Democrats Retake Control of Virginia State Senate

Monday, January 27, 2014

And with "Landslide Lynwood" Lewis' 11-vote victory in the special election to replace Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw can now fulfill his vow to "redo that whole damn joint!" :)

Gillespie Touts Meeting with Group Opposed to "fornication, heterosexual oral sex...homosexuality"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ed Gillespie, a former George W. Bush operative and lobbyist for such things as Big Tobacco, and now a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Virginia, had a busy day today. In addition to meeting with anti-abortion marchers, he also held a "meet & greet" with the "Virginia Christian Alliance" (see a screen shot of Gillespie's tweet at the far right -- appropriately enough - of this post). So what is the Virginia Christian Alliance and what do they believe?  Here are a few highlights (lowlights, actually).*They believe in "Refuting foreign cultures, legal precedents, languages and religions in opposition to Christianity." In this category, you'll find articles like "The Islamic Threat to America: Sharia Law Part 1." Charming.
*These folks also deny the science of evolution and promote "creationism." According to their website, they're dedicated to "[r]efuting Darwinian Evolution, Theistic Evolution, Gap and Age-Day Theories, and Progressive Creationism." Personally, I can't wait to see their scientific evidence they've collected and the papers they've published in prestigious, scientific journals on these topics. ;)
*There's much, much more, but for now, let's just conclude with this one: they believe in "promoting sexual purity," including "[r]efuting sexual promiscuity: adultery, fornication, heterosexual oral sex, pornography, incest and bestiality, pedophilia, and homosexuality." OK, I think we can all agree that incest, bestiality and pedophilia are unacceptable. The rest of them, though? I have a feeling that many Virginians would not agree with waging war on heterosexual oral sex, "fornication," and homosexuality. Unless, for some reason, Ed Gillespie has reason to believe that he can do better running on such a platform than E.W. Jackson, Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain did last year.
Anyway, since Ed Gillespie is proud to meet with these people, should we presume that he agrees with them on the aforementioned? If not, we'd love to hear specifically where he disagrees. We're all ears, Ed! :)

CSGV Applauds Del. Filler-Corn for Leading Opposition to Radical "Bazooka Bill"

by: lowkell

Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:22:53 PM EST

More Teapublican lunacy, this time courtesy of far-far-far-right-wingnut Del. David LaRock. What next, should the "right to bear arms" include F-16 fighters, M-1 Abrams tanks, nuclear weapons...anything? Remember, when the 2nd Amendment was written, it was in the context of: a) citizen militias; b) no standing army; c) a largely agrarian nation; and d) inaccurate guns like muskets. Do you think a few things might have changed since then? Duhhhhh... P.S. The following press release is by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).

Richmond, VA—Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st) rose on the floor of the House of Delegates yesterday afternoon and spoke against HB 878, a bill sponsored by Delegate David La Rock (R-33rd) that would force local law enforcement to approve applications for dangerous, class 3 firearms. Class 3 firearms are military-grade weapons regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934, including fully automatic machine guns, hand grenades, bazookas, anti-tank weapons, molotov cocktails, and silencers.

In her speech, Delegate Filler-Corn pointed out the danger that HB 878 would pose to public safety by forcing law enforcement to make military hardware and ordnance available in Virginia’s neighborhoods. For nearly a century, class 3 firearms have been tightly regulated by federal and state governments alike because of the unique threat they pose to civilians.  By totally removing the discretion that law enforcement has in evaluating class 3 applications, HB 878 would significantly enhance the danger these weapons pose to Virginia families.

Both the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Sheriffs' Association spoke in opposition to HB878 when the bill was heard is subcommittee.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence applauds Delegate Filler-Corn for standing up to this dangerous new scheme from the gun lobby.  "Class 3 weapons like bazookas and fully automatic machine guns are highly dangerous and have been regulated successfully for 80 years," said CSGV Virginia State Director Lori Haas. "The existing regulatory structure has been successful precisely because local law enforcement has the discretion to prevent transfers of these weapons. Why on earth would we want to discard the good judgment of Virginia law enforcement in this process? Our great Commonwealth does not need a 'Bazooka Bill.’”

HB 878 is scheduled for a final vote in the House of Delegates this afternoon.

Results Thread: 33rd State Senate District Special Election

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Polls closed at 7 pm in the 33rd State Senate district special election contest. As usual, I'll be following returns on VPAP and the State Board of Elections sites.UPDATE 6:45 am Wednesday: The final results are Wexton 11,427 (52.71%)-Whitbeck 8,128 (37.50%)-May 2,119 (9.78%). Another powerful sign of Virginia turning blue (a special election win in the once-"red" outer suburbs)! :)
UPDATE 8:37 pm: Getting close to the final results with 46 of 51 precincts reporting -- Wexton 53%-Whitbeck 37%-May 10%.
UPDATE 8:20 pm: I hear that John Whitbeck called to concede to Senator-elect Jennifer Wexton. Give Whitbeck credit; @KenCuccinelli STILL hasn't called @TerryMcAuliffe Heh. Also, congratulations to Senator-elect Wexton and to our soon-to-be-highly-relevant-again LG Ralph Northam :)
UPDATE 8:02 pm: With 36 of 51 precincts reporting, it's Wexton 9,402 (53%)-Whitbeck 6,615 (37%)-May 1,834 (10%). Of those 36 precincts, Wexton has carried 34, with Whitbeck carrying 2 (one of which - River Bend - he carried by just 1 vote). #GOPFAIL
UPDATE 7:48 pm: With 27 of 51 precincts reporting, it's now Wexton 6,653 (54%)-Whitbeck 4,462 (36%)-May 1,215 (10%). I'd point out that, unlike the Lynwood Lewis race, in the 33rd Senate district, Democrats went right for the "base" vote in a "base" election. And guess what? Yep, it appears to have worked. Shocking, eh?
UPDATE 7:44 pm: Per Brian Schoeneman -- 324 Herndon #3 - 361 Wexton, 185 Whitbeck, 60 May; 320 Herndon #2 - 522 Wexton, 241 Whitbeck, 51 May, 1 Write-In; 905 Franklin - 155 Wexton, 113 Whitbeck, 14 May; 237 McNair - 265 Wexton, 92 Whitbeck, 19 May; 931 Carson - 237 Wexton, 167 Whitbeck, 52 May, 1 provisional.
UPDATE 7:42 pm: NLS adds, "There is no path for Whitbeck, Wexton is winning everything she needs. Could end up at or over 60%."
UPDATE 7:37 pm: Just gotta remind everyone that one of the main arguments in the Dem primary last spring against Mark Herring was that it would (supposedly) be SO hard to keep his seat (even though it's a 59% Obama/Kaine district). Uh huh. Oh, and those same geniuses were also arguing that Ralph Northam's seat would be much easier to hold onto. Wrong. Wrong. And let's just add another "Wrong" for good measure. :)
UPDATE 7:36 pm: @notlarrysabato tweets, "Got some more of Loudoun in. We can call this one at 733 pm- @WextonForSenate wins and Democrats take the Virginia Senate!!" :)
UPDATE 7:34 pm: With 8 of 51 precincts reporting, it's now Wexton 1,910 (55.8%)-Whitbeck 1,250 (36.5%)-May 265 (7.7%). Whitbeck hasn't won a precinct yet. :)
UPDATE 7:33 pm: @notlarrysabato tweets, "Wow! Wexton crushes Herring numbers in Frying Pan as well. 382-128 Wexton, Herring won here n 2011 331-229. #WextonWhiteout"
UPDATE 7:22 pm: With 2 of 51 precincts reporting, it's Democrat Jennifer Wexton 158 (69%)-Republican John Whitbeck 65 (28%)-Independent Joe May 6 (3%). Yes, Joe May only has 6 votes - wow!  

Virginia Republicans Ram through Unconstitutional Redistricting Bill on Party-Line Vote

Monday, January 20, 2014

From the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus:
Technical changes” are in clear violation of Article II, Section 6 
RICHMOND, VA — This afternoon, Senate Republicans rammed through SB 310, a bill that makes unconstitutional changes to the boundaries of several Senate districts, on a 20-18 party-line vote. SB 310 is patroned by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R – Fauquier). 
This is the second time in the last two years that Republicans have voted for off-year redistricting legislation. (In 2013, HB 259 also passed with unanimous support from Senate Republicans.) 
The Constitution of Virginia clearly states that redistricting shall happen “in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter,” and that new lines shall take effect “for the November general election…that is held immediately prior to the expiration of the term being served in the year that the reapportionment law is required to be enacted.” 
No provision is made for any off-year adjustment, including the kind of continual changes that Republicans have supported. 

Arlington County Board Candidate Cord Thomas on His Voting Record, Ron Paul, Views on the Streetcar

Sunday, January 12, 2014

As you may know, long-time Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman has announced that he'll be stepping down in the next few weeks, which means (joy oh joy!) it will soon be special election time in Arlington. To date, there are three Democratic candidates (Peter FallonAlan HowzeCord Thomas), one Republican running as an "independent" (John Vihstadt), one Libertarian (Evan Bernick), and one Independent Green (Janet Murphy). This past Wednesday evening, the Democrats debated at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting; for video of that event, click here. There are a number of additional debates scheduled, followed by the Democratic caucus (unassembled, using instant runoff voting) on January 30 and February 1 to select the nominee.As is often the case, people send me information that may or may not be interesting or relevant to a particular race. For instance, the other day, I was given Cord Thomas' voting record (note: I don't have access to the voter file, but many people do; it's also public information WHETHER you've voted or not, although certainly not WHO you voted for exactly). Given that Thomas' political views have, at least until recently, been mostly unknown by Arlington Democrats (Thomas hasn't been active with the Arlington Democrats, mostly focusing on his business ventures), I certainly found this information to be interesting and relevant. Here's what jumped out at me:
1. Thomas - who has lived in Arlington since 2005 or 2006 - didn't vote in a "municipal" (aka, Arlington County Board, School Board, Constitutional Officer) election until 2012. (UPDATE: Ben Tribbett points out to me that Thomas did vote in the 2009 general election, in which Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette was on the ballot along with the gov, LG and AG races...)
2. Prior to 2012, Thomas only voted in one non-presidential election, and that was for Virginia governor in 2009. For instance, Thomas didn't vote in the crucial 2006 U.S. Senate election (Jim Webb vs. George Allen), the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, or the hotly-contested 2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary (Terry McAuliffe, Creigh Deeds, Brian Moran).
3. Thomas DID vote in the 2012 Virginia Republican presidential primary between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
4. There is no record of Thomas being involved in the Democratic Party or as a Democratic volunteer throughout the time he's lived in Arlington.
I contacted Thomas for comment on this, and he almost immediately called me back. Here are a few highlights of our approximately 3/4-hour conversation, which was cordial and friendly (I find Thomas to be personable and likable, even if we don't agree on all the issues).

How Democrats Almost Blew a Crucial State Senate Race

Friday, January 10, 2014

As I write this, Democrat Lynwood Lewis leads Republican Wayne Coleman by just 10 votes (out of more than 20,000 votes cast) in the special election to fill Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam's Senate seat (and also absolutely crucial to control of the State Senate). How on earth did this election, in a district that went by 15 points to Barack Obama and 16 points to Tim Kaine in November 2012, come down to just 10 votes, pending certification and an almost certain recount? I've been calling around, and a few themes have emerged.1. Republicans recognized the obvious - that a special election right after New Year's in (likely) bad weather would be a hardcore, "base" election extraordinaire - and geared their messaging to revving up turnout among their base. Thus, Lynwood Lewis was attacked as a "typical politician" who had "voted to increase his own pay in the House of Delegates and cast 110 votes to raise our taxes." As if all that wasn't enough to get the Teapublican base fired up, Coleman also went after Lewis by tying him as closely as possible to the hated (by the Fox "News"/Rush Limbaugh set) "Obamacare." Smart strategy.
2. In stark contrast, Democratic messaging strategy was NOT aimed at the base, but at moderate Republicans and independents. To them, the messaging was that Lynwood Lewis was pro-business, a moderate, a bipartisan deal maker who "works across party lines," etc. This is all perfectly fine stuff but not the type of emotional "red meat" aimed at revving up the Democratic "base" in an essentially 100% "base" election. Not smart strategy.
3. Making matters worse, I'm told that there was a major disconnect between the Democrats' messaging and their overall strategy, which was heavily focused on "field." The problem is, the Democrats' messaging aimed at middle-of-the-road, moderate, "swing" voters, while Republicans aimed their message at their base. Guess who turned out? And no, putting a ton of resources into "field" isn't going to help much if the "base" isn't being told why they should vote. Not smart or effective.
lowkell :: How Democrats Almost Blew a Crucial State Senate Race

Governor-Elect McAuliffe Announces Administration Appointments

Monday, January 6, 2014

From Gov.-elect McAuliffe's office: 
RICHMOND – Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe announced additional appointments to his administration today, including the appointment of Carlos Hopkins as Counsel to the Governor and additional appointments to the Governor’s Office and Cabinet. The appointees will join McAuliffe’s administration focused on finding common ground with members of both parties on issues that will grow Virginia’s economy and create more jobs across the Commonwealth.

Office of the Governor

Carlos Hopkins, Counsel to the Governor
Carlos Hopkins currently serves as a Deputy City Attorney in Richmond. Prior to joining the City Attorney's Office, Hopkins operated a small, private practice. He served as the Training Director for the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, and as a Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney in Richmond. Hopkins holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia Army National Guard.

Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Jr., Legislative Director
Felix Sarfo-Kantanka previously served as Special Assistant to Governor Tim Kaine for policy, where he specialized in public safety and Commonwealth preparedness issues. Following his role with the Governor, Sarfo-Kantanka joined McGuireWoods Consulting as Assistant Vice President of State Government Relations. Sarfo-Kanktanka also served as legislative assistant to former Delegate and House Minority Leader Franklin P. Hall, where he oversaw and coordinated activities for the 69th legislative House district, provided constituent services, and researched legislative issues. Sarfo-Kantanka graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and earned a master’s degree in public administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Anna Healy James, Policy Director
Anna Healy James previously served as Special Assistant to Governor Mark Warner for policy, where she established and oversaw the Governor’s Healthy Virginians initiative as well as advised  the Governor on issues such as teacher quality, K-12 education, procurement, capital outlay, healthcare and higher education. Most recently, James served as Manager for State Government Affairs for Troutman Sanders Strategies, where she focused on state-related matters in the areas of healthcare, education, capital outlay, procurement and appropriations. Prior to that, James was the Director of Government Relations for Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System.  James received her M.B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Tracy Retchin, Deputy Counsel to the Governor and Policy Advisor
Tracy Retchin received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA. Her experience spans working in law firms, government relations, and the entertainment field. She has developed and administered a pre-law advising program at Virginia Commonwealth University and served as Director of the University of Richmond School of Law Career Services Office. Ms. Retchin is a member of the Virginia Bar and the District of Columbia Bar.

Brian Coy, Press Secretary
Brian Coy served as Communications Director of Governor-elect McAuliffe’s transition team, and previously was the Communications Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia where he served as an adviser on numerous campaigns including McAuliffe for Governor, Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, and Barack Obama’s reelection effort. Brian holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from James Madison University.

Rachel Thomas, Traveling Press Secretary
Rachel Thomas served as Deputy Communications Director of Governor-elect McAuliffe’s transition team and previously as Deputy Press Secretary of the McAuliffe for Governor campaign. Prior to that, Thomas served as Special Assistant to the Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Thomas graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Communication and Public Service.

Kelsey Larus, Director of Scheduling and Advance
Kelsey Larus, a Richmond native, joins the McAuliffe administration after several positions with President Barack Obama where she worked on the President's campaigns, in the White House, both Inaugurals and was the Director of Housing for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee in Charlotte.  Before joining the Obama team she was in event management for nearly 10 years and is a Certified Protocol and Etiquette Consultant by the Protocol School of Washington. She is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Elizabeth Natonski, Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance  
Elizabeth Natonski served as the scheduler for Governor-elect McAuliffe’s transition team. Prior to joining the administration, Natonski served as Political Assistant to the Political Director of the McAuliffe for Governor campaign. Natonski attended John Carroll University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Secretariat of the Commonwealth

Kelly Thomasson Mercer, Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth
Kelly Thomasson Mercer previously served as Projects Director for the Office of Senator Mark R. Warner.  Before working on Capitol Hill, she served in various capacities for Senator Warner, including Director of Scheduling for then-Governor Mark Warner. Thomasson Mercer is a native of Richmond and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. She lives in Ashland with her husband, Clark, and two children. 

Secretariat of Health and Human Resources

Suzanne Schnell Gore, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources
Suzanne Schnell Gore previously served as the Director of Policy and Research and a Senior Executive Advisor at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) where she played a leading role in making Virginia’s Medicaid program more cost effective and responsive to the Virginians it serves. She served previously as a Policy and Research Manager and an Integrated Care and Health Services Manager at DMAS, and as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources in the administration of Governor Mark Warner. Suzanne holds a law degree from George Mason University, a Masters of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelors of Science in Commerce from the University of Virginia.

Secretariat of Natural Resources

Evan Feinman, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources
Evan Feinman served as the Deputy Policy Director on Governor-elect McAuliffe’s transition team and previously as the Policy Director of McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign. Feinman graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Affairs and holds a degree from the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Secretariat of Transportation

Nicholas Donohue, Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Nicholas Donohue served previously as Policy and Legislative Director for the Transportation for American Campaign. Before that he served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation in the administration of Governor Tim Kaine. Nicholas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Studies and Geography from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Grindly Johnson, Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Grindly Johnson previously served as the Chief of Administration at the Virginia Department of Transportation, where she directed and oversaw all administrative functions for the third largest transportation agency in the nation. She served previously as the agency’s Chief of Equal Business and Employee Opportunity, as well as in a number of private sector positions as an accountant, financial analyst and community relations consultant. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Accounting from Norfolk State University.

Executive Mansion

George Bishop IV, Executive Director of the Mansion
George has spent 30 years working in the legislative branch of government, almost entirely for the Virginia House of Delegates, where he has served under 5 House Speakers and 3 House Clerks.  In his role as Deputy Clerk for Administrative and Support Services for the House, a non-partisan position that he held for more than 20 years, George was responsible for managing various functions for the 100-member body, including information technology, human resources, procurement and logistics, and facilities.  He worked very closely with the Virginia State Capitol Restoration and Expansion Project from 2003 until its completion in 2007. He was elected Associate Vice President of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries in 2010, the oldest legislative staff section in the National Conference of State Legislatures.  He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he received a B.A. in English in 1985. George is an avid tennis player and lives in Richmond his wife, Trish, and their 9-year-old son, Will. 

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Twelve, An Epiphany

by FreeDem

Welcome to the end of this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Thank you for reading; you've made it to the final one! Check out the past entries here: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate DemocratsDay Five, Unchallenged IncumbentsDay Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic TrendsDay Eight, Swing Voters. Day Nine, 2021 Redistricting. Day Ten, Independent Redistricting. Day Eleven, A Diverse Future. At the end of this diary is a poll on tomorrow's special elections, don't forget to vote!On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
Keep the gold, pawn it off for cold hard cash, because on this Epiphany, the three magi would be better off bringing money, messaging, and mobilization to Virginia Democrats.
Campaigns are fought on battlefields defined by demographics, candidates, random events and other factors that may be out of our control. But once the battle has been joined, victory belongs to the side that brings the three M's: money, messaging, and mobilization.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Twelve, An Epiphany
Anyone who has seen the enthusiasm from volunteers for the Obama campaign, and the turnout response from voters, understands mobilization.Money, well, that's something we're always going to complain about. The Republicans sell themselves out to the highest bidder, and in Richmond, with unlimited contributions, the highest bidder can write some pretty big checks. In 2013, Terry McAuliffe outspent Ken Cuccinelli by a massive, almost two to one margin. Poor Ken was abandoned by the Big Boys, which was a common complaint by his chief strategist Chris LaCivita after the election. If only big business had spent some more money, who knows what the outcome would have been?
Who were the big boys backing McAuliffe? At Bacon's Rebellion, conservative commentator James Bacon pointed to the "green lobby," mostly by way of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the climate change super-PAC NextGen Climate Action. Labor unions also gave big, which James argues could set up an interesting fight over the big infrastructure projects facing Virginia in the next few years, including the Charlottesville Bypass and the Bi-County Parkway. Terry's donors also include advocates of developments further north on Route 29 from the Charlottesville Bypass that would slow traffic down even more.
All money comes with strings attached, which gets to messaging. Virginia Democrats had a history of running as more conservative, rural friendly local politicians for a number of years. Mark Warner campaigned as a pro-2nd Amendment friend of hunters and NASCAR fans. Well, those days are over. A lot of things may change in the future, but I don't think we'll see the Virginia Democratic Party define itself as the anti-choice, pro-coal party. Not in my lifetime.
With Virginia Democrats struggling to win any competitive legislative seats, is the problem money, messaging, or mobilization?
I submit to you that it's a lack of all three at the local level.
Barack Obama found the right combination of money, messaging, and mobilization to win Virginia, twice. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have won not only as Governors, but now as Senators. Terry McAuliffe was able to out-raise, out-message, and out-mobilize Ken Cuccinelli.
What's missing in Virginia is a set of volunteers and activists who are excited to go out and knock on doors for a local Democratic candidate for the General Assembly not just because they care about the Democratic Party, but they care passionately about the causes their local candidate supports.
What's missing in Virginia is a party platform that does more than just talk about how we won't declare war on women, gays, and the poor. We need a party platform that talks about what Democrats will do, positively: not just in Washington, but also in Richmond. We need to rethink state and local government now more than ever.
And we also need to tap into new donors who don't just care about paying back favors to well-connected party insiders, or making sure they remain popular among their cocktail hour peers inside the Beltway. Where's the Virginia version of a grassroots Howard Dean or Barack Obama campaign, drawing not just energy and enthusiasm but also financial support from the people?
Virginia is in a very unique position. Looking at our state's history, we are a very socially conservative state. Virginia and Florida are two socially conservative outliers among Obama's winning coalition, where the new electorate has yet to seize control in state government.
Libertarian political scientist Jason Sorens has studied public policy at the state level and also found that Virginia has very conservative policies. No surprise to those of us who follow the happenings in Richmond. But it also has what Sorens calls "authoritarian" policies, based largely on draconian drug crimes, harsh mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, and a generally police friendly criminal justice system. This policy record is despite Sorens's own estimate that Virginia has a relatively middle of the road electorate. The following graphic from this post tells the whole story:

States with more liberal voting habits have more liberal policies, with some outliers. While some liberal states have vastly more liberal policies, a few states, including Virginia, are more conservative at the policy level than their present voting would indicate.
What reforms at the state level can Virginia Democrats rally around as part of money, messaging, and mobilization?
My diary asking what will be the major issue for Virginia Democrats in 2017 and beyond received few votes. Is there even a consensus among the netroots about the positive vision we have moving forward? Or do we just agree that we don't want Ken Cuccinelli and his friends running the show?
In the exit polling from 2013, twenty percent said that abortion was the most important issue, and they went heavily for McAuliffe. This was the only issue where McAuliffe won; on both health care and the economy, Cuccinelli won more voters. Not being Ken Cuccinelli may be good enough for our candidate for Governor running in an electorate that actually favored Mitt Romney over Barack Obama just a year before, but it's not working for our candidates for General Assembly. Few Republican members are as outspoken as Cuccinelli on social issues, and those that are (like Bob Marshall and Kathy Byron) do run behind the top of the ticket. I have heard from several campaigns and activists a common complaint that several top-tier House of Delegate campaigns focused almost exclusively on abortion as the only defining issue of the campaign. Can't we do better than being the boring, centrist, but pro-choice party?
We need a message that works for a broad range of communities.
We need a message that works in the diverse communities of Prince William, a message that mobilizes voters against Bob Marshall. We need a message that resonates in Newport News in a district with a large group of swing voters and Sarvis supporters. We need to court the Romney-Kaine voters in Virginia Beach and Chesterfield County. We need to compete across a range of very different districts in Northern Virginia, where incomes can vary drastically and so too can the hopes and aspirations of the families. And we can't forget about places off the beaten pathway, like Danville, the Eastern Shore, or Blacksburg.
That's a pretty big task.
I don't pretend to know what issues would unite such a broad coalition of voters. But I do believe we need to ask voters what they expect from our state government in Richmond.
What do you think?

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Eleven, It Gets Better

Sunday, January 5, 2014

by FreeDem

Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Thank you for reading, look back at the past entries here: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate DemocratsDay Five, Unchallenged IncumbentsDay Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic TrendsDay Eight, Swing Voters. Day Nine, 2021 Redistricting. Day Ten, Independent Redistricting. Thank you for reading.On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A blueing electorate, increasingly racially diverse. While Virginia is growing fast enough to pick up an extra Congressional seat in 2020, it's also becoming less white. Projections from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia show increasing shares of Hispanics and Asian-Americans across the Commonwealth through 2040.
It will take time, but there's an upside to this demographic trend. With each year, Virginia will become a little bit more diverse, some districts faster than others. Day by day, the younger, more diverse population will turn of age and join the ranks of the potential electorate.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Eleven, It Gets Better
State Senator Chuck Colgan's 29th Senate District tops the list as one of the districts with the largest gap between the electorate and the overall population. It's a volatile district now because of turnout issues from the Hispanic population. John Miller's 1st is another similar district, but from a growing African-American population instead.Among competitive Republican-held districts, the 7th (Wagner) in Virginia Beach and 17th (Reeves) in Central Virginia stand out for increasing diversity, from both the African-American population and the Hispanic population.
The State Senate district with the lowest increase in diversity in the future? Puckett's 28th district in Southwest Virginia.
In the House of Delegates, the districts becoming more diverse are the 52nd (Torian) and 13th (Marshall). Bob Marshall barely survived 2013, when demographic trends against him I have a hard time seeing him surviving past 2017. But the issues with turnout we discussed previously also argue that a high turnout governor's race may be the best time to take him out, not 2015.
Some surprises? The 26th around Harrisonburg has a growing Hispanic population, but not enough to make the seat competitive. Except for Marshall's seat, Futrell's 2nd, and the hopefully soon to be vacant seat in the Eastern Shore, most of the districts with the largest gap between voting age population and the population at large are already highly Democratic seats.
There is the same cluster in Prince William we've already discussed, the 31st (Lingamfelter), 50th (Miller), and 51st (Anderson). These are all seats where Republicans hope they can hold out long enough to get another shot at redistricting in 2021 to keep them red. The 94th in Newport News (Yancey) not only is a district that has shown strong Democratic trends the past few cycles, but also has a growing African-American population.
On the other side of the coin, the districts where we won't see much change tend to be Republican. In the 1st (Kilgore) the electorate may actually be getting a little bit whiter with demographic shifts. All other districts will have small, almost barely notable changes in their electorate overall. The 48th (Brink) in Arlington will be one of the few Democratic districts to see little diversification. Among competitive districts, the 34th (Comstock), 32nd (Greason), and 67th (LeMunyon) are ones where we can't count on demographic trends to help us in the future; Democrats need to figure out how to win with the voters that exist now.
Well, that's it for today. Tune in tomorrow for our last day. For now, vote below on your thoughts of a Mark Warner presidential run!

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Ten, Independent Redistricting?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

by FreeDem

Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. As we approach the end, take a look back at some of the earlier diaries: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats.Day Five, Unchallenged IncumbentsDay Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic TrendsDay Eight, Swing Voters. Day Nine, 2021 Redistricting.Thank you for reading.On the tenth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Independent Redistricting, the long awaited for, much hoped for, yet ever-elusive good government reform that will reconnect politicians with voters, end polarization, and put Virginia back on track.
Well, no. If you want to really reconnect politicians with voters, you need to expand the number of districts so there are fewer people per district. End polarization? Political scientists have found little to no evidence that gerrymandering is driving polarization; you'll have to tackle housing preferences and the individual sorting of voters to do that. Independent redistricting will not even solve all the challenges and obstacles of the Virginia Democratic Party, as the first diary showed that there are many Democratic-leaning seats that the state party is not winning at this time.
So why talk about redistricting reform?
Because unlike campaign finance reform or expanding the size of the General Assembly, independent redistricting, or at least something more partisan-neutral, may be closer to reality than you think.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Ten, Independent Redistricting?
In 2011, vulnerable Democrats in the State Senate decided to strike a deal with House Republicans, passing a Democratic gerrymandering of the State Senate in exchange for letting the GOP have its way with the other chamber. You can criticize the outcome after the fact, but you can't dispute the results when you look at the big picture: the increased Democratic performance may have saved Marsden, Colgan, and Miller. Failures elsewhere cost us the State Senate, but we're still in the game because of the Democratic lines.The concern for Democrats in 2011 was that interim, court-drawn lines resulting from an impasse between the two chambers could still have produced a Republican takeover. Based on the Republican ramming through of new, incumbent-friendly Congressional lines after the election, and the failure of the Democratic legal effort to argue that the General Assembly could only redistrict in 2011, it's clear that Republicans could have followed this approach. In fact,in 2013 Senate Republicans tried to pass a re-redistricting of the State Senate, but backed down following a public outcry and probable concerns of how it would impact the election in November. Drawing new lines after the courts had to step in would probably not have created the same outcry. Looking ahead to 2021, we know the GOP will fight dirty.
What can Democrats do?
If Democrats are entirely shut out of the redistricting process, they will have to fall back to legal tactics, primarily around the Voting Rights Act. In 2011, the "Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting" observed that a 13th minority-majority district in south Hampton Roads could be drawn. In 2013, Republicans proposed a new minority-majority State Senate district stretching from Danville to Petersburg to provide political cover and to woe some House Democrats. And as we saw on day nine, a second minority-majority Congressional District may be possible in 2021. In fact, the ACLU of Virginia argued that a second one was possible (technically, barely) in 2011.
Without any power in Richmond, the best effort from Democrats would be to argue that any failure to make progress on minority representation in Virginia falls short of complying with the Voting Rights Act. None of the above touches on other, new issues that could arise from the growth in the minority community in Northern Virginia, but a VRA case is less likely there. Given the tight calendar facing redistricting in Virginia, Democrats could argue that there simply isn't enough time for a court to reject the Republican redistricting and have a special session convene to redo the lines, especially since those lines could still be questionable and thrown out by the courts again. It would be up to the courts to redraw the lines to comply with the VRA ... unfortunately, based on some precedent from Texas, the courts would probably limit themselves to just creating minority-majority districts in compliance with the VRA. If the Republican gerrymandering redrew 25th State Senate seat to stretch from Charlottesville to Staunton and Harrisonburg, or cut the 21st down deeper into Southwest Virginia, the courts would likely leave those districts untouched.
So Democrats better at least win the governor's race in 2017, or pick up outright control of the State Senate in 2015 or 2019.
In 2021, the pressure for redistricting would be entirely driven by the House being up for reelection. Either the Democratic governor or Democratic State Senate could block redistricting, calling for a nonpartisan process. A Democratic governor, facing the one-term limit and looking for a legacy, could certainly position himself or herself for commending editorials for taking such a stand.  Even the Democratic State Senate could position the party for a platform of reform going into the 2021 election. Redistricting reform alone is not a top-tier issue, but it can be part of a package of issues addressing concerns over corruption. You never know when there will be another Republican Governor with questionable ethics.
The worst possible outcome is a Democratic governor, standing alone against a Republican General Assembly, handing over the office to a Republican elected in 2021. The new Republican trifecta would quickly get to work. But would that be any worse than the original scenario of the same Republican General Assembly drawing the lines? Not at all!
In every other scenario, Democrats would still have a seat at the table. The election of a Democratic governor, in any situation, could be used as a popular mandate for reform. Even if a Republican governor is elected and only a Democratic State Senate holds out, the option still remains to cut a deal, much like in 2011, or hold out until the courts are forced to step in by 2023. Waiting until 2022 to cut a deal, instead of rushing into one in 2021, seems like a minor downside. More importantly, a court-drawn House of Delegates map during the relatively higher turnout from a governor's election could be the best shot for Democrats to make significant gains in the House of Delegates.
That's the strategy for Virginia Democrats. What's next?
First, encourage candidates for all offices, from governor to delegate, to commit to pushing for independent redistricting.
Second, realize that even though redistricting isn't until 2021, there's plenty of reason to start now. The timeline for the aforementioned "Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting" was set so that their recommendations came late in the General Assembly's consideration of new lines. Governor McDonnell waited until January 2011 to sign the executive order creating his commission. As part of a broader commission on ethics and government reform, Governor McAuliffe could appoint a non-binding, advisory commission to look at redistricting reform.
Furthermore, as a bargaining piece, Democrats could at least push for the infrastructure for an independent, bipartisan commission to be formed to give specific recommendations on new lines. Although final census numbers wouldn't be out in 2020, the next commission should start earlier so that public hearings could be held on a wide range of issues, including identifying cohesive communities of interest and how to best implement the Voting Rights Act in a variety of scenarios (including adding districts). The previous commission held only four public forums: Richmond, Roanoke, Fairfax, and Norfolk. Starting in 2019 and 2020, the proposed commission could not only discuss the redistricting process, but also highlight the importance of the census and ensure that Virginia has a high response rate. Not only does this foster civic engagement, the latter also would be crucial to ensuring we pick up a 12th congressional seat.
Although an ideal commission would be binding, a first step would be to establish a non-binding commission that has more weight behind it than the 2011 incarnation. More public meetings and more time to prepare recommendations would elevate any commission, binding or not.
Finally, Virginia Democrats need to have their own internal conversation about equality and diversity. No one spoke up for an additional 13th minority-majority district in the House of Delegates during the last redistricting. Republicans, not Democrats, proposed an additional minority-majority State Senate seat, although as a political ploy. The effort to create a new minority-majority seat at the Congressional level always felt like a lackluster, desperate attempt to pick up some minor gain in the national redistricting after the incumbents, including Gerry Connolly, cut their own deal on the lines. There needs to be consistency in pushing for an equal voice for all Virginians, although we should also understand that this fight could upset some within our own party. The proposal from the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting to create a 13th minority-majority delegates district would have significantly altered the district currently represented by Delegate Spruill. Other nonpartisan proposals from the college competition in Virginia would have created a new minority-majority district further west in Southside to replace the existing 75th, but one that would be far more competitive in lower turnout elections. There may be downsides, or at least vested interest upset with our proposals.
On that note, what issue will Democrats be rallying around in 2017 and beyond? Will we still be trying to fix transportation and expand Medicaid? Will social issues be at the forefront? Vote below!

DPVA Executive Director Lauren Harmon Heads Back to Ohio After Less Than 11 Months on Job

Friday, January 3, 2014

Well, that didn't last long. After being hired as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia just 11 months ago (in February 2013), Lauren Harmon has now headed back to Ohio. What happened? It's a bit hard to get the details, because many/most people don't want to talk about it, and it also seems a bit odd, after Democrats swept all three statewide offices (in contrast, RPV Chair Pat Mullins stays on, despite presiding over a complete debacle for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General). However, here are a few tidbits that I've been told.

*According to Democratic insiders, Harmon was "treated really badly here," she was "marginalized," "not allowed to do anything," and made promises that "were never kept." For instance, she "couldn't even fix a fax machine without permission," had "no control over her own budget or anything." Harmon reportedly "felt totally abandoned."

*I'm also told by multiple sources that Harmon was undermined by DPVA Chair Charniele Herring's Chief of Staff, Zachary Rickard, who supposedly also helped recruit Harmon in the first place from Ohio, where they both had served in the state Democratic Party. Whether any of this was with Charniele Herring's knowledge and/or approval is unclear, but I'm told that Herring isn't particularly "hands-on" or engaged/interested in the job, per se (I'm told by multiple sources that she's mostly interested in setting herself up to run for Lt. Governor in 2017).

*More broadly, I've been hearing for a long time, from numerous sources, that DPVA was treated essentially as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the McAuliffe for Governor campaign during 2013, and that its Executive Director, Lauren Harmon, had little/no autonomy, little/no ability to develop relationships or a knowledge set. Given no sign of that changing in 2014, Harmon left - wisely, as far as I can determine. (Note: it would be interesting to know if Harmon was accurately informed as to what her role would be as DPVA Executive Director prior to being hired, or if - as one Dem told me - she was hired under "false pretenses")

Anyway, I'm sorry to see Harmon leave, as I believe she's the type of (talented, enthusiastic, aggressive) leader DPVA needs. I'm also sorry to see that DPVA continues to be treated with little if any respect, not allowed to develop into a strong organization whose #1 goal is to build up Virginia Democrats year in/year out, regardless of the comings and goings of transitory campaigns, candidates, etc. In my view, that's a big mistake, just as it's a mistake not to really work to modernize/overhaul DPVA for the 21st century. Apparently, though, no critical mass among the "powers that be" appears to be in place to do any of that, so here we are...sigh.

P.S. On a related note, another Democratic insider told me, "DPVA will never change until it has a real election for Chair."  

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Nine, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

by FreeDem

Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you've missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged IncumbentsDay Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic TrendsDay Eight, Swing Voters. Thank you for reading. No poll this time, but I do have a question at the end I want comments on!A phantom of darkness suddenly appears, gliding ominously over the ground toward you. Shrouded in the blackest cloak, its head and face are entirely concealed. One skeletal hand stretches out toward your, a boney finger directed behind you. From beneath the hood, you can feel the gaze of two ghostly eyes directing you to turn around. Doing so, you feel transported ...
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Nine, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
January 2021, Washington DC: A new Republican president prepares to be sworn into office, breaking a twelve-year streak of Democratic control of the White House. A reformer who ran against the extreme conservatives of his own party as much as against Washington as a whole, the new President successfully softened the party's image among Hispanics, allowing for a crucial win in Florida. He also managed to sell an economic package of small, token spending cuts as a way of financing tax cuts to revive a sluggish economy. But while the 2020 election saw Republicans winning across traditional battlegrounds like the Midwest, they failed to win Virginia. For the fourth Presidential election in a row, the Old Dominion voted blue. But this is no surprise to the casual observer; the state has consistently elected Democratic Senators statewide for over a decade ...About one hundred miles to the south in Richmond, political realities feel vastly different. There are rumors the Republican Governor may join the new administration in Washington, handing over control to his heir apparent in the Lt. Governor's office. The party adjusted to statewide struggles earlier in the decade to find the winning approach for the lower turnout electorate in 2017. In the absence of a polarizing social conservative leading the ticket, Virginia voters favor the pro-business platform of the Virginia GOP, with its promise of "normalcy" and affordability through low taxes.
Control of the General Assembly is allowing the GOP to map out their pathway to victory for the next decade: gerrymandering. With a popular Governor, the Republicans drove out Democrats from a state senate majority in 2019, upsetting a few long-time incumbents. Virginia may be blue in high-turnout elections statewide, but through careful drawing of district lines the Republicans will ensure that the state continues to be governed by conservatives. And at the Congressional level, party strategists are weighing their options for Virginia's new 12th Congressional district. With the creation of a new minority-majority district, other competitive seats in Tidewater would be made securely Republican, and there would be no threat of legal entanglement. It would also give Republicans cover in gerrymandering Northern Virginia to take back a crucial swing seat in the suburbs. A two to one advantage, 8 to 4, is nothing to laugh at ...
How could this happen?
At the national level, the demographic doom and gloom facing the Republican Party could condemn them to permanent minority party status. But it's hard to envision a party that is so drunk off their own Kool-Aid that they don't reform after three back-to-back defeats. Moderating the party's image among Hispanics and some working class whites could help win Florida and swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Virginia's diversifying population and growing share of college-educated whites, particularly in Northern Virginia, may not match the type of swing state this reformed GOP wins.
But if the Democratic Party is increasingly dependent on strong minority support in high turnout elections, it becomes particularly vulnerable in areas of Virginia in odd-year elections. We should turn the corner later this decade, but there's a window of danger from 2017 to 2023. Republicans could seize control and jam through a gerrymandering that gives them a shot at partial control of the General Assembly through most of the next decade.
I don't have to sell you on continued control of the House of Delegates through 2021. In the State Senate, not only is Phil Puckett a vulnerable incumbent, but turnout issues could create a perfect storm to entire defeat Chuck Colgan or win the seat when he retires. I also think there are worrying trends in the Roanoke area that could undermine John Edwards. With a narrowly divided chamber, it doesn't take too many upsets to see Republicans back in charge.
And the 12th Congressional seat? It's projected to happen according to the most recent Census estimates of population growth. Would the Republican really give in and draw a minority-opportunity district? The question is would they fear legal repercussions if they didn't. A Republican Justice Department may not be the most threatening enforcer of the Voting Rights Act, but it's possible that the case for a second minority-majority district in 2020 will be so overwhelming the courts could have to step in. In a scenario in which Foust or another Democrat occupies the 10th District, Republicans will want an active gerrymandering to take the seat back. A court-drawn redistricting, if a VRA challenge is successful, would deny them that opportunity and could result in a Democratic gain of one or two seats.
What would a Republican gerrymander of 12 seats look like? Start with broadly similar districts in the 9th and 6th in western Virginia. Add two safe Democratic seats in Northern Virginia, and then create two Republican-leaning districts by throwing the rest of the suburbs into districts that run from Fairfax all the way out to just north of Harrisonburg for the 10th and down to Greene county for a new 12th. Add a 1st district running from Fredericksburg to Newport News, and a 7th from various Republican suburbs of Richmond and Central Virginia.
For the two minority-majority districts, run the 3rd along both sides of the James River from Richmond to Norfolk. Another, Southside district (most likely numbered the 4th) runs from Norfolk to Danville. The 2nd remains a potentially competitive district, but as many minority precincts as possible have been removed from it. The 5th is left with the white portions of Southside, some additional Richmond suburbs, and Charlottesville. Both the 10th and the 12th would lean Republican; competitive in a bad year, but well worth the attempt at gerrymandering.
Would Republicans be willing to blow up their 4th District in order to secure two districts elsewhere? Maybe not, but it would certainly be helped if early in the redistricting process Congressman Randy Forbes announces his retirement. Way to take one for the team?
For this diary, I originally was going to have a poll on local or General Assembly Democrat you are most excited to see run statewide or move further up in office. But I realized that my own snapshot of Virginia may be biased, and so I want to hear from you who you are looking forward to supporting in 2017 or beyond. I'm also leaving out some obvious picks who have already run statewide (Chap Petersen, Don McEachin, etc.) Comment below with who you would add to the list!
A few names to start:
Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor.
State Senator Adam Ebbin.
Soon to be (keep up the hard work!) State Senator Jennifer Wexton.
Who's missing?

Rating a Few Upcoming Virginia Elections

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now that the holidays are over and we're all getting back to (hard, cold?) "reality," it's time to turn our attention back to several upcoming Virginia elections. Here, I list them and rate where I think they stand right now.1. January 7 Special Election for State Senate District 6
The race to succeed Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam in the State Senate pits Delegate Lynwood Lewis (D) against Republican Wayne Coleman in a 57% "Obama district" in southeastern Virginia (Norfolk City Accomack County, Northampton County, Matthews County, a small part of Virginia Beach). To date, Lewis has been endorsed by both major papers in the area (the Daily Press and Virginian Pilot), while Coleman has been busy putting out utterly ridiculous ads and railing against desegregation busing (I'm not joking). The bottom line is that Coleman is an utter lightweight, and only very very low Democratic turnout in a special election on a cold January day could possibly win this one for him. Plus, Lewis is well liked, has a base, and is actually qualified for the job, unlike Coleman. This one should be a win for Lewis, barring a bizarre set of circumstances unfolding this coming Tuesday.
2. January 7 Special Election for House of Delegates District 11
Del. Onzlee Ware's retirement announcement opened up this heavily Democratic seat (Roanoke City), which by all rights should stay in the "blue" column next Tuesday night. The only things that particularly worry me a bit about this one are a) the fact that it's a special election, so you never know about turnout; and b) the Republican candidate, Octavia Johnson, is well funded (mostly by House Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell - does he sense a possible pickup here?). Still, I'd have to go with the strong Democratic lean of the district and say it leans to Democratic nominee Sam Rasoul.
3. January 21 Special Election for State Senate District 33
This race is to replace Attorney General-elect Mark Herring in the State Senate. The district, which covers eastern Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax County, went 59% for Barack Obama last November and 60% for Tim Kaine, so it definitely leans Democratic. Another advantage for the "blue team" is that not one but TWO Republicans are running - former Del. Joe May and anti-Semitic "joke" guy John Whitbeck - against one strong Democratic nominee,Jennifer Wexton. Other than the fact that this is a special election, so turnout can be flaky/funky, I'd say this one leans strongly towards Wexton.

4. Special Election for Lynwood Lewis' House of Delegates Seat
I'm hearing a lot of pessimistic talk about Democrats being able to hold this seat. The main problems? First, the 100th district leans Democratic in a presidential year, but in an off-year election, let alone a special, it will be a lot tougher for Democrats. Second, I'm hearing that Democrats are having a tough time recruiting a strong candidate, while the Republicans supposedly have a relatively moderate candidate lined up, one who would be a "good fit for the district." Put those two factors together, and it's looking like a Republican lean in this special election, whenever that takes place exactly, unless Democrats come up with a strong candidate.5. Arlington County Board Special Election
The announcement at the end of last year by long-time Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman that he'd be stepping down will result in a special election for his seat, probably sometime in late March or early April. First, though, Democrats have to choose their nominee - candidates so far are Alan HowzePeter Fallon, and Cord Thomas - in a caucus at the end of this month. So far, Howze (who finished second to Patrick Hope in the June 2009 Democratic primary for the 47th House of Delegates district) has picked up the most endorsements, but we'll see how this plays out. Meanwhile, there's not one but TWOright wingers running for the Board as well - Libertarian Evan Bernick and big-time/long-time Republican donor (running as an "Independent" for some strange reason) John Vihstadt. In addition, I wouldn't be surprised to see other candidates - Green Party? Independent Green Party (e.g., Janet Murphy, from what I hear)? - enter the race as well. Although Arlington leans heavily Democratic, this will be a special election, and the key will be who shows up. My guess is that turnout will be very low, but as usual that the people who are really fired up will be more likely to show up. In this case, those "fired-up" folks tend to be hostile to County Board policies, as well as projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, the Columbia Pike streetcar, school overcrowding, etc. this point I'd have to call this one a tossup, with way too much uncertainty to make a solid prediction. One thing's for sure, Democrats can't take this one for granted.
UPDATE: The focus of this article was on local and state races, but let's not forget that perhaps THAT marquee Virginia races of 2014 will be federal - the 10th CD, where Frank Wolf has announced his retirement, and where Democrats definitely have a shot to pick up the House seat; and possibly the U.S. Senate race, although I still find it hard to believe that Mark Warner won't win easily.
UPDATE #2: There's also the Fairfax County Democratic Committee chair race, between Cesar Delaguila and Sue Langley. I have no idea who will win this it a tossup I guess.

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Eight, Swing Voters

by FreeDem

( - promoted by lowkell)

Welcome to this twelve-part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you've missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive Districts.Day Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged IncumbentsDay Six, Present OpportunitiesDay Seven, Democratic Trends. For today's poll, I'm asking about your early support for Governor in 2017.On the eighth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Swing voters, that crucial demographic of people who voted Romney-Kaine, or Cuccinelli-Northam-Obenshain, or even were crazy enough to go for Sarvis!
In the last half-decade, Virginia Democrats have seen a range of elections that allow us to roughly identify geographic areas of ticket-splitters. I'm talking about folks who came out and voted for Mitt Romney and Tim Kaine. Or switched back and forth in 2013 between Sarvis, Northam, and Obenshain. Or even McDonnell-Wagner-Shannon! It's all possible.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Eight, Swing Voters
Obviously, there were far more McCain-Warner voters than there were Romney-Kaine voters. But even though the scale was different, the relative size of these ticket-splitters and where they are concentrated can tell us a lot. For example, the Southwest Virginia delegate districts of the 1st, 9th, 6th, and 3rd had the highest number of McCain-Warner voters in the state. But in 2012, these same districts were still in the top twenty of Romney-Kaine voters. There are ancestral Democrats here, but simply not enough to make seats competitive for our General Assembly candidates.Even though Kaine and Warner had similar areas of crossover appeal, the degree was significantly different. While Warner ran dramatically ahead of Obama in 2008, Tim Kaine managed only small, but noticeable, increases in his share of the vote in Southwest Virginia and elsewhere. The areas where Warner received his strongest crossover vote tended to correlate with the areas of Virginia where Deeds ran strongest in 2009, relative to the shellacking that McDonnell gave him.
Another trend is that Mark Warner ran most ahead of Barack Obama in the House of Delegates districts that are not remotely competitive. Except for the 12th (Blacksburg), none of Warner's best crossover districts are competitive seats Democrats are eying in the General Assembly. Interestingly, because of his similar appeal, Tim Kaine's crossover appeal tells a similarly disappointing story. Although he has more pockets of support around Richmond, and was far weaker than Mark Warner in parts of Southside, Tim Kaine's largest crossover tends to be in the least competitive districts, except for the 12th (again) and the 34th (Comstock).
In other words, the districts that are closest to Democrats in the House of Delegates are not the districts where Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have significant, broad crossover appeal. But what about in the odd-year elections? There's an interesting story here, which we'll get to.
First, we'll also look at Warner and Kaine in the State Senate districts, as obviously Warner has immense popularity in Phil Puckett's district. It was also the second best district for Tim Kaine in terms of crossover support. The 10th around Richmond also contained a higher percentage of Romney-Kaine voters (because of Kaine's background most likely). Maybe we need to deploy Warner for defense and Kaine for offense in 2015? The second lowest State Senate district for Kaine's crossover was the 29th, Chuck Colgan's district, in a sign of the polarization of the increasingly diverse community in Prince William.
In 2009, there was more crossover in the most competitive seats. Part of this can be explained by the geography of the candidates. Bob McDonnell probably pulled more voters in Tidewater than a similar Republican, while Jody Wagner increased the crossover back to the Democrats in these same seats.  The 21st in Virginia Beach was a clear example of this trend. But in the 32nd and the 42nd in Northern Virginia, both Wagner and Shannon ran 3% ahead of Creigh Deeds. The crossover is not entirely explained just by the geography of the candidates.
In 2013, we see more variance because of the influence of Sarvis voters. With a small SuperPAC behind him, Sarvis ran strongest in the Roanoke and Richmond media markets. These markets are not home to many of the competitive districts we care about. For example, the 13th, 31st, 32nd, 50th, and 51st had some of the lowest levels of crossover voters (among the statewide offices) in the state. Among competitive seats, only the 100th (attributed to Northam's influence), and the 94th (an interesting district after this study) stand out for their high level of swings between candidates.
In the 32nd and 31st not only did Terry McAuliffe win, but the Democratic strength continued down to Mark Herring. And in both of these districts, voters showed less interest in swinging back and forth between the three statewide elections than elsewhere. Yet in each district, the local Democratic challenged ran behind the rest of the ticket. Is this because of the shear power of incumbency, or because they had inadequate resources to connect with voters?
Terry McAuliffe has moved the Democratic Party of Virginia in the right direction, focusing our campaigning and appeal in the most competitive districts. On the other hand, our current crop of Senators has personal appeal in the less competitive areas. When you look at the areas with the highest crossover appeal in the last few election cycles, both in the Senate elections and in the odd-year elections, none of them are frontline districts. But they paint an interesting picture:
Virginia Beach & Southern Hampton Roads: 78th, 81st, 82nd, 83rd
Peninsula & Northern Hampton Roads: 91st, 96th, 98th,  
Richmond & Central Virginia: 56th, 65th, 66th, 72nd
Northern Virginia Exurbs: 28th
If Democrats continue to make gains in Northern Virginia, is this the battlefield of tomorrow?
Don't bet on it; with a few exceptions they remain among the most Republican districts. All of this sets up an interesting contrast between Republicans and Democrats. Over the last decade or more, Republicans have continued to make gains in the parts of the state that are on the decline, particularly Southwest Virginia. But the most successful Democrats in Virginia have struggled to find a way to appeal to significant blocks of voters in the most competitive districts.It creates a General Assembly that is slowly moving towards the Democratic Party, but one that's at the trailing edge of a wave, and not the vanguard.