Cuccinelli to Announce Run for Governor Within Days?!?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

According to the Washington Post:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) will reveal his plans next week to run for governor in 2013, according to well-placed Republican sources.Cuccinelli, a tea party hero who garnered national attention for suing the federal government over the new health-care law, expects to make a formal announcement after the legislative session in the spring, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could speak freely about his plans.
The fact that a homophobic, science-denying, extreme social conservative is highly like to be the Republicans 2013 nominee for governor, that's all the more reason for Virginia Democrats to get their act together ASAP. The fact is, as crazy as Kookinelli is, he's a strong politician who should never be underestimated. Clearly, that means we'll need to be as strong as possible heading into 2013. Unless, of course, the thought of "Governor Cuccinelli" isn't enough to light a fire under all of our butts. If that's the case, though, frankly, then we're far beyond hope.Along these lines, another thing we will need to figure out pretty soon is who our ticket will be in 2013. Assuming T-Mac's at the top - and that's not 100% guarantee (either that he'll run, or necessarily that he'd win the nomination, although he's certainly the strong favorite), who will be the LG and AG candidates? I'd argue for strong progressives from the "urban/suburban crescent," candidates who can really fire up our base. I think it's fair to assume that their base will be excited having a Tea Partier at the top of their ticket. What are we going to do to counter that? And, as always, the gubernatorial election will be a battle of bases, so let's definitely have no "Deeds Country" idiocy this time around, please!
P.S. Oh, and as for Bill Bolling, the only question is how badly he'll lose to Cuccinelli, given the latter's popularity among the far, far-right-wingnuts who dominate Virginia Republicans' nominating process.

Let's Improve DPVA - Tech Edition

Friday, November 25, 2011

by Dave

I've received quite a few inquiries in the days since I launched the petition demanding change from DPVA. People have asked me specifically "what would you do differently?" Many people have presented many different ideas here in the last week, but since I'm an expert on political tech, I'll present my thoughts on what DPVA can do to tech-wise to clean up their act. Hopefully this will generate some useful discussion that we can telegraph to the Central Committee ahead of their meeting. I'd encourage others to do the same in their areas of expertise.1. The one that's easy to say, but hard to do - raise more money to provide more tech resources. We have a Tech Director who is maxed out providing VAN tech support to campaigns and therefore has no bandwidth to be proactive on anything else. We could do so much more for committees and candidates if we only had one other person working full time. The times when we've had two people working at DPVA, we've been more successful, especially with our online operations. There's a direct correlation there.
2. We waste our money on stupid online baubles and website makeovers that accomplish nothing because they have no goals other than to line vendor's pockets. I'm not even criticizing the current website - it's attractive and functional. But DPVA has a history of revamping its online presence without putting any actual content behind it. We should be focusing on GOTV tech improvements like the folks innovating in Fairfax. They're buying used iPod Touches so their canvassers can run MiniVan instead of carrying paper. That's what we need to be doing state-wide.
Dave :: Let's Improve DPVA - Tech Edition
3. We have no webmaster, and haven't for at least 5 years. So we have no original online content, advocacy, or directed message. We'll never be able to have a coherent externally-facing narrative without a chief messenger. And a press person isn't the same as an new media director - a remedial campaign mistake that we don't need to reproduce at the state level.4. The DPVA actively shuns the Netroots community. And it's current Chair was personally responsible, during the '09 primary, for destroying the only concerted effort to coordinate that community with DPVA.
5. The DPVA lacks real tech leadership. The last several tech chairs have not provided the necessary leadership, direction, or new ideas. This is not to demean them personally - it's quite possible that they weren't given the mandate to do so, and if that's the case, it just reemphasizes points made here in the last few days. But when the Tech Chair is setting up and managing the wireless router at Central meetings rather than setting statewide tech policy, we have a problem of leadership.
6. We have a private online group where the Tech Directors for the biggest committees discuss tech innovation. I organized it, yet that's the kind of thing I'd expect from DPVA. We had to start the discussion ourselves because the DPVA doesn't care. Meanwhile there are people around the state, mostly in Hampton Roads and Nova, doing truly innovative things that aren't being shared.
7. This may sound too in-the-weeds, but it's probably the #1 issue facing nascent Dem campaigns in VA. The situation with our statewide VAN contract and the way DPVA works with candidates is ridiculous, over-expensive, and untenable in the long-term as more candidates start becoming more technically savvy. Just to us VAN with DPVA's voter data costs $400 as an Arlington County candidate, for example, and $1500 for a senate district. We have to bring those prices down. We also only update our voter data once a quarter which makes it very hard for active campaigns to make use of that data. Arlington County Dems buy their own data to make up for that.
8. You want to involve youth? Foster tech! Youth involvement online is exceptionally high. You tap into that, and you'll see an uptick in youth involvement.
These are my initial thoughts, and I think all of these points are glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention. As an expert in this field, despite throwing myself at DPVA regularly, I've never been consulted on any of this. And why would they ask? I've never received my gilded invite to Central that allows magic access to our state-wide decision makers. Where's the Tech Caucus? Where's the Tech Steering Committee? Where's anything other than our DPVA Tech Director working his butt off trying to hold things together while the party leadership casts about without direction?
This state of affairs needs to be rectified. People like to argue that the marginal benefit in financing political tech is minimal. But in Virginia, we know that's not true. Look at Deeds' AG loss, Webb's senate win, and Edd Houck's loss a few weeks ago. When things are this close, this purple, everything we do counts.

Video: VA Tech Massacre Survivors, Relatives Debate Guns on Campus, Background Checks with VCDL

Monday, November 21, 2011

The above video, from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, was taken on Thursday, November 17th, at Virginia Tech. As the press release explains, the video shows "[s]urvivors of the Virginia Tech massacre and their family members" debating "the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) - a radical pro-gun group that seeks the elimination of all gun laws, including background checks." According to Omar Samaha, whose sister Reema was murdered in the Virginia Tech mass shooting, "guns be banned on college campuses...[and] we must have universal background checks on gun buyers that adequately screen mental health history." According to Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the massacre, "The reason that Virginia’s college campuses are some of the safest places in the Commonwealth is in large part because of their strict policies concerning firearms." Finally, Lori Haas - whose daughter Emily was shot in the head but who thankfully survived the massacre, "It’s unfathomable that the VCDL would advocate for the elimination of background checks on gun buyers in the wake of what happened at Virginia Tech." As you can see in the video, the VCDL members disagree with these arguments. Why? Apparently, it's based on their belief that more guns on campus means more safety, not less. In addition, it appears to be based on their perception that the current system for background checks and gun permits in Virginia adequately protects the public from the mentally disturbed, who almost everyone would agree shouldn't have access to guns. Unfortunately, as the Virginia Tech massacre demonstrated, and as pointed out in this video by Lori Haas and others, that simply isn't the case in Virginia at the present time. To the contrary, as pointed out repeatedly in the video, it's extremely easy for just about anyone to get firearms, a concealed carry permit, whatever they want, with minimal if any background checks. P.S. Click here for the Collegiate Times live blog of the event.
SURVIVORS OF VIRGINIA TECH MASSACRE TO STAND AGAINST RADICAL PRO-GUN GROUP TOMORROW ON VT CAMPUS Blacksburg, VA— Survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre and their family members will be on the VT campus tomorrow, Thursday, November 17th to rally with students and faculty for a gun-free campus. Simultaneously, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL)—a radical pro-gun group that seeks the elimination of all gun laws, including background checks—will be at the Squires Student Center (College Avenue on the Otey Street side) between 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM calling for legislation to force the university to allow the carrying of loaded guns on campus. Virginia Tech survivors will engage in a counterprotest at the same location to demand that VT be allowed to continue to set its own firearm policies without outside interference. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion last summer that said public colleges must put official regulations in place to ban guns in campus buildings. George Mason University has already adopted such a regulation, which was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court on January 13, 2011. In that ruling, Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn noted that previous Supreme Court opinions do not “[cast] doubt on laws or regulations restricting the carrying of firearms in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings. Indeed, such restrictions are presumptively legal.” Larry Hincker, the head of university relations at Virginia Tech, has indicated VT will follow GMU’s lead soon and enact a regulation. In response, VCDL is calling for state legislation that would prohibit VT and all other Virginia universities from enacting their own regulations, thereby preventing them from ensuring the safety of their students and faculty. Students for Gun Free Schools (SGFS) founders Colin Goddard—who was shot four times during the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007—and Omar Samaha—whose sister Reema was murdered in that mass shooting—are two of the violence prevention advocates who will participate in the counterprotest at VT tomorrow. “The Virginia Tech Review Panel studied this issue more closely than anyone, and they got it exactly right,” said Samaha. “They recommended that guns be banned on college campuses and stressed that we must have universal background checks on gun buyers that adequately screen mental health history.” “The reason that Virginia’s college campuses are some of the safest places in the Commonwealth is in large part because of their strict policies concerning firearms,” Goddard added. “VCDL is not concerned about the safety of the student body or faculty. They are not even listening to the student body or faculty. This is about the desire of a select few to dish out vigilante ‘justice’ as they see fit without regard to the potential collateral damage.” “It’s unfathomable that the VCDL would advocate for the elimination of background checks on gun buyers in the wake of what happened at Virginia Tech,” added Lori Haas of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “The extremists in the VCDL contribute nothing to the academic community in the Commonwealth. They have no business telling students, faculty, and administrators how to run college campuses.” Haas’ daughter, Emily, was shot in the head during the tragedy at Virginia Tech but survived. Goddard, Samaha and Haas are inviting VT students and faculty—and all concerned Virginia residents—to join them at the counterprotest at the Squires Student Center tomorrow between 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM to show their opposition to guns on campus. “Our college classrooms are places for learning,” said Samaha, “not places for violence. If VCDL truly cared about others’ welfare they would be acting to make sure the violent and deranged can’t gain easy access to guns. Their true agenda speaks volumes.”
This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

Wait, I Thought Obama Was Killing U.S. Oil, Gas Production?!?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wait, you mean President Obama isn't killing U.S. oil production? In fact, according to US Energy Information Administration statistics, U.S. oil production actually fell by about 1 million barrels per day while George W. Bush was in office, and now has risen by nearly 1 million barrels per day since Barack Obama's been in the White House? Fascinating, huh? Oh, and U.S. oil company profits are through the roof, with the supposedly anti-oil president in the White House. Hmmmm.Now, check out the "flip" for the story on natural gas. Hint: it's not what you'll hear from Faux, Rush, etc.
UPDATE: Also note that EIA forecasts U.S. domestic crude oil production to increase again in 2012, by about 230,000 barrels per day. D*** Obama!!! LOL
There's More... :: (4 Comments, 57 words in story)

That's right, according to EIA statistics and forecasts, U.S. natural gas production was up just slightly from 2001 to 2008, when George W. Bush was in charge, but has jumped since Barack Obama took office. Again, that's not the narrative you'll hear on the "we report, you decide" network! Go figure.

David Toscano Elected House Minority Leader; Sickles as Caucus Chair

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Congratulations to strong progressive David Toscano, elected a few minutes ago as the new Virginia House Minority Leader. This marks a MAJOR upgrade from conservadem (and turncoat) Ward Armstrong. Good!
Delegate David J. Toscano was unanimously elected new House Democratic Caucus Minority Leader by his Democratic peers in today's Organizational Meeting held at the Wyndam Crossings in Glen Allen, Virginia."It has been an honor serving the Charlottesville-Albemarle community in the General Assembly for the last six years " said Delegate Toscano. "As House Minority Leader, I look forward to continuing the work we have begun by building an effective House Caucus team that projects a positive vision for the Commonwealth and works to implement that vision for the benefit of her citizens over the next several years."
Toscano was overwhelmingly re-elected to serve a fourth term to represent Virginia's 57th district in the House of Delegates earlier this month. He was first elected to represent the 57th district in 2005, upon the retirement of former Delegate Mitch Van Yahres. Toscano previously served for twelve years on Charlottesville City Council (1990-2002), including one term as mayor (1992-1994). Toscano and his wife, Nancy Tramontin, and their son Matthew reside in the City of Charlottesville.
P.S. Now, hopefully they will NOT elect Onzlee Ware as Caucus Chair. From everything I've heard and read about Ware, that would be a big mistake.UPDATE: Del. Mark Sickles has been elected the new Virginia House Democratic caucus chair. My preference was for Scott Surovell, because I thought he'd be ideal for building from the ashes of where we're at now, developing a strong message and long-term strategy, cultivating a "farm team," embracing new media and other innovative communications tools, and firing up the grassroots. With Sickles, we get a much more conventional choice, less progressive and certainly not tuned into the grassroots or new ways of doing things from everything I've seen and heard. I sure hope he proves me wrong (he also should rely heavily on Scott Surovell for advice and assistance in this job, as their skillsets are probably complementary when it comes down to it).

Why Is George Allen Considered a Legitimate Candidate for U.S. Senate?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

With the 2011 elections are over, we are now officially in the 2012 election cycle. I know, I know, don't all jump up and down in excitement, try to restrain yourselves! :) Seriously, though, the 2012 races have begun, with Karl Rove's "Super PAC" running demonstrably, categorically fallacious ads on your tee-vee screens; with a bunch of freaks and extremists running to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012; and - believe it or not - with the first Kaine vs. Allen debate scheduled for December 7 (will it be another day that shall live in infamy? heh) in Richmond.The latter item on that list got me to thinking about our old friend George Allen. Specifically, what I've been trying to wrap my brain around is this: how on earth can George Freakin' Allen, who exposed himself as a bigoted moron in 2006, who voted 96% with George W. Bush when he was in the Senate, who hated BEING in the Senate (was bored out of his gourd, compared it to a "wounded sea slug," was desperate to get out of there), who has spent the past few years shilling for dirty energy (for lots of $$$, of course), who  is an utter ignoramus on climate science, and who in every other way is a standard-issue Teapublican't, be considered a serious candidate for U.S. Senate? This is the best Virginia Republicans have to offer? Or is this some sort of bad joke?
Oh, and while we're at it, how can the man who for very good reason earned the nickname "Felix Macacawitz" not be trailing Tim Kaine by 20, 30 points? Will Virginia Republicans and Republican-leaning independents just support anyone with an "R" next to their name? Or, are they just so brainwashed by Faux "News," etc., that everything is the Democrats' fault (the exact opposite of reality, of course) that they will vote for anyone who does NOT have a "D" by their name? No matter how you look at it, it's an absurd situation. The fact is, George Allen as a candidate for U.S. Senate should be mocked, scorned, and otherwise laughed at. It certainly shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone with a scintilla of information about who this guy is and what he stands for.

So, Your "Team" Just Went 42-120, 42-120, 42-120? Now What?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

At the outset of this piece, let me just apologize for doing what I thought I'd never do: pull a George Allen. No, I haven't suddenly decided to deny climate science, shill for fossil fuels, advocate ultra-simplistic "answers" to complex world problems, pander to extremists, worship at the altar of crony capitalism, or live in a bizarre, mythological past something like the "Father Knows Best" 1950s meets the late-19th century/early-20th-century Robber Baron Era. However, I have decided to borrow one of George Allen's favorite ways of explaining the world, through sports metaphors. In George Allen's case, football is the sport of choice for this exercise. For me, it's baseball, which even great intellects like George Will (ok, maybe not) have compared (favorably) to life itself. Heh.My baseball metaphor is a simple one, actually, not metaphysical or "Field of Dreams"/George Will mystical in the least. Instead, it's a simple, basic way of understanding how things go badly wrong in an organization, and what to do about the situation when they do. In this case, the analogy is between your favorite baseball team and the Democratic Party of Virginia. Specifically, imagine if your favorite team had just suffered its third 120-loss (out of 162 games) season in a row, sort of like the 1962 New York Mets (40-120) repeated in 1963 and 1964. Essentially, that's just what happened to Virginia Democrats, with 2009 (Deeds disaster, major losses in the House of Delegates); 2010 (Tea Party wipeout, goodbye Perriello/Nye/Boucher); 2011 (major losses again in the House of Delegates, loss of the State Senate majority, wipeout losses in Prince William and Loudoun Counties). If that's not the political equivalent of three straight seasons of '62 New York Mets'-style 42-120 records, I don't know what else would be.
So, if DPVA were a baseball team, what would now happen, assuming its owner had a clue (and some backbone)?
1. The first thing to do would be a thorough "After Action Report" -- a rigorous, top-to-bottom analysis of what went right (not much in a 42-120 season, or in this case with the Virginia Democrats) and what went wrong. Clearly, this analysis MUST be performed by external, unbiased, independent auditors/analysts who would examine the organization from top to bottom and make recommendations, preferably binding. The organization also might conduct whatever internal reviews it wanted to conduct, but unless that analysis were vetted and critiqued by outsiders, then it would be untrustworthy and essentially worthless.
lowkell :: So, Your "Team" Just Went 42-120, 42-120, 42-120? Now What?
2. There would be numerous possible outcomes from the after-action report. One would be a finding that the team's (or, in this case, the Virginia Democratic Party's) management needed a major shakeup. Typically, you'll see a baseball team, after a horrendous season or two (or three), firing its manager, replacing its general manager, hiring new coaches, etc. Of course, this will only help matters if management truly was a major, root cause of the problem (e.g., the management was incompetent, had the wrong ideas to be successful given current baseball - or political, in this case - realities, etc.) Also, changing management probably won't help much if the real problem is at the very top, with flawed/incompetent/cheapskate ownership; or if it's due to other, broader problems like a decline in the team's city/region economically, demographically, etc. Still, moving to shake up management after three straight 120-loss seasons is not exactly rocket science or anything that requires hours of head scratching.In fact, the opposite would be the real head scratcher: that after three straight 120-loss seasons, that the general manager, manager, and coaches would all stay gainfully employed, with no threat whatsoever to their job security. That would be bizarre, almost inexplicable. Sort of like what's (not) happening, right here, right now, with the Virginia Democrats' "management."
2a. Note: There are those who would excuse Brian Moran by saying he's only been on the job a year, that we should give him more time to turn things around, etc. That would be profoundly mistaken, as both a bad signal to the "organization" and the "fans," as well as a counterproductive move in and of itself. The fact is, Brian Moran hasn't been successful for many years, including his disappointing pickup of only 4 House of Delegates seats in 2007 (when Tim Kaine was predicting as many as 15 seats, and when the proverbial wind was howling at our proverbial backs!); his utterly disastrous (in every way - messaging, management, final results) 2009 gubernatorial campaign; his failure this year to fulfill a promise to recruit candidates in every House district (he didn't even come close!); his abandonment of his own pledge to make redistricting reform a top priority (in the spring of 2008, at a now-infamous blogger dinner, Brian Moran told the 20+ people there that without bipartisan or nonpartisan redistricting, all else would fail, so this had to be the top priority); his conflict of interest as head of the for-profit "education" industry; his failure to be an effective communicator or motivator for the Virginia grassroots; etc. Clearly, no matter what else happens, Brian Moran must be replaced as DPVA chair, that's the no-brainer of all no-brainers. If not, why even bother with the rest?
3. The after-action report clearly would look at the players on the field, and would recommend which ones to trade, which ones to let go, etc. Most likely, a team that just finished three straight 120-loss seasons would have major problems with pitching, hitting, defense, you name it. In addition, it might have an aging roster of players well past their prime, prone to making errors and striking out, resting on their laurels, no long caring about winning, etc. Basically, it would be a team made up of players that have lost their burning desire to win, as well as their ability to win. That would almost clearly call for a plan to replace the current cast of characters with a brand new, younger, hungrier one in the shortest possible time.
4. How to do that? One option, if money were no object, would be to dive into the free agent market, snatching up high-priced talent in an attempt to turn things around as quickly as possible. Of course, in real life, money always IS an object. Also, this would be an expensive, risky strategy that would not address underlying, structural problems with the organization, and in my view would be highly unlikely to succeed, certainly not in the long run. In the end, you can't buy your way out of problems like this one, nor can you hope for a white knight to come riding to the rescue.
5. Another option, which to my mind would be BY FAR the smarter one, would be to bite the bullet, realize that the problems run deep, and start addressing them methodically, forcefully, tenaciously, even ruthlessly. I'd start with phasing out (as rapidly as possible) the high-priced veterans and launching a major investment in developing a "youth movement." That means investing in a farm system, in scouting for talent at the high school and college level, and in developing an overall system to develop that talent to its potential. That system would teach the organization's way of doing business -- attention to fundamentals (e.g., strong defense, mastering crucially important skills like hitting the cut-off man, executing the hit and run properly, bunting, etc.), attitude, professionalism, best practices in general. The key would be developing a structure designed for long-term success, one that is sustainable and robust, with a clear organizational ethos (e.g., vision and mission) that meshed well with the specific economic and other realities facing that team in the short-, medium-, and long-runs. With a solid structure set in place, all else would flow out of it, including an increased chance of success - namely, winning, fan enthusiasm, flush coffers, and did I mention WINNING?!?
6. In the end, what you'd want to end up with is an organization fundamentally solid from top to bottom (or perhaps better stated as "bottom to top," as the resources should never be concentrated at the top of the organization), with a strong scouting department to identify and recruit talent; a "farm system" (from Rookie League to AAA ball) to develop and nurture that talent; a powerful and coherent organizational ethic committed to professionalism, best practices, a clear vision, getting the fundamentals right; a management structure fully bought into the organization's overall mission/vision, ruthlessly effective in carrying it out, and focused like a laser beam on what's best for the organization; and finally, a public relations/communications department to solicit feedback from the fans, as well as to keep them informed/engaged regarding what's going right, what still needs work, where the effort to resurrect the organization is at overall, and what  (realistically, honestly) to expect moving forward (as well as a real sense that there will be rewards for success and accountability for failure).
7. No, I didn't forget "winning" in all this. The idea is that success in terms of wins/losses would flow naturally out of everything else outlined above (and the opposite is true as well - failure to do take the measured listed above would perpetuate failure, lead to fans abandoning the team, revenues collapsing, a vicious cycle accelerating...), the solid fundamentals/recruiting/management/development/communications outlined above.
Sadly, right now, we have essentially none of those things in the Virginia Democratic party, broadly speaking. Instead, we have an aging roster, an almost non-existent farm system, a lack of cohesive mission/vision, a management structure that's byzantine at best, too many individuals focused on their own personal successes than on the overall success of the organization/team as a whole, an almost complete disconnect between team ownership/management and the fan base, little if any accountability (rewards for success, consequences for failure), etc. The result: we've now suffered through three straight disastrous seasons for Virginia Democrats, with no particular prospect in sight of turning that situation around (barring a deus ex machina, which is what too many people seem to be counting on, just as they blame uncontrollable, external forces far too much for our problems now). Unless, that is, you believe that repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a sound strategy, not just another definition of "insanity."

Learning from the 2011 Democratic loss as 2012 attacks begin

Friday, November 11, 2011

by Paul GoldmanEvery election has lessons for the next one. Since only future elections can be influenced, such lessons therefore are among the most valuable in politics. So let's see if we try to be the guys at Sutter's Creek panning some precious metal during the California Gold Rush.
1. In terms of the terms of statewide elections in 2013, Democrats are in their weakest position in the modern era of Virginia politics
This is simply a fact of life. This is likely to increase the pressure on Mark Warner to run for Governor in 2013. That would be a huge mistake in terms of his wanting to be President. So I doubt he would do it. This is why the party starts off the 2013 cycle in such weak shape. If Terry McAuliffee weren't interested in running for Governor - and who's to say his business commitments will ultimately allow it, as no one can predict the economy that far in advance - we would not have any candidate right now for any of the three statewide offices.
This is a serious problem that could get far more serious at any moment.
2. Democrats don't have a good statewide issue. It use to be education. I sense we have lost it.
Chuck Robb revived the Democrats with a strong pro-K-12 education platform. Baliles and Wilder built on it. Warner added community colleges, and Kaine pushed hard for pre-K. They all won. Education use to be our issue. But I don't get that sense anymore.
Goldmanusa :: Learning from the 2011 Democratic loss as 2012 attacks begin
3. The DPVA's silly attacks - and unfortunately they are not alone - against everything McDonnell is a loser's game, has helped the Governor's popularity among independents, and is poised to hurt Tim Kaine. 
I have been saying the DPVA was following an amateurish, sucker's strategy for months, and will state the following without fear of contradiction: it  helped create the climate that cost Democrats full control of the State Senate. If there were more knowledge at the DPVA about how to win statewide elections - there is currently NADA top to bottom - this would be clear. Truth is, despite the criticisms of Senator Saslaw, he did a darn good job at trying to save 21 seats with his redistricting strategy: but for that, Democrats would have lost more seats in the Senate. He made some mistakes for sure, but he came within a 100 votes of being a genius.As was written a year ago in this space, once Democrats missed their moment when Governor McDonnell left his right flank open with a politically misguided ABC plan - they should have taken him up on his referendum offer and split his coalition, sending him to a crushing defeat - he got a second chance.
By the DPVA and others keeping up a steady anti-McDonnell drumbeat since then, they helped the Governor use this second chance to retool and gain stature.
Result: If Florida Senator Rubio is seriously about not running for Vice President - that's what he has said in strong language - then Governor McDonnell has vaulted into the top spot (also, taking a Senator makes no political sense for the GOP presidential nominee in my view, that includes Rubio too actually, particularly given the public's view of Washington these days).
Fallout: McDonnell on the ticket greatly helps George Allen, who has made a classic blunder by trying to identify more with the Tea Party than with the most popular Republican Governor in the state's history. It reminds me of why Nixon refused ask for Eisenhower's help in 1960 according to the historians.
Tim Kaine can win this race, although it is going to be like WW1 trench warfare. The polls tell me he is the favorite - not by a lot - but by enough. George Allen is tough, and this is his last rodeo unless he can win. Allen hasn't gotten into a 2012 groove yet, still trying to ride that 1990's horsy image. Kaine gets it better, and so George seems retro right now.
Of course, Karl Rove and company will make up for what George lacks with a year's worth of attack ads. Kaine will be helped by a similar Democratic group, so let's not get too hypocritical attacking Karl. The headline in the RTD discussing the Rove AD says it shows 2012 will be "ugly." You think?
That's why the DPVA and Democratic leaders have to figure out apositive strategy for working publicly with the Governor in  2012. Otherwise, you are going to play into Rove's hands, and McDonnell's frankly. We should also not be worried about trying to help the President govern. Independents want results, not partisan rhetoric.
The idea that Mark Warner can sprinkle fairy dust on people and they are magically elected is not the case; his popularity is not transferable to another candidate, outside of the Democratic base.
LESSON: Like singer Lorrie Morgan sang, what is there about "no" that the DPVA doesn't understand? Like it or not, Virginia Democrats are too weak to follow a 24/7 attack McDonnell, or even George Allen, strategy. They need to up their positive image before going there.
4. The idea the 2011 shows the President can't win Virginia - floated today in the Wall Street Journal - is absurd.
It doesn't take Paul Tully, the late DNC guy who was probably the top voter analyst, to know the results in certain key counties this past Tuesday were not optimal for the President. But outside of this "brilliant" insight, the 2012 election will be run on an entirely different plane. Moreover, had Senator Houck received a few more votes, no one would pay such columns any mind.
Rural Virginia is tough sledding for any Democrat right now, not merely the President, the same for outer burbs everywhere. But Obama has a clear path to victory in Virginia, unlike say North Carolina or Florida, among the swing southern states. It will not be the easy cakewalk as in 2008. It also means Democrats might not agree with him on all things. But as Ward Armstrong discovered, in politics you often hang separately if you fail to stick together.
Brian Moran did what he could as DPVA chair.
Brian got elected from a safe House of Delegates seat in his brother's hometown and then thought he could be the first person in state history to go directly from that body to the Governor's Mansion. That he raised all the money he did, and had a shot at being nominated, is amazing to me in all honesty. He is a talented guy but not necessarily for what he aspires to be. Moreover, his critics, who think a Democratic Chair can create a GOTV machine to win races otherwise not winnable, is amateur hour in the 21st century. The fact is, campaigns rely on their own expertise, not that of the state party in such things.
The DPVA, given the situation right now, has to rethink its role going forward in terms of reality. We don't have a Democratic Governor, we don't control either body of the General Assembly. We couldn't field a ticket right now for the 2013 election. Right now, the DPVA has to get out of a mechanical mode and get into the guts of politics, which is substance. We need to figure out the kind of platform it will take to win in 2013.
5.    I like Dick Saslaw. But someone not from NOVA as a leading spokesman makes sense in 2012.
Brian is from NOVA, Saslaw is from NOVA, Warner is from NOVA, and there is a chance the House Democrats might chose someone from NOVA as Minority Leader.
We need a better geographic balance.
6.  The Party, the Caucus, is wasting too much money.
We are not spending smart. Given all the money raised and spent, the campaigns should not be so cookie-cutter, just more and more of the same as if something becomes more believable the longer and louder you say it. It will also become harder now to raise money.
7.  With Republicans now able, in theory, to pass whatever they want through the General Assembly, this will mark the beginning of the Democratic comeback.
This is crucial to remember. The 2013 election could be a referendum on one-party control here in Virginia. This is why Democrats need to make sound, sensible proposals, not just attack. The temptation will be to go into all-out attack mode since it is a seeming freebie. That isn't going to impress voters in 2013.
Remember this also: With the Democrats no longer in the majority, this may convince Senator Colgan to retire early. So, our numbers could go further down. But either way, the climb back starts now and this is an opportunity to rethink, refresh, and let some new energy into the spotlight.

Two More Excellent Analyses of Virginia's Elections

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Just a "heads up" regarding two, excellent analyses about the Virginia election results posted today on Virginia Democratic blogs.First, Ben Tribbett has a well-informed, highly-detailed, but pessimistic take on "The Future of The Virginia Senate". I largely agree with Ben's analysis, starting with the fact that the Senate redistricting map "was designed to please the current Democratic Senate incumbents- and was not designed as a 10 year plan to hold the Senate in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections it would be used in." For instance, why did Saslaw cave to Gov. McDonnell and ditch the new, strongly Democratic-leaning (strongly) district for the metro Richmond area? And, while we're bashing Saslaw, while he was gerrymandering, he seriously couldn't find a few more dark blue precincts for Edd Houck in C-ville (note that Creigh Deeds won by 29 points, so he had a few to spare)? If Saslaw had done this, Houck would still be here today - easily. I mean, c'mon, if you're going to gerrymander, at least do it effectively!
Anyway, getting back to Ben's excellent analysis, he's almost certainly correct that "going forward, Senate Democrats face the worst possible scenario." One ray of hope I'd point (cling?) to is changing demographics, which could swamp the structural disadvantages that Ben correctly points out in his excellent article. At least I hope that happens.
Second, check out Vivian Paige's astute article, Minority Status. In it, Vivian nails several points that can't be repeated enough about the Virginia Democratic Party: a) almost complete failure of leadership; b) "no one takes a long view when it comes to planning for the Democratic Party;" c) "We have no bench and there is no effort to build one"; d) Democrats foolishly " would magically appear;" e) Senate and House Democrats are not working together but at cross purposes, seriously harming each other in the process; f) Ward Armstrong was a bad fit as minority leader; g) "Brian [Moran]'s resignation from the House to run for governor - a really bad move - resulted in an ineffective caucus chair;" h) the DPVA is nothing more than a hollow shell, "a conduit for funds;" etc. All true; thanks to Vivian for putting it out there for everyone to see!

Why Virginia Democrats Lost the State Senate

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

by Peter Rousselot

(Given Tuesday's debacle by Dick Saslaw and Company, I thought this piece by Peter Rousselot from 2011 was worth rerunning, as it's still (sadly) applicable. Also see this March 2011 post by NLS, which correctly predicted: " I don't think Democrats can hold the Senate under these lines this November, and this alignment of precincts has absolutely zero chance of holding for the entire 10 year cycle (2011, 2015, 2019) it was drawn for." - promoted by lowkell

Six keys to a devastating defeat
On November 8, 2011, Virginia Democrats lost control of the Virginia State Senate. Their numbers will drop from 22 to 20 (out of 40), allowing Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling to cast the deciding vote in the case of ties. Moreover, Virginia Democrats lost a lot more ground in the Virginia House of Delegates (HOD), where their numbers will drop from 39 to no more than 33, and perhaps to as few as 30 (out of 100). This means that HOD Republicans will have a majority of 2/3rds or more.These losses cannot be explained away as the result of "unique local circumstances", election cycles, the Tea Party, the "Republican money machine", or President Obama's current poll numbers. To the contrary, these losses were caused by a series of very avoidable strategic mistakes that certain Virginia Democratic leaders made.
One year ago, because of my concerns about the defeats Virginia Democrats suffered in 2010 and 2009, I ran for Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). I am not interested in running again for that job, but I am much more concerned about the state of the Democratic Party in Virginia today than I was one year ago. In order to help us get to where we need to be, I present this analysis of what has gone wrong and what should be done to fix it.
The biggest strategic mistakes Virginia Democratic leaders made in 2011 were their adoption of aflawed, hyper-partisan Senate redistricting plan combined with very poor candidate recruitment for both the Senate and HOD.
Peter Rousselot :: Why Virginia Democrats Lost the State Senate
Virginia's Senate Democratic leaders, including Dick Saslaw and Mary Margaret Whipple, stubbornly insisted that the only way to retain a Democratic majority in the State Senate was to adopt a hyper-partisan Senate redistricting plan. Their plan was badly designed, and was combined with very poor candidate recruitment. They only recruited 3 Democratic challengers to Republican incumbent Senators while the Senate Republican leaders recruited 16 Republican challengers to Democratic incumbent Senators. The combination of these two mistakes unrealistically required Democrats to "run the table" and win every close race. We couldn't and we didn't.Moreover, as part of the price we paid for their flawed plan, Saslaw and Whipple agreed to give HOD Republicans free rein to draw the HOD district lines, virtually guaranteeing GOP HOD control for a decade. [Please read the much more detailed explanation of this point that appears below in item 5.]
As for the HOD, Brian Moran promised during his campaign for Chair of the DPVA that he would recruit Democratic candidates to contest every HOD race, making use of the contacts he made as HOD Democratic Caucus Chair and as a candidate for Governor.  In fact, Democratic candidates contested only 54 out of 100 HOD races while the Republicans contested 73. Because of Brian Moran's stunning HOD candidate recruitment failure, 46 HOD Republican candidates (only 5 short of an outright majority) had no Democratic opponent, but only 27 HOD Democratic candidates had no Republican opponent. [Please read the much more detailed explanation of this point that appears below in item 6.]
But this year's strategic mistakes were not the only ones. Virginia's Democratic leaders further weakened this year's Democratic performance by other strategic mistakes they made in 2010 and 2009, and those leaders did nothing this year to correct those earlier mistakes. Those earlier mistakes made it all the more unrealistic to have ever expected Saslaw and Whipple's Senate campaign plan to succeed in 2011. [Please read the detailed discussion of those earlier strategic mistakes in items 1-4 below.]
I conclude this diary with a detailed explanation of the reasons why we need to take the following critical steps to launch a Virginia Democratic resurgence: Dick Saslaw should resign as leader of Virginia Senate Democrats; Brian Moran should resign as DPVA Chair, and all Virginia Democrats should collaborate to be sure we achieve major reform of the DPVA.
Six years ago, Virginia Democrats celebrated the election of Tim Kaine as Governor. Once elected, Kaine and his campaign team, particularly Larry Roberts, moved quickly to restructure the staff at DPVA. Their initially successful goal was to bring a much needed focus on grass roots organizing.
Meanwhile, at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Chair Howard Dean was implementing the "50-state strategy" on which he had campaigned for DNC Chair. The DNC's 50-state strategy eventually provided DPVA with funds that enabled DPVA to hire regional organizers who covered many parts of the Commonwealth.
Jim Webb's 2006 candidacy for U.S. Senate outflanked the candidacy of Harris Miller. Miller was the overwhelming favorite among the political insiders who controlled DPVA. Webb's candidacy attracted into the Virginia Democratic Party a "rag tag army" of new volunteers. Webb's candidacy also stimulated the creative involvement of a talented generation of grassroots and netroots activists.
This much-needed infusion of new energy, new people, and more effective ways of organizing continued to benefit Virginia Democrats in 2007, as they took control of the State Senate and added several seats in the HOD-increasing the number of Democrats in the HOD to 44.
In 2008, building still further on this momentum, Mark Warner's campaign for U.S. Senate and DPVA collaborated to organize a highly effective "Coordinated Campaign." This helped to increase the number of Democrats in Virginia's Congressional delegation from 3 to 6 (out of 11). Talented regional organizers like Susan Mariner, Joe Montano, and Isaac Sarver-recruited by DPVA and paid by DNC-made major contributions to these successes.
Shortly after the 2008 election, Tim Kaine famously declared that "old Virginny is dead." (I still display a campaign button trumpeting this statement.) As he acknowledged in 2011, what Kaine meant was that Virginia no longer was a reliably red state, but instead was a purple state-capable of producing either statewide Democratic or Republican majorities.
But, in order to produce blue majorities in a purple state, all important parts of the Virginia Democratic Party must be highly motivated, engaged, and well-organized at the grassroots level. That has not been true since 2008. Instead, top Virginia Democratic leaders have made a series of strategic mistakes that substantially undercut the grassroots energy, enthusiasm and effectiveness of Virginia Democrats, and led directly to a series of stunning defeats in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In order fully to understand why Virginia Democrats lost control of the State Senate in 2011, we need to understand some of the key mistakes that Virginia Democratic leaders made in each of the last three years.
Six Strategic Mistakes Undercut Our Grassroots Energy And Organizational Effectiveness

The six strategic mistakes that Virginia Democratic leaders made during the last three years are best summarized as follows:
1. DPVA failed to replace its regional organizers
2. DPVA recruited a poor Coordinated Campaign team for the 2009 gubernatorial election
3. DPVA undertook a flawed strategic planning process in 2010
4. The process to choose DPVA's new chair in 2010 was seriously flawed
5. Flawed redistricting plan, poor candidate recruitment combine to lose Dem Senate majority in 2011
6. Brian Moran has failed as DPVA Chair
I discuss each of these strategic mistakes in detail below.
1. DPVA failed to replace its regional organizers
In 2009, the DNC made the decision no longer to fund regional organizers like those it had been funding in Virginia. It is beyond the scope of this diary to evaluate why the DNC made this decision or whether the decision was right from DNC's perspective. Nevertheless, this decision presented DPVA with a choice: would it pay for its regional organizer program, or would it let the program lapse? DPVA let the program lapse. This was a big mistake.
These regional organizers had provided DPVA with a vital link between its central staff and the 134 local Democratic committees throughout the Commonwealth. These organizers were in a good position to advise DPVA about important local and regional developments that many local Democratic committees were not disclosing to DPVA. These organizers also were in the best position to advise DPVA regarding the most effective ways in which grassroots election campaigns should be organized in their regions. Why did DPVA make the mistake of dropping this program?
DPVA probably would argue that it didn't have the money to pay for these organizers. Actually, DPVA simply didn't understand the value these organizers provided, erroneously believed that other needs for its money were more important, or concluded that the regional organizer program wasn't important enough to raise new money.
All these excuses add up to a strategic failure-a failure that has since been repeated (see item 3 below). As explained more fully in item 2 below, the absence of these organizers contributed significantly to a series of legislative defeats in 2009, and those defeats weakened Virginia Democrats for the next round of legislative elections this year.
2. DPVA recruited a poor Coordinated Campaign team for the 2009 gubernatorial election. 
Even a great Coordinated Campaign team could not have elected Creigh Deeds Governor. But, what a 2008-caliber Coordinated Campaign team could have done in 2009 would have been to provide the grassroots organizational structure to elect several Democrats in critical HOD races.
For example, in HOD 21, Democrat Bobby Mathieson lost to Republican Ron Villanueva by a vote of 7,673 to 7,659. In HOD 23, Democrat Shannon Valentine lost to Republican Scott Garrett by a vote of 10,813 to 10,604. In HOD 34, Democrat Margi Vanderhye lost to Republican Barbara Comstock by a vote of 12,636 to 12,214. Virginia Democrats lost all these close HOD races in 2009-backsliding from the advances achieved in 2007, and significantly weakening Virginia Democrats for the 2011 legislative races. (The total number of Democrats in the HOD dropped from 44 to 39.)
The lack of the regional organizer program further exacerbated the weakness exhibited by the 2009 Coordinated Campaign team, and also led directly to these damaging, narrow losses. If the regional organizer program had been in place in 2009, these organizers would have sounded the alarm, and reported organizational gaps to DPVA. That would have given DPVA the chance to rectify this situation before it was too late.
3. DPVA undertook a flawed strategic planning process in 2010.
In the wake of the disastrous outcome of the 2009 general election, DPVA was pressed to do some badly-needed strategic planning. DPVA recruited some excellent members of a strategic planning committee, and this committee produced a lengthy draft report with many good recommendations.
(Disclosure: I was one of the forty or so members on this strategic planning committee.)
In the summer of 2010, as the strategic planning process approached the finish line, DPVA made a critical mistake: it never sent the full draft plan to the voting members of its own Central Committee for comment. So, DPVA never obtained the full informed consent to this plan even from those members. Moreover, DPVA never sought input of any kind about this plan from any other Virginia grassroots activists. These un-consulted DPVA Central Committee members, and other Virginia grassroots activists, would have provided valuable critiques and offered other new suggestions. Their voices were never heard.
Why would DPVA cast such a cloud over its own strategic plan? DPVA lacked the confidence to open the plan up for review, and preferred instead to rely on a tiny group of insiders to give the plan their ok. As discussed further in the Conclusion below, this illustrates a central weakness in DPVA's leadership model: excessive insularity. DPVA's failure to consult widely enough dissipated the value of many of its strategic plan's good recommendations, further weakening our grassroots strength for 2011.
One of the unanimous recommendations in the plan was that DPVA should reinstate the regional organizer program that it mistakenly had allowed to lapse in 2009. Both the strategic planning committee, and DPVA itself, unanimously concluded that the absence of this program had significantly undercut grassroots organizing effectiveness. Yet, to this day, DPVA has never reinstated this critical program.
While it is difficult to prove for certain that enhanced grassroots effectiveness flowing from the regional organizer program would have saved any of the 3 Congressional seats Democrats lost in 2010, one certainly can make the case that Tom Perriello's race in the Fifth Congressional District could have benefitted, and that Gerry Connolly's victory in the Eleventh Congressional District would have been less of a "nail biter".
4. The process to choose DPVA's new chair in 2010 was seriously flawed
(Disclosure: I ran for DPVA Chair against Brian Moran in November 2010.)
In light of the disastrous results of the 2009 general election, the best course would have been for then DPVA Chair Richard ("Dickie") Cranwell to have resigned by the end of 2009.
To the contrary, Cranwell repeatedly stated publicly that he intended to serve out the balance of his term (which did not expire until May 2013): "I am not going anywhere", "I have explained to my law partners that I am going to need to spend more time on my work for DPVA", and other statements to the same effect. If Cranwell didn't mean these statements, he shouldn't have made them. And if he did mean these statements, but then changed his mind, there has been no public explanation why he changed it. Instead, sometime between January 2010 and October 2010, Cranwell decided he would be resigning way before his term was up.
Whenever Cranwell reached his decision to resign, that decision should have been made public quickly, and DPVA should have organized a public and transparent process, lasting several months, during which prospective candidates to succeed Cranwell could think about it, formally file, and debate other contenders at sites in various parts of the Commonwealth. Nothing of that sort occurred.
Many aspects of what did occur happened inside a "black box." Piecing it together now from various sources: at some point between early Spring and October 2010, Cranwell apparently told Mark Warner and other top Virginia elected officials, but no one else, that he wanted to resign. Mark Warner, and some other top Virginia elected officials, then spent time in secret trying to recruit and agree upon one person to replace Cranwell. This group of elected officials eventually, in secret, chose Brian Moran.
In October, barely a month before important Congressional elections, Cranwell suddenly announced publicly that he would be resigning as Chair effective at the DPVA meeting in early December 2010. Shortly thereafter, Brian Moran announced that he was "interested" in succeeding Cranwell, and DPVA announced that the election to succeed Cranwell would be held at that same December meeting. Before anyone else realistically could even express interest in this surprise opening, Mark Warner, Dick Saslaw, Mary Margaret Whipple, and Ward Armstrong all announced that they were supporting Brian Moran for Chair. The word on the street was that Tim Kaine and Jim Webb "did not object" to this choice.
From the moment that the foregoing sequence of events became public, it didn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that Brian Moran would be elected the next DPVA Chair. Many potentially promising candidates either did not have enough time to decide whether they wanted to run, or decided that they would like to run, but found themselves in positions in which "crossing" this group of key Virginia Democratic leaders did not seem like a "good career move." One of those who chose not to run lamented to me that he had decided not to run for DPVA Chair because he had lost "the Mark Warner primary" for that position.
Perhaps this DPVA Chair selection process was best summed up by a comment made by then DPVA Chair Cranwell to one of the minority of DPVA Central Committee members who backed my candidacy for DPVA Chair: "Doesn't Peter Rousselot realize that the fix is in?"
There was no emergency that required this process. Many promising candidates for DPVA Chair were never given a fair chance to consider running. Whoever might have been elected DPVA Chair in a more open and transparent process would have benefitted from more legitimacy, and would have had more extensive support among Virginia Democrats, than Brian Moran does today. Updating what Dickie Cranwell said one year ago: "Why doesn't DPVA recognize what a fix we're in?"
5. Flawed redistricting plan, poor candidate recruitment combine to lose Dem Senate majority in 2011
In its 2008 party platform, DPVA wisely pledged that:
We support legislative redistricting that is fair to all citizens, that follows logical geographical and jurisdictional boundaries, and that strives to keep communities of interest intact. We support the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission for the redistricting of legislative boundaries.

In 2011, claiming that they had tried to honor DPVA's party platform pledge, but had been thwarted by Governor McDonnell and the Republican HOD leadership, Senate Democrats, led by Dick Saslaw and Mary Margaret Whipple, abandoned DPVA's party platform pledge entirely. Their decision was supported publicly by DPVA Chair Brian Moran.
Rather than sticking to their guns on non-partisan redistricting, the Senate Democratic leaders capitulated to Governor McDonnell, and unveiled a hyper-partisan Senate redistricting plan (hatched in secret by only a tiny handful of VA Democratic Senators). They then got that plan passed by the VA Senate on a strict party-line vote.At the same time, Saslaw, and Whipple only recruited 3 Democratic challengers to Republican incumbent Senators while the Senate Republican leaders recruited 16 Republican challengers to Democratic incumbent Senators. See VPAP: (How can you expect to retain a majority with odds like these?)
Even worse, Saslaw, Whipple, and other Senate Democratic leaders threw the HOD Democrats-and us-under the bus by allowing Republican HOD leaders to draft partisan boundaries for the HOD, and agreeing to vote for that Republican plan in the Senate. This last, awful strategic mistake virtually guarantees a Republican majority in the HOD for the next 10 years.
Faced with total stonewalling by Governor McDonnell and the GOP HOD leaders, what should the Senate Democratic leaders and Brian Moran actually have done regarding legislative redistricting? What they should have done is exactly what they now seem on the verge of doing with regard to Congressional redistricting: let the courts decide it.
The policies underlying DPVA's 2008 platform pledge remain just as valid today as when that platform was drafted.  By flip flopping, and supporting partisan legislative redistricting, these top Virginia Democratic leaders sent the following very unappealing message to all voters in the Commonwealth: "the most important thing to us is that we preserve in office the particular incumbent Senate Democrats who happen to hold these jobs in 2011. That overriding goal is much more important to us than the fate of any HOD Democrats, the Democratic Party as a whole, or the citizens of Virginia".
The strategy that Saslaw, Whipple, Brian Moran and others foisted upon us was a defensive, "Maginot Line" type of strategy. This defensive strategy forced the adoption of such unfortunate slogans and campaigns as "Save our Senate" (with the prophetic acronym, "S.O.S."). This naturally led Virginia's voters to wonder why Virginia's Democrats thought the Virginia Senate was "ours" rather than theirs.
Instead of spending thousands of hours secretly studying computer printouts of past election results to produce a hyper-partisan redistricting plan, Virginia's Democratic leaders should have spent that time developing and promoting a POSITIVE Democratic message for the future of the Commonwealth. While it was absolutely appropriate for our Democratic candidates to highlight the far-right-wing agenda of their Republican opponents, this messaging should have been subordinated to strong positive messages about why Virginia voters should elect Democrats.
No matter where the boundaries of their legislative districts are, voters should be inspired to choose our candidates. We cannot rely only on hard-core Democratic stalwarts to win in competitive districts. Democratic incumbency may be all that Saslaw, Whipple, and Brian Moran cared about, but that strategy now lies in ruins.  These Virginia Democratic leaders were too interested in incumbent self-preservation instead of Democratic Party conservation.
Finally, even if you think-as I do not-that the Senate Democrats hyper-partisan redistricting plan was a good idea, it was doomed to failure by the poor job of Democratic Senate candidate recruitment that Saslaw and Whipple did.
6. Brian Moran has failed as DPVA Chair
One year ago, during my campaign for DPVA Chair, I outlined major new initiatives that DPVA ought to implement. See here.  Although he had failed to make public any program of his own prior to the time I entered the race against him, Brian Moran did end up commenting on many of the issues I raised. To the best of my knowledge, he never disagreed publicly with any issue for which I advocated. When Brian did comment, he agreed that he too would do the same thing.
In light of the disastrous results achieved by Democrats in the 2011 legislative races, one of the issues on which Brian and I agreed one year ago now stands out. We both promised that, if elected DPVA Chair, we would recruit Democratic candidates to contest every House of Delegates race. So, what actually happened with Brian in charge of DPVA?
Only 9 HOD Republican incumbents (out of 52!) even were challenged by a Democratic opponent in the 2011 HOD elections. That represents a dismal challenge rate of only 17%.  (How many games have you won in which you have fielded 9 players and the other team has fielded 52?) Or, here's another way to look at it: there were 100 total seats up for election this year in the HOD, but the Democrats only fielded candidates in 54 out of those 100 potential races while the Republicans fielded 73.  ;   (In politics, just like in school, 54 out of 100 earns you a failing grade.) Even these numbers are worse than they appear because a significant majority of these 54 candidates were Democratic incumbents who didn't have to be recruited at all.
Because of Brian Moran's stunning HOD candidate recruitment failure, 46 HOD Republican candidates (only 5 short of an outright majority) had no Democratic opponent, but only 27 HOD Democratic candidates had no Republican opponent.   (How can you hope to win if you don't even suit up?)
Moreover, Brian Moran failed to reinstate DPVA's regional organizer program (see items 1 & 3 above). Assuming that DPVA's excuse for not reinstating this program is that it lacked sufficient money to do so, then Brian Moran failed to raise sufficient funds to keep our Democratic grassroots infrastructure as strong as it needs to be in a purple state.
Finally, Brian Moran failed to stick with DPVA's 2008 platform pledge supporting non-partisan redistricting, and instead publicly supported the terrible hyper-partisan redistricting plan hatched in secret by the Senate Democratic leadership.
Many Virginia Democratic activists, including me, have stated publicly that Brian Moran's dual responsibilities as the full-time paid lobbyist + acting head of the for-profit college industry, and as the part-time unpaid Chair of the DPVA, present an inherent conflict of interest. I have called on Brian to resign from one job or the other. To date, he has shown no interest in doing so.
As the acting head of the for-profit college association, Brian must take and has taken positions that are diametrically opposed to the positions taken by President Obama and his Department of Education. Brian must and does actively work against President Obama's education agenda at the same time that President Obama is running for re-election. The positions that Brian has taken in his day job harm many different demographic groups whom Democrats traditionally work to protect (e.g., veterans, minorities, and the poor). How can DPVA "have Barack Obama's back" as he runs for President if DPVA's own Chairman has a "day job" that requires him to sue Barack Obama's Education Department?
"Jim Webb's main concern is that the rip-off of veterans by some schools in their quest for maximum profit will endanger the educational benefits our volunteer armed forces have earned and deserve. He's absolutely right."  So, Virginia's senior Democratic Senator is seeking to protect our veterans from the predatory lending practices of many for-profit colleges, while at the same time Virginia's Democratic Party Chair leads the trade association of those colleges seeking to preserve many of those same predatory lending practices. What's wrong with this picture?
The fact that some students might benefit some of the time by attending some for-profit colleges does not in any way change the conflict of interest presented by Brian's dual jobs. During the past year, a couple of members of the DPVA Steering Committee have been quoted publicly as saying that they personally do not have a problem with Brian's continuing to hold these two jobs simultaneously. While they are entitled to their personal opinions, they are not applying the right standard. They ought to be asking whether Brian's continuing to occupy both of these jobs is in the best interests of DPVA? The answer is NO.
Brian Moran FAILED as an HOD candidate recruiter. Brian Moran FAILED to reinstate DPVA's critical regional organizer program. Brian Moran FAILED to stand up for non-partisan redistricting, but went along with incumbent protection instead.  
As the 2012 Presidential campaign begins in earnest, are you going to stand with Barack Obama, or are you going to support Brian Moran's continuing to remain as DPVA Chair while he simultaneously leads the attack on the policies of our Democratic President?
To recover from our third electoral disaster in a row, what steps should Virginia Democrats take as we move forward?
1. DPVA needs to be reformed substantially
There are many wonderful, devoted members of the DPVA Central Committee and on the DPVA paid staff. They work tirelessly throughout the year for the greater good of Virginia Democrats. Despite their best efforts, all of the strategic mistakes outlined above occurred anyway. Why?
(Disclosure: I am also a member of the DPVA Central Committee.)
DPVA has developed a leadership culture that harshly discourages input and ideas from Virginia Democrats who might disagree with the decisions of a small group of DPVA insiders. Some of these insiders have been members of DPVA's Steering Committee (its governing body) for fifteen years or more. This small group of DPVA insiders approach issues with the attitude: "we know what we are doing, and you don't." If this culture had been producing a string of electoral successes, it would still be a culture in need of reform. But, since this culture has produced a string of electoral disasters, it is a culture that MUST be reformed.
DPVA's leadership culture is very hierarchical and top down-placing DPVA in the bad position of trying to make the right decisions in a twenty-first century environment in which horizontal communication and collaboration are critical to success.
The problems stemming from DPVA's own leadership culture are compounded by the fact that the small group of DPVA insiders often simply "take orders" from one, or only a tiny handful, of prominent Virginia Democratic elected officials who are equally wedded to their own top down leadership styles. Ironically, this puts DPVA's "leaders" in the position of being lemmings instead.
The interaction of these two very small groups of people means that DPVA is too often unable to make decisions that are in the best interests of the Virginia Democratic Party or Virginia Democrats as a whole. But, the decisions DPVA reaches are always wholeheartedly supported by the small number of people who reach these decisions. These insiders proudly point for validation to the other insiders who agree with them. If DPVA were a sorority, or a fraternity, or a private club, this sort of group think might not matter much; but DPVA is not any of those things. These insiders think that consulting other insiders is the end of the road, but that road has turned out to be a dead end. How's that "top downy" thing workin' out for ya?  h/t  Sarah Palin.
Another hallmark of DPVA's culture is that it pre-determines a mission for DPVA that is much too limited. This enables the tiny group of insiders who control DPVA to try to excuse repeated defeats by falling back on the theme: "we did 'our part', but someone else screwed up". Or, as one Virginia Democratic activist accurately put it, "DPVA reminds me of a 'C' student ... fighting to maintain that status."
How, then, does one explain the major successes that were achieved by Virginia Democrats in 2006, 2007, and 2008? For the most part, those successes were achieved by others despite DPVA's inherent leadership flaws (e.g., by the individual candidate campaigns of Webb, Warner, and Obama). The Webb, Warner and Obama individual candidate campaigns welcomed and encouraged new people and new ideas. As a result, each of these campaigns benefitted enormously from tremendous grassroots/netroots energy and enthusiasm. But, if you remove the positive effects of this kind of a welcoming attitude, then it is clear that DPVA, standing alone, has a fundamentally flawed leadership model.
Major change and reform of the DPVA only will take place through a sustained combination of heavy pressure from large numbers of a new generation of Democratic elected officials, Democratic donors, and grassroots activists. The grassroots activists, acting alone, have been making excellent suggestions to DPVA for years, but DPVA has brushed off most of those suggestions. And, far too many of the older generation of Virginia's Democratic elected officials either are content with the DPVA we have now, are unwilling to take the time to lobby for a much better DPVA, or don't realize that we could have a much better DPVA.
If you are a Democratic elected official in the Virginia legislature, whether it's in the HOD or the Senate, you should want to be part of a Democratic majority. But, if you ever want to be a part of a majority, you must join in a sustained effort to reform our state Democratic infrastructure. That means committing yourself for as long as it takes to achieve fundamental reform of DPVA, and the most important reform you need to insist upon is that DPVA be more open, transparent, and welcoming to new ideas and new people.
If you are a local Democratic elected official or a volunteer for Democratic candidates or elected officials, you should insist that those candidates and elected officials keep you advised regarding what they are doing to implement fundamental reform of DPVA.
If you are a Democratic donor, you cannot be happy as you look out on Virginia's Democratic landscape today. You need to recognize that in order to have any hope of implementing the policy goals you support you will need to make fundamental reform of DPVA an important criterion in your giving strategies.  As we move forward, you should have frank conversations with Democratic elected officials and candidates, and tell them that you are going to work with them to implement the fundamental reforms that DPVA needs. As a donor, you should insist that DPVA demonstrate to you that they are sharing proposed strategies with the widest possible group of Democratic activists throughout the state, and that they are welcoming and adopting new ideas from the outside.
2. VA Senate Democrats need a new leader
Dick Saslaw's judgment and management style are responsible for many of the strategic mistakes noted above. The worst mistakes Saslaw made in 2011 were the hyper-partisan redistricting plan he fathered and his recruitment of only 3 Democratic challengers to Republican incumbent Senators while the Senate Republican leaders recruited 16 Republican challengers to Democratic incumbent Senators.
Moreover, during the 2011 legislative session, Saslaw and his Democratic leadership team committed a "major parliamentary bungle" that allowed the women's health clinic regulation legislation to come to the Senate floor for the vote that led to its becoming law in Virginia.
Dick Saslaw's major parliamentary bungle is directly responsible for placing at risk women's health and a woman's right to choose in Virginia. This bungle will force public interest groups to incur thousands of dollars of litigation costs to fight this awful legislation in the courts. This train wreck would not have occurred if Dick Saslaw hadn't been asleep at the switch.
Saslaw and the DPVA share a fatal flaw: too much top down, too little bottom up. Therefore, Saslaw should resign, or VA Senate Democrats should vote to replace him as the leader of what is now, sadly, their minority caucus in the Virginia State Senate.
3. DPVA needs a new Chair
As noted above, during my campaign for DPVA Chair, I outlined major new initiatives that DPVA ought to implement. See  If all those initiatives actually were implemented, that would produce a much better DPVA. However, unless and until DPVA's culture is changed by the external forces advocated above, the fundamental reforms that DPVA needs appear unlikely.
Nevertheless, a new DPVA Chair would eliminate the cloud over DPVA that Brian Moran's dual jobs have created, and would give DPVA a much needed fresh start after Brian's failed year as Chair. Therefore, Brian Moran should resign or DPVA should vote to oust him.
If you agree with me that DPVA needs a new Chair, you should contact members of the DPVA Steering Committee to express your views. The current members of the DPVA Steering Committee are listed here:
Virginia Democrats are at a crossroads: do we want to continue to live in the "Old Virginny", or will we summon the will to make the fundamental changes needed to compete in the "New Virginny"? That choice is now up to us.

Winners and Losers: Election 2011

Here are a few winners and losers (note: this list is FAR from comprehensive, and was put together on little sleep, so take it for what it's worth - probably not much!) from last night that I think are worth highlighting. I'm starting with the "Losers" list this time, because frankly, everyone in Virginia today is a loser after the, uh, less-than-stellar results last night.Losers
1. Brian Moran. Wow, where do we even start? How about Brian's run for DPVA Chair, when he promised to recruit a Democratic candidate in every district around the state. Utter fail, with just 27 House of Delegates districts having a contested race between a Republican and a Democrat, and Democrats almost completely on the defensive in the State Senate due in part to lousy recruiting. Great job. Second, Brian's messaging was essentially non-existent, with absolutely no reason articulated for why people should vote FOR Democrats, not just AGAINST Republicans. For instance, Brian sent out an email this past Saturday saying, "We are planning to leave it all on the field between now and November 8th to elect as many Democratic candidates [as???] we can." Other than the typo, who the he** is Brian to talk about "leaving it all on the field" when it was his ultimate responsibility to have enough players on the field in the first place, and he failed to put those players out there?!? Third, Moran's continued conflict of interest with his "day job" (ripping off minorities, veterans, and young people, all while suing the Obama Administration and running TV ads against it) sent out mixed messages (at best), took up a huge amount of his time, and further weakened (not to mention morally compromised) an already weak DPVA. Finally, Moran wasted precious time and resources that should have been put into candidate recruitment, GOTV, building a grassroots infrastructure, etc, instead playing the "inside DPVA" game where the same people basically talk to the same people, but doing precious little build up a serious farm system and a grassroots/netroots infrastructure. Utter fail. Uninspiring, incompetent, corrupt: Get this guy OUTTA HERE NOW!!!
lowkell :: Winners and Losers: Election 2011
2. Dick Saslaw: I thought for a minute about putting Saslaw in the "mixed" category, as Senate Democrats didn't lose as badly last night as some (e.g., Tim Hugo, Bob McDonnell) had predicted. In the end, though, they still lost. Which means, of course, that Dick Saslaw will no longer be Senate majority leader, a position he's held since 2008. Perhaps it's time for the almost 72-year-old Saslaw to retire at this point? As if that's not bad enough, Saslaw lost the Senate majority in spite of the fact that he and his allies gerrymandered the district lines with the express intent of protecting the majority, all while throwing the House Democrats under the proverbial bus (although, one must admit, Saslaw's gerrymandering came close to working as intended, while also being a disaster for Democracy). Third, Saslaw's money allocations were questionable, particularly his decision to direct nearly $150k to Barbara Favola (who won the primary by a huge, 2:1 margin, and certainly didn't need the cash from Saslaw, Whipple, et al) and also pouring money into former Republican-turned-independent Brandon Bell's campaign (Bell lost by a wide margin last night).  Fourth, Saslaw's messaging was uninspired and ineffective -- nothing positive about why TO vote for Democrats, just negative about why NOT to vote for Republicans. Finally, Saslaw is simply NOT the guy you want firing up the troops. For instance, in the closing days of the campaign, Saslaw put out a pathetic YouTube video and a lame email appeal for money, in which he claimed that "things look good for keeping a Democratic majority on Tuesday" and "The only problem is we need more resources." No, Dick, you had a heck of a lot more problems than that, and your failure to realize that fact is a microcosm of the many, many ways in which you've been out of touch for years. Bye bye!
3. Virginia. In just about every way, our state lost last night. How on earth is giving the McDonnell/Cuccinelli crew unchecked power going to help make things better in Virginia? Got me. How on earth is adding utter lunatics like Dick Black going to add one more job or keep one more teacher in the classroom? It won't. How will giving the denial-of-climate science (and denial-of-rationality/empiricism in general) party unchecked power help Virginia's environment, economy, or anything else? Again, it won't. And how will having a bunch of right-wing radicals waging war against immigrants (think Arizona and Alabama), poor people, working people, the middle class, a woman's right to choose (think Mississippi-style "personhood" crap), GLBT people, etc, make Virginia a more attractive place to live or work? Obviously, it won't. In sum, last night was terrible news for every Virginian, whether they realize it or not.
4. Virginia voters: As one of my Blue Virginia colleagues puts it, "the biggest loser will be the Virginia electorate that had a choice in only a minority of races in districts so gerrymandered that the idea of regions of shared interests is absurdly impossible. Representative government in America is broken, so why should Virginia be different?"
5. Loudoun County Democrats: Utterly demolished yesterday, divided from within (e.g., outgoing supervisor Stevens Miller endorsing an independent and a Republican for County Board), now with no Democrats on the County Board and with rabid Dick Black in the State Senate, this is a party in complete disarray. Who, if anyone, will step up to lead? (note: Loudoun County Republicans won in spite of its own committee's antics, particularly the zombie-bullet-in-head-Obama image they sent out).
6. Democrats in the House of Delegates. Their numbers utterly decimated (they apparently lost 7 seats), House of Delegates Democrats are now almost completely powerless, as well as leaderless. Who will step up to take Ward Armstrong's place? Who else will rise to become leaders of this demolished, demoralized rump of a caucus and attempt to build something from the ashes? We'll see soon enough, and I sure hope they're strong, articulate, hard-working progressives. If not, why bother?
7. Roscoe Reynolds, Edd Houck. The two long-time Senate incumbent Democrats lost by slim margins yesterday, and must be wondering what they could have done differently to pick up a few more votes and hang on.
8. Ward Armstrong. Despite changing his residence (after being redistricted out of a job) and spending over $1 million -- money that would have been FAR better spent helping promising Democratic House candidates like Pam Danner, Mike Kondratick, etc. -- the former House Minority Leader lost anyway. Are Armstrong's statewide ambitions in ruins? Given his loss last night, combined with his running away from the Democratic Party, combined with his terrible job recruiting Democratic House of Delegates candidates this year, I wouldn't expect that Armstrong would have much, if any, support from Democratic and progressive grassroots/netroots activists, that's for sure. We'll see if anyone else supports him, although I can't really see why they would.
9. The Congressional Redistricting Map. With Republicans taking control of the General Assembly in early January 2012, the status of Virginia's Congressional redistricting is more advantageous to the "red team" than ever. The risk is that we will see an 8-3 Republican majority locked into our purple, almost-evenly-divided state for the next decade (just 2 years after Democrats held a 6-5 edge). Let's hope the Obama Justice Department saves us. But it should never have come to this, frankly.
10. Any Last Vestige of Sanity in the Republican Party: The election of the bat**** crazy, virulent homophobe, sex-obsessed Dick Black says it all about today's Republican Party. These people are bonkers.Mixed
1. Terry McAuliffe. As a Blue Virginia colleague of mine says, T-Mac "may appear to lose based on all his efforts to elect Dems, but wins potentially big by becoming the most likely savior for Dems to focus on after this point.  (Is there anyone who can be considered leader of VA Dems at the present moment?)." I'd add that if I were T-Mac, I'd be seriously thinking whether or not I really wanted to run for governor in 2013, given that with Republican control of the General Assembly, including a "veto-proof majority" in the House, a Democratic governor is unlikely to accomplish much of anything. What's the point, then?
2. Barack Obama. To quote one of my Blue Virginia colleagues, "He is a loser to the extent that a loss in Virginia is seen as a sign of weakness for him, both as a read of where the electorate stands now and as an indication of how Virginia may go in 2012. But, Obama is a winner to the extent that if we do hold on to the Senate (and I am thinking/hoping Houck may yet hold on), or even if the overall vote count is fairly close notwithstanding a GOP victory, then it bodes well for Obama in the state in 2012, assuming the presidential year  will produce a more Democratic electorate." I would also add the potential for a backlash against Republicans here in Virginia once they wildly overreach, as they are almost certain to do come January 2012. Think Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, etc.
3. Tim Kaine. On the one hand, Kaine spent a great deal of time and energy campaigning for Democrats this cycle, and we got our butts kicked. On the other hand, Kaine got out there all around the state, not overtly campaigning for himself of course but still reminding people that he's around and also racking up political "chits." On yet ANOTHER hand, to the extent that Virginia continues to trend "red," that's bad news for Kaine's chances in 2012. And on yet ANOTHER hand (I told you this was "mixed!"), likely Republican overreach next year could very well result in a backlash, among a much broader electorate than voted yesterday, come November 6, 2012.
4. Ken Cuccinelli. There will now be more Cuccinelli-style, far-right-wing Republicans in the General Assembly -- people like Tom Garrett, Dick Black, Bill Carrico, and Bryce Reeves -- for Cuccinelli to ally with. On the other hand, Cuccinelli's chief rival for governor, Bill Bolling, is now potentially a lot more prominent and relevant than previously.
1. Bill Bolling. I agree with Mason Conservative on this one: "He effectively controls the state senate so long as Tommy Norment can keep the boys (and girls) in line." That makes him very powerful, and moves him from obscurity to sudden prominence.
2. Bob McDonnell. I almost put McDonnell in the "mixed" category, under the "be careful what you wish for" theory (e.g., McD will now have to deal with a bunch of right-wing Republicans and Tea Partiers, complicating his life significantly as he attempts to position himself as a "reasonable," relatively "moderate" governor of a swing state heading into the 2012 presidential cycle). I decided to put McDonnell firmly on the "winners" list, however, because his "team" won big yesterday (particularly in the House of Delegates, but also taking effective control of the State Senate); because he poured a great deal of money and exerted a great deal of effort in helping make this happen; and because, ultimately, dealing with overreach on your side is the kind of "problem" you want to have in politics!
3. Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-8th). To quote one of my Blue Virginia colleagues: "Thanks to the DPVA he will be the next VA Lt Governor because he went unopposed in [Virginia Beach]."
4. Corey Stewart. His crushing win yesterday sets him up nicely for whatever he wants to do politically in the future, whether a run for statewide office in 2013 or a run for Congress at some point. Blech.
5. National conservative, Republican groups. Groups like the Middle Resolution PAC and the Republican State Legislative Committee poured huge amounts of money into Virginia to help Republicans pick up seats in the House of Delegates (which they most certainly did!) and take back the State Senate (which they did, albeit barely). Meanwhile, national Democrats and progressives (including the national blogosphere) largely ignored Virginia. Thanks, guys!
6. Phil Puckett, John Edwards, John Miller, Chuck Colgan, Toddy Puller, Dave Marsden: These Democrats were all considered endangered prior to election day, but all won last night. Congratulations!
7. Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola: Both first-time Senate candidates won easily, albeit in heavily Democratic districts, after making it through rough-and-tumble, highly competitive primaries. Both can now put the word "Senator" in front of their names.
8. John Cook. Winning in a district held by Democrat Sharon Bulova for many years, against a strong challenge by Janet Oleszek, is nothing to sneeze at. I agree with Mason Conservative that Cook "now has four years to cement himself in Braddock," giving him the options to run for Chairman, Congress, statewide office, whatever. By the way, this is the second time Janet Oleszek barely lost to an up-and-coming Republican, the other being Ken Cuccinelli. Next time, how about we actually STOP one of these people in Braddock so they can't make mischief on a wider playing field?!?
9. Barbara Comstock. Speaking of stopping potentially dangerous, ambitious Republicans before they get too far, Comstock is almost certainly looking to run for Frank Wolf's seat when he retires, or some other higher office. Her decisive win last night in a generally "moderate," "swing" districts puts her one step closer on that path.
10. Shannon Taylor/Henrico CountyGood news from Henrico County, as "Shannon Taylor will be the next Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney and Tyrone Nelson will be putting Varina first as the Varina District's next County Supervisor!"
11. Bill Howell: I agree with Mason Conservative yet again (this is getting scary): "the House of Delegates is resembling something close to the Byrd days...Bill Howell might be the most powerful man in Richmond right now."