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