Only 15% of Virginia House of Delegates Seats Being Contested? WTF?!?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I usually don't link to or quote right-wing blogs, but this one by Mason Conservative raises an extremely important issue:
But even I was taken aback when I saw THIS list from VPAP outlining the contested elections in the House of Delegates for 2011.  I was stunned.  Of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates, ONLY FIFTEEN WILL BE CONTESTED BETWEEN A REPUBLICAN AND A DEMOCRAT.  That is an astounding 15% COMPETITION RATE.  Wow.  For the record, here are the districts:  9, 10, 13, 19, 20, 31, 34, 36, 37, 42, 52, 59, 64, 75, and 87.
As a comparison, there will be 17 competative state senate seats out of 40, at a clip of 42% competition rate.
It made me wonder why this is?  Part of it is certainly is redistricting, but I think any Democrat in Virginia should be ashamed of their leadership and candidate recruitment.  On the list of delegates not being challenged are people like Jim LeMunyon, Tim Hugo, Rich Anderson, Tag Greason, Ron Villenueva, Chris Stolle, and Tom Rust; candidates who in the past have had to win close elections and many of whom are freshman.  Democrats failure to, thus far, find candidates to run in these districts is almost laughable and makes one wonder if DPVA Chairman Brian Moran should spend more time running his party rather than running scam schools.
I was going to write my own thoughts on this, but a long-time Democratic activist friend of mine nailed it in an email, which he/she kindly said I could use. Enjoy (actually, you wont't and you shouldn't! -- bolding added by me for emphasis).UPDATE: I just double-checked VPAP, and Mason Conservative is correct, there are currently 15 "R" vs. "D" House of Delegates races listed by VPAP. Of course, VPAP's list may not be comprehensive, but even if you add 15 more, it's still only 30% contested. Heck, even if you add 30 more it's still only 45% contested. It should be 100% in a real democracy!
UPDATE #2: I just talked to a good friend of mine who's a Connecticut state representative (equivalent to "delegate" here). He was very surprised, not in a good way, at how low the percentage of contested races was in Virginia. In Connecticut, in contrast, approximately 134 of 151  House seats (89%!) were contested in 2010. For the Connecticut State Senate, 31 of 36 seats (86%!) were contested. And remember, Connecticut is even more lopsided than Virginia in terms of partisan makeup, except it's the flip in Connecticut (99-52 D's vs. R's in the House; 22-14 D's vs. R's in the Senate). In other words, it's far more hopeless for Republicans in "blue" Connecticut than for Democrats in "purple" Virginia, yet the percent of seats contested in Connecticut is orders of magnitude higher than here in Virginia. Why? A few possibilities: 1) they have public financing in Connecticut, we don't in Virginia; 2) they hold elections in even-numbered years, we don't in Virginia; 3) their redistricting is by bipartisan commission, despite the huge Democratic advantage in the state, as spelled out in the Connecticut state constitution. Those three structural factors appear to account for a major chunk of why Virginia and Connecticut are so different with regard to contested races. We didn't get into state party effectiveness, but I presume that would be part of it as well. Any other theories?
lowkell :: Only 15% of Virginia House of Delegates Seats Being Contested? WTF?!?
By any fair standard, this is a disgraceful performance by the Virginia Democratic leadership.Mason Conservative underplays the negative contribution of partisan redistricting in general, and the particular role of Saslaw, Whipple, Howell, and Barker in this process. It was their squalid deal with the HOD Republican leadership that has consigned VA Dems to a generation of super-minority status in the HOD, and that terrible decision has made it harder for Brian Moran, Ken Plum & company to recruit Dem HOD candidates. But, there is no public record of which I am aware documenting that Moran or Plum ever spoke up and protested what Saslaw & company were doing to the House Dems.
Even if you take the very negative impacts of partisan redistricting as part of the way "business is done" (which I reject), the Democratic candidate recruitment efforts for the HOD were abysmal--and time has expired.
It is against this sorry background, that the Virginia Democratic leadership now wants everyone to work hard and knock doors for our Democratic candidates. That is a great idea where we have good Democratic candidates. Sadly, due to the failures of the leadership, tens of thousands of doors will go un-knocked because there is no Democratic candidate on whose behalf a knock can be made.
This sucks on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. As a progressive, it sucks. As a Democrat, it sucks. As a citizen who believes that our Democracy depends on competitive elections, it sucks. That about does it for now, but feel free to add your own ways this sucks in the comments section.