Jim Webb: "We are a country founded not by conquest but by the guarantee of freedom"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I saw this posted on Jim Webb's Twitter and Facebook accounts this morning, and thought it was an interesting post-Thanksgiving topic for conversation. Here are a few of the comments on Webb's Facebook page to kick things off.Top comment: "'conquest'.....the Algonquin + Lakota have not been in that round-table workshop, i guess."
Second-highest-rated comment: "Jim, want to demonstrate some leadership in your pre-campaign, get into the march to Jefferson City. Otherwise, do something to demonstrate that black lives are just as important as white lives. Right now equal protection for young black males under the law is deficient."
Third-highest-rated comment: "Our constitution is a deeply flawed document. For God's sake it defined black people as 3/5 of a person. It was written totally to preserve the power and influence if the southern slave states - a power that continues today- the power if the minority radical south."
More: "Eh. Maybe not founded on conquest but certainly built on conquest." "Not by conquest? Open a history book for God's sake!" "Sir, you will have to do better than empty, false rhetoric if you want my vote. Let's not try to rewrite history, let us move forward 'eyes wide open.'"
My view is that our nation has made tremendous progress since 1776, but at the time of its founding, it was far from guaranteeing freedom or not being founded/expanded, at least in part, by conquest. With regard to "guaranteeing freedom," as one of my progressive friends put it, "Equal protection under the law wasn't in the original bill of rights." I'd just add a historical fact, that at the founding of the United States, most people were not guaranteed full freedoms, including: African Americans, Native Americans, female Americans, non-land-owning white Americans, etc, etc. To the contrary, African Americans were enslaved through the Civil War, after which the "Jim Crow" system of segregation kicked in for another 100 years. Women weren't given the right to vote until 1920, nearly 140 years after the U.S. constitution was written. The point is, it took progressive change for this country to evolve into the much, much more free and fair country (but far from perfect, as the events of Ferguson yet again demonstrate) it is today.

Are You "Ready for Hillary?" I Might Be, But First I Have a Few Questions I Want Answered.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

As we approach 2015, and the seemingly interminable presidential election "cycle" -- why on earth does it take nearly two years, and possibly billions of dollars, to choose party nominees and vote in the general election? -- kicks off, I've been starting to ponder whether I am, as the slogan goes, "Ready for Hillary." The short answer: I  might be, but it certainly won't be automatic, and she'll most definitely have to earn it. I'm not hesitating just for the sake of it; to the contrary, I have serious questions I want answered. A few big ones include:1. What (if anything) have Hillary Clinton and "Clinton World" learned from their debacle of a campaign in 2008? For instance, have they learned not to be arrogant and just assume that she'll be the nominee, that the other candidates are essentially irrelevant, etc?  Just as importantly, have they internalized the lessons from their 2008 campaign regarding why that was such a cluster****? Obviously, the vicious infighting the Clinton campaign experienced in 2008, combined with some serious hubris and downright incompetence, must not be repeated in 2015-2016. But does that mean it won't be? We'll see. But the bottom line is that we MUST win the White House in 2016, if for no other reason than the balance of Supreme Court being at stake. But beyond that, it would be utterly disastrous for America to put today's extreme, far-right-wing, science-denying incarnation of the Republican Party in charge. Which means, bottom line, I'm not going to be "ready" for Hillary - or any other candidate - unless and until I'm convinced they can win the November 2016 election.
2. What will Hillary Clinton's message be this time around? In 2007-2008, for a long time it was basically, "I'm the inevitable nominee, resistance is futile." Obviously, that didn't cut it last time around, and it seems even less appropriate this time around. For one thing, we need to hear Clinton articulate where she wants to take the country, how she wants to address our most pressing issues - confronting climate change by transitioning rapidly from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy; figuring out a way to address growing income inequality and wage stagnation; investing in our decaying infrastructure; reforming and improving our nation's dysfunctional health care system; educating/training Americans to compete in the economy of the 21st century; reforming our tax code and welfare programs (both individual and corporate); addressing our chronic budget deficit; improving our standing in a world of dangerous state and non-state actors; etc. There's a lot to talk about, and I want to hear how Hillary Clinton's approach is fleshed out before I am "ready" for her to be our nominee in 2016.
3. Will Hillary Clinton prove to be a disciplined candidate who is able to avoid gaffes and stay on her message? Over the past year or so, I've seen several cringe-inducing gaffes from Hillary, the worst of which may have been this one. There was also this incident, in which Clinton snapped at NPR's "Terry Gross for pressing her on whether she changed her mind on gay marriage or she publicly stated something she had always believed." Now, although I love Terry Gross, I do think she was being a bit ridiculous in that line of questioning. Still, Hillary Clinton's many enemies on the right will be waiting to pounce on incidents like that one, let alone the "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs" comment. We'll also have to see if Bill Clinton can stay on message, which at times during 2007-2008, he most certainly was not able to do -- to Hillary's detriment.
4. Finally, I DO want to see what other Democratic candidates throw their hats in the ring. If I'm convinced that any of them are a) better able to win the White House; b) better on policy issues; and c) well qualified, then I'll seriously consider being "ready" for them as opposed to Hillary.
Bottom line: after the 2008 experience, I believe it's far too early for Democrats to simply be lining up and declaring their fealty to any particular candidate. What we should all do is chill out, watch the process unfold, let representative democracy work its will, and let the candidates EARN our support. If, after all the debates, primaries, caucuses, etc., Hillary Clinton turns out to be the nominee, then more power to her, and I'll strongly support her for president. But there's a long way to go before we get to that point.

9 Ways the Fisette/Hynes Decision to Ditch the Streetcar Seriously Harmed Arlington

Friday, November 28, 2014

1. First and most obviously, this decision was wildly wrong on policy grounds, with the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in future tax revenues to Arlington County that would have been spurred by billions of dollars worth of streetcar-generated economic development. Those revenues could have been spent on "core services" like education and other important infrastructure, while helping to keep property tax rates among the lowest in the entire region. Now, that's all gone, with nothing to replace it. Greeeeaaaat.2. The decision essentially rewarded a campaign of lies and demagoguery waged by anti-streetcar forces. As this Greater Greater Washington commenter notes: "[Arlington County Board member and streetcar supporter Walter] Tejada's anger is well placed. And its even more telling when [Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette] constantly (and rightly) responded to streetcar criticisms from prominent groups as misinformation. To give in basically admits that a constant stream of BS works. Unfortunately the streetcar isn't the only example of this in our world but its one of the more blatant ones."
3. The decision has seriously harmed relations among Board members. For starters, "The decision by Chairman Jay Fisette (D) and Vice Chairman Mary Hynes (D) to abandon the streetcar infuriated their longtime ally and fellow Democrat, J. Walter Tejada." At the same time, "Three of the members" (that would be Tejada, Fisette and Hynes) "are accusing the two others" (John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey) "of spreading misinformation." And they are correct, of course. The question is, how can a working relationship, based on any level of trust whatsoever, be rebuilt out of the rubble of this debacle? Got me.
4. The decision to ditch the streetcar left Columbia Pike businesses and residents who had made investments and other plans based on a rock-solid promise from Arlington County that the streetcar was coming are now left high and dry. As the Post article reports, "Inta Malis, an Arlington planning commissioner, said retailers on Columbia Pike have been operating at a loss, banking on future revenue that would come with a revitalized, streetcar-anchored corridor." So now what happens? Does anyone have a plan, now that the methodical, painstaking 15-year planning process was just tossed to the curb by Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes? I strongly doubt it. And no, Vihstadt and Garvey were never serious about "BRT," since that's not possible on Columbia Pike.

National Journal Article Explains Why Koch Brothers' War on Clean Energy is Failing in the States

Cross posted from Scaling Green, because I think this is highly relevant to Virginia (where Bill "ALEC" Howell is Speaker of the House, and where Dominion and other fossil fuel interests have bought and paid for our state government)As we know, the billionaire Koch brothers and their fossil fuel allies have been waging relentless war against clean energy for years now. Yet, as this fascinating article in National Journal explains, while the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has seen some successes at the national level in fighting clean energy, they are larging striking out in the states.  Why is this the case?  A few key points from the National Journal article answer that question.
  • statehouses nationwide-even those where Republicans are running the show-the GOP lacks the lockstep march on energy policy that is coming to define the national party. Certainly, a powerful faction working to undo the green-energy laws has swept through states over the past decade, but as in Kansas, their repeal efforts have repeatedly failed."
  • "Over the past two years, at least 40 bills aimed at weakening or repealing clean-energy mandates have been introduced in legislatures across the country, according to Colorado State University's Center for the New Energy Economy. But not a single state has done away with its renewable-energy standard. Ohio came the closest when the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to freeze a mandate in May; but everywhere else, repeal bills have either been voted down or have died without getting a vote."
  • And Democrats are not to blame. Repeal is being thwarted by business-focused Republicans who are sticking up for the standards because they believe they create jobs. In Kansas and North Carolina, conservative lawmakers have voted against repeal-while Republicans in Minnesota and Nevada actually cast votes to strengthen clean-energy mandates last year."
  • "Why hasn't AFP had greater success in the states?...state legislators-by definition-are more local in their focus, and that puts them face-to-face with renewable-energy projects in their districts. In many parts of the country, red states included, wind and solar energy are already big business. They're not ExxonMobil or Koch Industries big, but they have lobbying muscle and business interests of their own, and that's enough to make state lawmakers think twice before going against them, even if that means standing against AFP."
  • "Viewed as a slice of the nation's economy, renewable energy's share remains small...But in the state legislative districts where it's produced, renewable energy is a big enough player to wield considerable clout."
  • "[AFP] isn't throwing in the towel. The Koch empire, fresh from spending $100 million on the 2014 congressional midterm elections to help deliver the Senate into the hands of Republicans eager to unwind climate rules, is now pledging another run at the states' renewable-energy standards."
  • "... despite more than two years of efforts led by AFP, both the mandates and the candidates who back them are safe. What worked in Washington has not worked in the states-even those in which AFP has had great success in other policy arenas."

In sum, the National Journal article demonstrates that no matter how much money fossil fuel interests spend to attack clean energy, it's difficult for them to win those battles due to wind and solar's strong, bipartisan support across America.  Of course, that doesn't mean the fossil fuel folks are going to give up, which means that cleantech must stay on top of this situation. Still, the bad news for the Koch brothers and their allies is that, with the clean energy industry growing by leaps and bounds, the political clout these industries wield will continue to grow as well. And the bottom line is that, even in "red states" like Kansas, politicians of all political stripes can clearly see which way the wind is blowing.

Video: And Now for the Bad Dick Saslaw (D-ominion)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Here's the thing with Virginia State Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw: when he opens his mouth and words come out, there's a high probability that at least some of those words will be (take your pick) stupid, wrong, offensive, bizarre, crazy, etc. In this instance, Saslaw spoke for several minutes at Monday's meeting of the Falls Church City Council, and he had a LOT to say. That includes his tirade against UVA, with which I largely agree (we'll call that one the "good Dick Saslaw"). It also includes the snippet I've included here, in which Falls Church City Council Member Dan Sze asks Saslaw about "net metering" ("allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid") As Sze correctly points out, "Virginia ranks near the bottom in the United States for mechanisms to allow renewable energy to work."So what's Dick Saslaw planning to do about this unacceptable situation? Why, absolutely nothing of course. To put the answer to that question in context, really all you need to know is that Dominion Virginia Power is Dick Saslaw's top all-time donor, at $240,508, and that Dominion Virginia Power is one of the worst, most backward and reactionary utilities in the country when it comes to renewable energy. Also keep in mind that Dominion essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, having donated over $9 MILLION over the years to Virginia Democrats and Republicans alike (yes, that's your power bill at work, helping a powerful, polluting corporation buy our "democracy").
Anyway, back to Dick "Dominion's Puppet" Saslaw and how he responded (or more accurately, failed to respond, other than pathetic whining about how life's so unfaiiiiiiir - waaaaaaah!!!) to the excellent question from Falls Church City Council member Dan Sze on net metering. First, the bought-and-paid-for "Bad Dick Saslaw," who I'd remind everyone is actually/unbelievably the Democratic leader in the Virginia State Senate, goes on a bizarre, Cuccinelli-style rant against the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), in which he basically whines and spews out fossil fuel industry talking points. In fact, as this superb op-ed explains, with the CPP, we would reap "a $1.1 billion benefit to the Virginia economy before accounting for the economic benefits from the improved environment and health." As an added bonus, the CPP "actually represents a significant business opportunity for Virginia to become a leading state in the areas of solar power, wind power, and energy efficiency." More good news: "estimates are that energy efficiency alone could save Virginia households at least $517 million by 2020, and a lot more thereafter...allowing us to shut down antiquated, polluting power plants." Last but not least, the CPP "will help protect our state against hundreds of billions of dollars - and untold lives - in potential climate devastation."
lowkell :: Video: And Now for the Bad Dick Saslaw (D-ominion)

Video: Senate Minority Leader Saslaw Rips UVA's "Crap" on Sexual Assault

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

As you might have noticed, I'm not a big fan of Virginia State Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw. However, in this case, I couldn't agree more regarding UVA's "crap." Here's a partial transcript of Saslaw's comments at the Falls Church City council meeting Monday evening.
...I read that whole [Rolling Stone story on the UVA gang rape], I read it twice...and I've got to tell you, I can't remember when I've been angrier as an adult reading that. It didn't surprise me...because this has been going on forever. And I've got to tell you, I've been hearing this crap - and that's what it is - from UVA over the last 40 years -- let us handle it, we know how to do it, don't...require us to report this, the women won't come in...the reason these kids don't come forward is they know the university's total dedication is to sweeping everything under the rug...One kid had raped two women. They never called the police; they suspended him for a year and let him back on campus.I've got a bill that's currently being drafted. And what that's going to say is that if a university or higher education state employee is informed that a sexual assault has taken place, they're going to have 24 hours to report it to the local police, and if they don't they're going to face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Let me tell you, this has got to stop. The other thing is, those people at UVA have no business of adjudicating a felony for god's sake...Had that same kid been off campus and not a student at UVA, he'd be pulling 40 years in prison in Virginia, not walking across the stage with a diploma...
What parent in their right mind would send a daughter to UVA when she's got...a 20 percent chance, a 20 percent chance of being sexually assaulted? That's how bad it is...They've been doing it their way and it doesn't work...And they've essentially told every male, particularly those on fraternity row, it always has been and still is open season on females. They don't have any fear of being turned into the police, and that's going to stop...
The reason they don't come forward is because they know the university is going to try to talk them out of it. They're telling these kids, your parents worked hard to get you here, do you want to blow all of this up? So, yeah, we're going to do something, and we're not waiting for commissions, study groups, or anything like that.

Rolling Stone Names Dan Snyder THE Worst Owner in Sports

A richly deserved "honor" by Rolling Stone for Dan Snyder and for "every contemptuous, miserly, greed-headed, soul-dead move Snyder has pulled in D.C," not to mention his "blithe unconcern with a shredded field and player health that already nearly Cuisinarted RG III's knee" and the "cluster**** of tire fires the R**kins have become under Snyder's tenure, all set ablaze by the flaming sack of dogs*** that is what passes for his conscience."Yeah, I'd say that mostly covers it. This being a Virginia political blog, I'd just remind everyone that Snyder donated $50,000 to Bob McDonnell in 2009, and that he's undoubtedly figuring out a way to milk Virginian taxpayers out of a whole bunch more corporate welfare for his "professional football team" (using that phrase very loosely). Don't let him.

Virginia State Senate Pickup Opportunity for Dems About to Open Up?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

According to Jim Nolan of the RTD, "Breaking: State Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan retiring at the end of his term in 2015. Senate power struggle likely to ensue." If true, that could open up a serious, major Democratic pickup opportunity for 2015. Keep in mind that Dems need to hold all their incumbent seats and to pick up a net of one seat to regain control of the Virginia State Senate, so this one could be crucial for Medicaid expansion and just about anything else you care about. As you can see from the graphic below (click to "embiggen"), Watkins holds a district that was won by Mark Herring in 2013, and is the "bluest" of all the Virginia State Senate districts currently held by Republicans. Democrats, start your! :)P.S. It yet again demonstrates how far-far right the Virginia GOP has lurched, when someone as conservative as John Watkins feels like he would have lost a Republican primary, so better get out while the getting is good.
UPDATE: According to WTVR reporter Joe St. George, "Democratic sources told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George $2 million could be spent on the 2015 election and that Jon Baliles,  a Richmond City Councilman, could be considering entering the race as well as Chesterfield County  Supervisor Dan Gecker."

Video: This Interview of UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo is Deeply Disturbing

Monday, November 24, 2014

There's something seriously wrong, even disturbing, about this interview, and more importantly what it says about the culture regarding sexual assault at UVA.
In an interview taped weeks before the sexual assault scandal that rocked the University of Virginia campus was exposed in Rolling Stone, a school official repeatedly defended a system in which students found guilty -- including students who have admitted guilt -- have been suspended rather than expelled.Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who is also head of the university's Sexual Misconduct Board, told a reporter from student-run WUVA Online that she spoke to 38 sexual assault survivors last year. Of those, five filed informal complaints while four filed formal complaints.
Eramo said some accused students have admitted to sexual assault during the informal proceedings, but that those students were not expelled.
Eramo said that in most cases, suspensions run 1-2 years, with the longest being 2 years. She said that while expulsion is a a possible punishment, it has not been used in a sexual assault case during her time at the university.
I mean, frankly, I'm almost speechless here; this is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start. Instead, let me just quote a few of the many scathing, articulate comments on the WUVA Media Vimeo page, where you can also watch the full interview.*"... why do we place Deans like this, who fail to take the path less traveled and fight for what's right, in positions of power and do nothing when their failures are presented to the student body and the world?"
*"The most shocking answer to me was the response that 'Lots of victims don't want their assailant to get in trouble' or 'Lots of victims don't want to lodge a complaint'. Anyone who has worked with domestic violence knows that this is exactly the pattern that many victims of abuse exhibit w.r.t their abusers. So to hear this coming from someone who has apparently worked with battered women is downright jaw-dropping."
*"I kept waiting for Eramo to say 'Rape is Wrong' or 'Rapists have no place in our community' or 'Rapists should be prosecuted.' There was no moral standard in her thinking - she has been programmed to run a tightly controlled and manipulated process that, above all, protects UVAs reputation.
This video is clear evidence that UVA - and probably all Universities - should not be managing their own rape and sexual assault cases. Perhaps it's just me - but even the term 'sexual misconduct' minimizes the whole issue. Perhaps they need a committee on "life ending circumstances" to handle murders?"

Yep, the Warner Campaign's 8-10 Point Claim WAS Utter Bull****

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A week after Election Day 2014, GMU held its usual "After Virginia Votes" event, at which top representatives from the Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate campaigns analyze what happened. In this case, the Mark Warner campaign was represented by senior advisor David Hallock, while the Ed Gillespie campaign was represented by Paul Logan. In general, I found the event to be a snoozefest, almost totally uninformative and lacking in insight. There was, however, an audacious comment by Warner's rep David Hallock, that had us scratching our heads and wondering if it could possibly be true.
You look at the kind of Republican areas, the rural areas, Senator Warner ran 8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those areas -- which is more than the margin of victory at the end of the day.
Of course, this comment is consistent with the Warner campaign's whole schtick, that he's a different, speeeecial kind of Democrat, the kind who does much better than a "traditional" kind of Democrat (whatever that means) in rural, "red" areas of Virginia. In the past, specifically 2008, that appears to have been true (although 2008 was a huge Democratic year and Warner was running against a pathetically weak Republican candidate, Jim Gilmore, so take that one with a grain of salt). The question is whether it was STILL true in 2014 for the "radical centrist."The day of "After Virginia Votes," FreeDem addressed that very question here at Blue Virginia. In short, FreeDem found David Hallock's claim about Warner supposedly running "8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those [rural] areas" to be false. As FreeDem wrote in his analysis, in Southwest Virginia, Warner was "at most running 4.5 percentage points ahead in one county; for the most part Warner was right around the same range as Kaine." As for Southside Virginia, "Warner didn't just fail to run eight to ten points ahead of Democrats in Southside Virginia, you can't even see a trend of him doing better at all than Barack Obama and Tim Kaine." Bottom line: "once the dust settles, the Warner campaign's claims of running significantly ahead of Democrats in rural Virginia will come under question and be found lacking in support."
Which is exactly what happened -- nice job by FreeDem! Now, almost two weeks later PolitiFact Virginia has decided to weigh in as well (what took you guys so long?). According to PolitiFact, Hallock - and the Warner camp more broadly - is "flat out wrong" in its 8-10 point claim. To the contrary:
lowkell :: Yep, the Warner Campaign's 8-10 Point Claim WAS Utter Bull****

Terry McAuliffe to Phil Puckett: "Rot in hell;" "I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy"

Superb job by Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella in pulling together her story in today's paper, "Puckett's Senate exit undid McAuliffe's secret plan for Medicaid expansion." Basically, it's a blow-by-blow account, with fascinating quotes and details, of how then-Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation from the Virginia State Senate contributed (or did it?> to killing Gov. McAuliffe's attempt to expand Medicaid unilaterally. I definitely recommend you read the entire thing, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.*Gov. McAuliffe's voice mail message to former Sen. Puckett after it became clear that Medicaid expansion was dead: "Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe. I want you to know we just lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy."
*"McAuliffe desperately needed Puckett in the Senate to take the daring step of expanding Medicaid on his own, using budget language the Democratic governor hoped to sneak past Republicans."
*This incident, and the anger/bitterness it engendered, "are likely to make it more difficult for McAuliffe to work with a GOP-controlled legislature to get anything done during the remainder of his term."
*New information: "Even as McAuliffe's aides were spinning Puckett's resignation as a sign of nasty Republican deal­making, they were working desperately to strike a deal of their own to keep Puckett in the Senate - to protect a secret plan to pass Medicaid expansion without direct legislative approval."
*Gov. McAuliffe "has given a colorful account of their conversation in recent social settings, according to two people he separately regaled. The tale begins with McAuliffe begging the senator to stay and ends with him wishing aloud that Puckett 'rot in hell.'"
*Whether this whole scheme to expand Medicaid unilaterally would have worked is highly dubious, regardless, as the Republican-controlled House of Delegates still would have vehemently opposed it. Regardless, after "Bull Elephant blogger Steve Albertson, spott[ed] the language and warn[ed] that it was a loophole McAuliffe might try to exploit," the last nail was definitely hammered into the coffin.
In the end, of course, the substantive - and tragic - thing about all this is simple: 400,000 Virginians will NOT receive health care coverage due to Republicans' don't-bother-us-with-facts, ideological and political opposition. And billions of dollars of our own tax dollars will NOT flow to Virginia's economy thanks to the right wing. So, yes, Gov. McAuliffe has every right to be angry at "Benedict Puckett" and the Republicans, as do the rest of us. Not sure about "rotting in hell" for anyone, but how about we vote as many of these folks out of office next November? (actually, we can start by electing Kathleen Murphy in a few weeks to fill Barbara Comstock's vacated House of Delegates seat)

Grist's Ben Adler: Jim Webb "sucks on climate change"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

by Adam Siegel

Former Marine, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)Former Secretary of the Navy, Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is the first out of the box for the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nomination hunt.  This announcement has garnered its attention and analysis. (For example, over at DailyKos, Markos has a biting (and to me, generally accurate) review of Webb's announcement video in the context of Democratic Party primary politics and TeacherKen put up a sympathetic reflection on Jim Webb.)  And, some attention is turning to Webb's positions on policy arenas.While Webb is far from the stage of having formal policy issue statements, he does have a record of action and statements to examine.  Over at Grist, Ben Adler put up a searing review of Jim Webb and climate/environmental issues: the Senate, Webb was a "climate curmudgeon," [who worked to undermine Presidential authority to negotiate climate treaties, fought against the Environmental Protection Agency, etc.]...And on climate change, by far the most monumental environmental issue, Webb may be little better than the Republican Party to which he once belonged.
During his Senate term, Webb:

Sierra Club Rankings: Virginia House and Senate Dems, From "A" to "F"

The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst."A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano.  Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)
"A" gradesSenators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of  SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."
"B" gradesSenators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").  
lowkell :: Sierra Club Rankings: Virginia House and Senate Dems, From "A" to "F"

I'm Still Amazed the Gillespie Campaign Didn't Use This Material from Dick Saslaw

Friday, November 21, 2014

This audio of Democratic State Senate leader Dick Saslaw being interviewed on the John Fredericks Show was posted back in mid October, but I decided not to write about it at the time. Why not? Simple: because, after talking to Virginia Democratic politicos I respected, I decided it would only be damaging to Mark Warner's campaign against Ed Gillespie. Of course, I figured that whether I talked about it or not, the Gillespie folks would use it anyway (as did some of the top Dem politicos I spoke with), but still, I didn't want to "go there." Now, with the election over, we can all listen to Dick Saslaw as he talks and talks and talks about stuff he shouldn't have been talking about at that time, or really ever, regarding details of the Phil Puckett scandal. For instance.*Saslaw states that "the governor called me on Friday at about 6:30, 7....and told me that he had just found out that Phil was going to resign...of course I was a little shocked." So, right there, he drags Gov. McAuliffe into the thick of things, which contradicts (never believable) stories that it was some sort of rogue operation by Chief of Staff Paul Reagan (Saslaw says it wasn't a good idea for Reagan to have left a voice mail).
*Saslaw adds: "I then immediately called and left a message with Mark Warner."Yep, he drags Mark Warner into it as well, in the final weeks of a campaign in which the Gillespie folks were hitting Warner hard on the Puckett scandal. Brilliant.
*Saslaw keeps on talking: "and then I called...spoke to Tim Kaine's Chief of Staff Mike Henry, and told him, said look, can you have Tim call and find out what's going on....I basically left the same message with Senator Warner." Going for the trifecta, apparently, Saslaw then drags Tim Kaine's office into it, while for good measure also noting that he asked Mark Warner to call Puckett.
*Reveals that "Mark [Warner] called me on Sunday and...said...he had talked to one of the family members...said it was too late, that Phil had already resigned." The question is, why did Saslaw feel the need to go on conservative radio and spew this stuff? Got me, other than he loves hearing himself talk, has zero message discipline and zero sense of political strategy.
Anywway, I'm still baffled as to why the Gillespie campaign didn't use this audio in an ad. At the time it came out in October, I asked one of the Virginia Democratic politicos I most respect if they would have used this in an ad if the shoe had been on the other foot, and the answer was "absolutely yes!" So yeah, seemed like a "no brainer" at the time, but for whatever reason, the Gillespie folks didn't run with it.
More on the "flip"

Video: John Vihstadt Lies and Dodges His Way Through the Kojo Nnamdi Show

I just got done watching Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt (Republican; not sure why the media keeps calling him "independent," since that's just a big charade) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I was hoping they'd really tear apart this guy's bogus anti-streetcar, pro-BRT arguments, or at least expose him as a world class b.s.'er. Prior to the show, David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington had encouraged Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood to ask Vihstadt:*"What is @voteforvihstadt  going to do now to ensure that good transit does get built on Columbia Pike?"
*"And if he says 'BRT,' please remind him that the leading BRT organization defines BRT as requiring a bus lane...Which VDOT has said isn't allowed on Columbia Pike. So I'd like to hear his view of actually possible transit."
In the interview, which begins at around 33:40 of the video, Vihstadt basically just lies, misrepresents and dodges his way around the questions. The guy's certainly a good talker, no doubt about that. The problem is, his torrent of words basically just amounts to meaningless "blah blah blah blah," because none of it adds up or makes any sense the minute you look into it. For instance, Vihstadt claims that his campaign was all about putting an emphasis back on "core services." The problems that he doesn't mention, of course, are: a) the streetcar funding was "dedicated," much of it from the state, none of it from Arlington residents having to pay more taxes, and not in any way "fungible" with education or anything else; and b) by killing the streetcar project, Vihstadt and his merry band of naysayers just killed $3.2-$4.4 BILLION (that's right, "billion" with a "b") in funding that could have gone to...wait for it...that's right, "CORE SERVICES!" Brilliant, huh?
Vihstadt then goes on to simply outright lie, claiming that we can have "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) on Columbia Pike, and that this election supposedly wasn't a choice "between a streetcar and doing nothing." Except that Vihstadt's alternative to a streetcar, BRT, is not possible, for a variety of reasons.  As Greater Greater Washington explained yesterday, the "Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) turned [Columbia Pike] over to Arlington, but with the condition that the number of lanes open to cars not drop below four-and it's a four-lane road." Ergo, no dedicated lane. The problem, of course, as GGW further points out (and that many of us have pointed out for years now), is that real BRT is not possible without a dedicated lane. Period. To the contrary, real BRT requiresa dedicated lane, by definition. Details, details.


So, now that the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligencehas TOTALLY debunked all the right wingnuts' conspiracy theories on BENGHAZEEEEEE, what do they have left? First, a few quick points from the report on Benghazi by (again)Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (attention Frank Wolf and other crazy conspiracy theorists, you might want to read this, as it is meant to be the "definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans")*"There is no evidence of an intelligence failure...CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi."
*"Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the officer at CIA was ever told to stand down."
*"The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground."
*"The CIA received all military support that was available. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the the gunship was not available."
*"...intelligence assessments continue to evolve to this day, and the investigations into the motivations of the individual attackers are still ongoing."
*"For her public comments, Ambassador Rice used talking points developed at the request of HPSCI."
*The "CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation."
In sum, basically none of the charges leveled in the aftermath of Benghazi by Republicans have proven to be correct. Just as most of us outside the Fox/Rush/Glenn right-wing news bubble figured all along. I just wish the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hadn't dumped this report late on a Friday before Thanksgiving, clearly hoping that it would get as little attention as possible. Of course, if the media were responsible, they would give this report as much (or more) attention as they gave to the hysterical, false accusations hurled around by the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Frank Wolf, etc. in the aftermath of this tragedy. Oh, and we're also "all ears" for apologies from Romney, McCain, Graham, Wolf et al. Nope, not holding our breaths...
Anyway, now that the BENGHAZEEEEE conspiracy theories have been definitively debunked, by Republicans no less, what will the next crazy conspiracy theory by the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing be?  Well, there's always one of the people Mitt Romney went out of his way to praise for helping develop "Romneycare," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT academic who apparently thinks everyone other than himself is an idiot (but why any of us should care what he thinks is beyond me). Then there's Ebola, of course, but that's so three weeks ago!  Then there's the latest OUTRAGE -- amnesty! tyranny! can we go back to birth cerficates or "death panels?" ;) I mean, Fox, Rush, Glenn, etc, have to have SOMETHING to rant about, right?

Jim Webb Announces Exploratory Committee for President

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'll consider Webb if and ONLY if I hear him speak convincingly, knowledgeably and passionately about the planet's environmental challenges - global warming being the top one - and what to do about them. So far, I haven't heard anything from him on that, other than continued clinging to the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal.
Dear Friend,
            I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to ask you to consider the most important question facing America today: Is it possible that our next President could actually lay out a vision for the country, and create an environment where leaders from both parties and from all philosophies would feel compelled to work together for the good of the country, despite all of the money and political pressure that now demands they disagree?
As one who spent four years in the Reagan Administration but who served in the Senate as a Democrat, I believe it is possible. It is also necessary. We desperately need to fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us, many of which have fallen by the wayside in the nasty debates of the last several years. I hope you will consider joining me in that effort.
Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for President. A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges. They’re worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. They’re worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric.  

Hundreds Rally at Virginia State Capitol to Support EPA's Clean Power Plan

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

According to Appalachian Voices: "More than 210,000 Virginians have spoken and they want the commonwealth to lead the new energy economy. Many of them are in Richmond this morning to urge legislators to grow Virginia's economy, improve public health and address the cause of climate change by supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan." (note: most photos courtesy of the VA Sierra Club)
Faith-Based, Public Health, Student and Environmental Groups Gather to Demand Climate ActionRICHMOND, VA - Today, over 200 Virginians from across the state gathered at the State Capitol to support government action to reduce carbon pollution, the leading cause of climate disruption and demand action to dramatically scale up clean energy in the Commonwealth.  Residents came from Hampton Roads, Williamsburg, Richmond, Blacksburg, Arlington and Manassas.
The rally followed a Joint Legislative Meeting of the Virginia House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees on the Clean Power Plan. Supporters packed the hearing, carrying "Clean Energy Now" signs, and several made themselves heard during the public comment session before joining the crowd on the Capitol grounds, noting the economic benefits of clean energy as well as the urgency of addressing climate change.
The rally included a Mom's Clean Air Force "Play-in" featuring parachute games and coloring activities, and a moment of silence for those affected by climate disruption followed by a "moment of noise" to sound the alarm on climate and demand action.
Speakers included:  Senator A. Donald McEachin, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman; Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor Northam; Freeda Cathcart, Legislative Chair, General Federation of Women's Clubs of Virginia - Blue Ridge Region; and Michael James-Deramo, Vice President of the VCU Environmental Coalition and representative of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.
"A comprehensive Clean Energy Plan will reap rewards for our families, for our communities and for the health and well-being of our Commonwealth," said Senator McEachin. "We are very fortunate that instituting a Clean Energy Plan to help the environment will have the added benefit of saving citizens' money and creating jobs. Altogether, it's a win-win for Virginians."
There's More... :: (5 Comments, 161 words in story)

A Few of My "Favorite" Fundraising Emails from the Foust Campaign

Over at Daily Kos, they're mocking DCCC head Steve Israel for claiming, "You can't be going out there and telling people that the sky is falling. It tends to hurt recruiting and fundraising." Why is that mockable? Simple: because "this is the very same committee that sent all those DOOM emails."Let's look at a local campaign, right here in Virginia - some of the "best" of the DOOOOM emails from the Foust for Congress campaign. While you're reading these, I'd consider a few questions: 1) does any of this make the candidate look in the least bit dignified?; 2) does any of this really raise more money than simply sending out hard-hitting messages, without the doom-and-gloom, over-the-top, cringe-inducing idiocy?; and 3) is there any chance that a constant drumbeat of doom and gloom might - just might - cause Democrats to get depressed, discouraged, and to be less likely to volunteer and/or vote (or, as DCCC Chair Steve Israel said, "hurt recruiting and fundraising")? Hmmmm.
With that, here are some of my "favorite" emails from the Foust campaign. Enjoy?
Date: June 10
Subject: "crushing blow"
Key line: "Everyone from Paul Ryan to the Koch brothers have gone ALL-IN to defeat John and buy this election for Barbara Comstock. That would be a crushing blow for Northern Virginia families."
Comment: Setting a positive tone for the uncounted doom-and-gloom, hysteria-inducing emails to follow.
Date: June 18
Subject: "doomed"
Key line: "If we don't act fast, John's chances of winning could be doomed from the start"
Comment: That was generally the theme for the entire campaign, that they were "doomed" if we didn't send $5 right away. Kinda like one of those "Nigerian prince" scam emails.
Date: July 16
Subject: "HUGE NEWS:"
Key line: "We OUTRAISED Barbara Comstock!"
Comment: Of course, a lot of that money came from Foust himself, and most of it ended up being wasted on super-expensive, extremely-low-bang-for-the-buck broadcast TV ads. But still...oh forget it.
lowkell :: A Few of My "Favorite" Fundraising Emails from the Foust Campaign

Video: Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada Sums It Up on Streetcar Cancellation Debacle

Key points and quotes by Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada, who sums up my feelings almost exactly, are as follows.*Today, we have "failed to continue this tradition" of making smart, strategic investments in Arlington County.
*The question is, "will we now become a timid and stagnant community, or will we dare to be bold and innovative and make the strategic investments...that are required to craft sustainable policies for us and for future generations? Time will tell."
*Apologizes to people who made investments based on Arlington's promises to build the streetcar system.
*Tejada is "incredibly and profoundly disappointed" at the action that four members of the County Board is taking; it is "a step backwards."
*The voters have spoken, and he has "heard you." BUT: "I have convictions and I do not trade them. I do not raise my thumb and see where the political wind is blowing...I value my hometown too much to abandon our carefully-designed strategic plan that will continue to make us competitive in the region. I value and respect having a public process, it means something in Arlington, it means something to me."
*He understands that the Board "came up short" in making the case for the project, but he remains firmly committed to it, "and I continue to believe that it is in the best interest of Arlington County now and into the future."
*He takes responsibility for his part if anyone felt "left out" of the process, as this was "never the intention."
*However, Tejada asserts (correctly) that this has been a "legitimate public process," with "small meetings, medium meetings, large meetings, larger meetings, charrettes, forums, meeting after meeting after meeting...It WAS a legitimate public process in the finest Arlington tradition."
*Thanks everyone who worked so hard on this project.
*Now, there are questions that remain: "How much taxpayer dollar will be wasted by stopping the streetcar from moving forward? How do we quantify what the total cost for not going forward is?"
*The challenge now is "can we come together and unite...return to civil and respectful discussions of all topics confronting our community?"  

Arlington Board Votes 4-1 for Building Energy Efficiency; Republican John Vihstadt Weasels Out

Saturday, November 15, 2014

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon, the Arlington County Board discussed, and then overwhelmingly (4-1) voted "to update its Green Building Incentive Program...emphasiz[ing] energy performance and reduced overall environmental impact for site plan developments that voluntarily seek incentives under the program." Note that there's been absolutely nothing controversial about any of this for nearly 15 years...until, that is, Republican and all-around demagogue John Vihstadt joined the Board (unfortunately). 
Arlington launched its Green Building Incentive Program in 2000 and has updated it four times since then to ensure that the program incents developers to build exemplary projects that meet stringent environmental standards. Since 2000, 56 site plan projects have agreed to achieve LEED certification.  Nineteen of these buildings have been built, achieved their LEED commitments, and complied with the green building site plan conditions, and another 20 are under construction.
Who could be against that? Well, nobody on the Arlington County Board (or apparently on the Arlington County Planning Commission, which voted unanimously to recommend approval of this update) -- until now, that is. As was explained yesterday, this technical update to a popular, effective program was broadly supported, really hit the "sweet spot" in terms of getting everyone on board. Except, again, for the lone Republican on the Arlington County Board. Wait, you ask, a Republican is obstructing stuff for no good reason? That NEVER happens! But all snark aside, of course it does, all the time, at the federal, state, and now local level here in Arlington. Unfortunately, we're now stuck with this particular Republican for four more years. Let's just make sure we never make this mistake again.

P.S. As a commenter on Blue Virginia put it recently: "In opposing the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (ostensibly to protest the streetcar - which as an oped in today's Washington Post explains, yet again, would be a huge positive for Arlington) Vihstadt also voted against money for schools, public safety, parks, economic development, street paving and bridge renovation. And despite his claims to be for affordable housing, he declined to vote (recusing himself) on the only measure to come before the board that would help affordable housing." And again, now - for absolutely not good reason (listen to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette's explanation as to why that's the case) - he's voted against building energy efficiency. hat's what we're now stuck with for four freakin' years. Great.  Of course, Vihstadt's whole shtick -- being a demagogue but not seeming like one (by sounding perfectly calm and reasonable while doing so) -- is full of...fill in the blank on that one.
P.P.S. I received the following comment from a Democratic member of the Virginia delegation in Richmond.
Now it begins... Today the Arlington County Board took the positive/sensible step to update its important Green Building Incentive Program. This energy efficiency plan reflects the County's Community Energy Plan goals and provides incentives to site office building site plan developments in order to lessen environmental impacts. The voluntary program is designed to encourage the construction of buildings that are more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable than buildings built to code. Under the program developers are given the option of increased density if they achieve greater energy efficiency. This is a NO-BRAINER - but it wasn't unanimous. Who voted against it? The Republican John Vihstadt.

Tom Perriello 2010 Outperformed Mark Warner 2014 in Southside Virginia

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

by FreeDem

Yesterday I blew open the claim from the Warner campaign that they ran significantly ahead of Democratic performance in Southwest and Southside Virginia. But I had a thought on a more nuanced pro-Warner argument that I wanted to question today.Putting aside the grand claims of Warner's success in rural Virginia, suppose there's an argument that with the older, more white electorate that by its very nature turns out in off-years Democrats have to campaign as more centrist, bipartisan political creations in order to hit roughly the same performance we see in presidential turnout years, even in rural localities. Trying to run as a proud Democrat and campaign on issues that mobilize our base risks alienating more voters than it turns out to the polls, a la Udall in Colorado.
While I can't explain away what happened in Colorado, I can provide some counterpoint to the idea that the only way to sustain Democratic performance in an off-year is to run as a watered down centrist.
What if you compared Mark Warner's 2014 performance with another Virginia Democrat who lost in a lower turnout off-year, Tom Perriello in 2010?
For this I only compared the localities that were entirely within Virginia's 5th District prior to the 2010 redistricting, which also meant not including the split counties of Bedford, Henry, and Brunswick. I dropped the cities of Martinsville and Bedford (which no longer exists) because they were entirely contained in those split counties, these are a geographically cohesive sample.
I only looked at the two-party vote, ignoring the role of the two independent candidates in each election. In all but two localities (Danville and Halifax), Perriello received a higher percent of the vote than Warner. In some it was minor; their difference in the city of Charlottesville was half a percent. In others it was much larger, like almost 6% in Buckingham.
The result is that while both candidates lost the combined counties, Perriello received 48.9% of the vote and Warner only 46.9%. As noted, it's not just explained by liberal areas like Charlottesville. Perriello ran better in several small rural counties like Buckingham, Greene, Appomattox, and Campbell.
FreeDem :: Tom Perriello 2010 Outperformed Mark Warner 2014 in Southside Virginia
The 2010 race featured higher turnout, on both sides, with 196,251 total votes, compared to 158,566 in 2014. Warner lost these counties by 9,806 votes; Perriello had a narrower gap at 4,467.  With a 17,000 vote margin, picking up just 5,000 can matter.
Because of the influence of turnout, Warner actually did better in a few counties when you look at the vote margin, not percentage. In Halifax, Franklin, and Pittsylvania, the Warner and Perriello percentages were within less than half a percent, but turnout was down from 2010. This meant that Warner actually closed the gap by over 1,600 votes in these counties compared to Perriello.
The Warner campaign would believe that is the price Democrats pay in midterm years. Hope that lower turnout and a more conservative campaign message prevents Republicans from running up their margin with the older, more white electorate.
But that's not always the way the math works. Although Warner was half a point ahead of Perriello in Charlottesville, the total number of voters who came out was down by a quarter in 2014. Perriello gained almost 2,200 more votes out of Charlottesville than Warner because of the higher turnout. Yes, his unapologetic campaign may have turned out some Republicans, but it turned out even more Democrats.
And it works beyond just liberal Charlottesville and Albemarle. Around 4,500 votes in Charlottesville and Albemarle, but then around 1,700 more in the other rural northern counties in the district like Greene and Buckingham, hardly your typical people's republic or liberal commune. Although small rural counties, the better turnout and performance picked up around 100 votes in Charlotte, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties, each. Finally, in Danville where Warner ran just barely ahead of Perriello in percent the higher turnout translated into almost 600 votes.
Some pundits would have us believe that Democrats have to make a choice. Run as liberals and you get higher turnout and better performance in college towns and the big cities, but you alienate the rest of America and end up shooting yourself (and your campaign) in the foot. At least in this corner of Southside and Central Virginia that's not the case. A strong, populist campaign worked not just in the college town, but in most of the small towns and rural counties. Even taking away Danville, Charlottesville, and Albemarle, Perriello did better than Warner in the remaining small, mostly rural counties.
Virginia is a more diverse, more urban state than this sample of counties. The math for a more proud Democratic campaign works here, and could work statewide.  

After "After Virginia Votes": A Response to a "Radical Centrist"'s Election Analysis

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

by FreeDem

(I listened to this program, and yeah, it was extremely lame, particularly on the part of the Warner campaign representative, who simply had nothing interesting to say. - promoted by lowkell)

Today I attended VPAP's "After Virginia Votes" panel discussion on the 2014 election featuring senior strategists for both the Warner and Gillespie campaigns. Aside from helping to lower the average age in the mostly octogenarian filled room at George Mason University's Fairfax campus, I attended to hear how Warner advisor David Hallock would try to spin the near defeat for his boss.Sadly, the sometimes candid conversation between David Hallock and Paul Logan paled in comparison to the sparks between Chris LaCivita and Ellen Qualls during VPAP's 2013 analysis. Now that was an analysis worth attending! LaCivita is an unapologetic political hack, in the most delightful way possible, who never shies away from defending his dirty approach to politics. No wonder many of my friends simply call him "the devil." Compare that to Logan and Hallock shifting uncomfortably in their seats trying to defend the practice of spamming inboxes in order to raise low donor funds.
Hallock at several times made the point that the lack of engagement during the midyear election depressed both volunteer enthusiasm and eventual voter participation, particularly among the Democratic base. While bemoaning the difficulties of getting Democratic constituencies to the poles, he clung to defending Warner's "statewide" campaign that stressed bipartisanship and reaching out to Southwest and Southside Virginia.
Perhaps Democratic disengagement is not a fact of life for midterm elections, but a byproduct of the type of campaign Warner ran?
In his concluding remarks, Hallock made the case that the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of engaging our voters and turning them out in off-year elections.
Let's talk about that.
FreeDem :: After "After Virginia Votes": A Response to a "Radical Centrist"'s Election Analysis
First, I was surprised by Hallock's claim that Warner ran eight to ten points ahead of Democratic performance in parts of Southwest and Southside Virginia. At first, believing maybe he meant lower turnout years like 2013, I made sure to pay attention when he specifically mentioned Tim Kaine's Senate campaign as a comparison.Consider the historic coal country counties of Southwest Virginia that were once a bedrock of Democratic support (Check out Kenton's excellent analysis of Southwest Virginia.)
Southwest Virginia Counties
Tazewell County-
    Warner 2014: 26.6%
    Obama 2012: 20.6%
    Kaine 2012: 24.2%
Russell County-
    Warner 2014: 37.6%
    Obama 2012: 30.8%
    Kaine 2012: 35.5%
Scott County-
    Warner 2014: 27.1%
    Obama 2012: 24.0%
    Kaine 2012: 28.0%
Buchanan County-
    Warner 2014: 38.7%
    Obama 2012: 32.1%
    Kaine 2012: 35.7%
Dickenson County-
    Warner 2014: 41.9%
    Obama 2012: 35.8%
    Kaine 2012: 40.5%
Wise County-
    Warner 2014: 28.2%
    Obama 2012: 25.0%
    Kaine 2012: 28.7%
Lee County-
    Warner 2014: 34.9%
    Obama 2012: 26.9%
    Kaine 2012: 30.4%
This is not a story of Warner running eight to ten points ahead of Tim Kaine. This is at most running 4.5 percentage points ahead in one county; for the most part Warner was right around the same range as Kaine. And while Warner was ahead of Obama in some areas, it's a lower range than Hallock's eight to ten claim would lead you to believe.
So much for Warner's immense appeal in Southwest Virginia, what about Southside? I pulled a handful of localities just to look:
Pittsylvania County-
    Warner 2014: 36.2%
    Obama 2012: 35.4%
    Kaine 2012: 36.1%
Danville City-
    Warner 2014: 57.9%
    Obama 2012: 60.5%
    Kaine 2012: 59.9%
Halifax County-
    Warner 2014: 46.2%
    Obama 2012: 46.5%
    Kaine 2012: 46.2%
Charlotte County-
    Warner 2014: 40.9%
    Obama 2012: 42.4%
    Kaine 2012: 42.8%
Mecklenburg County-
    Warner 2014: 42.0%
    Obama 2012: 45.9%
    Kaine 2012: 44.1%
Lunenburg County-
    Warner 2014: 40.9%
    Obama 2012: 46.8%
    Kaine 2012: 46.6%
Warner didn't just fail to run eight to ten points ahead of Democrats in Southside Virginia, you can't even see a trend of him doing better at all than Barack Obama and Tim Kaine.
I don't have time to run the numbers for the entire state, but once the dust settles, the Warner campaign's claims of running significantly ahead of Democrats in rural Virginia will come under question and be found lacking in support.
An easier way to look at this is to check the results in the Congressional districts (I'm using VPAP's percentages for Congressional districts, which are preliminary).
    Warner 2014: 42.0%
    Obama 2012: 45.5%
    Kaine: 2012: 41.2%
    Warner 2014: 47.9%
    Obama 2012: 50.0%
    Kaine: 2012: 52.0%
    Warner 2014: 76.8%
    Obama 2012: 78.8%
    Kaine: 2012: 79.2%
    Warner 2014: 46.6%
    Obama 2012: 48.7%
    Kaine: 2012: 50.0%
    Warner 2014: 43.6%
    Obama 2012: 45.8%
    Kaine: 2012: 47.0%
    Warner 2014: 37.1%
    Obama 2012: 39.4%
    Kaine: 2012: 40.9%
    Warner 2014: 40.8%
    Obama 2012: 41.6%
    Kaine: 2012: 44.7%
    Warner 2014: 66.7%
    Obama 2012: 67.6%
    Kaine: 2012: 69.3%
    Warner 2014: 37.8%
    Obama 2012: 34.8%
    Kaine: 2012: 38.1%
    Warner 2014: 46.1%
    Obama 2012: 48.7%
    Kaine: 2012: 50.4%
    Warner 2014: 59.1%
    Obama 2012: 62.3%
    Kaine: 2012: 63.6%
Warner ran behind Obama in every district but one, the 9th District. Other western and southern Virginia districts with significant rural populations, such as the 4th, 5th, and 6th, still had Warner running behind Obama like in the rest of the state.
If I see any trend, it's that Warner ran behind Obama by the same two points in almost all Congressional districts, except for three points behind in the 11th and 1st, but only a point behind in the 7th and 8th. During the VPAP discussion, Hallock said the energy and enthusiasm behind Brat lifted turnout in the 7th district and hurt the Warner campaign there, but it also seems to have minimized his drop-off from Obama by giving die-hard Democrats in the ruby-red district a reason to vote.
The Warner campaign wants us to believe that it couldn't afford to talk up the Democratic Party and its accomplishments because it needed to pad its margins in rural Virginia. I don't see the padding.
What lessons can we learn from 2014? Well that's something I wish the DPVA would have a candid and frank discussion on. They clearly aren't going to do that, so comment below with your thoughts.

It's Never Over in Virginia

Monday, November 10, 2014

by FreeDem

The dust has settled over the Commonwealth after election day 2014, and Mark Warner will survive to serve out another six years in the Senate ... assuming he stays that long. But there's no end to campaigns in Virginia, which because of our odd-year election cycle hosts heated elections every calendar year. For instance, with newly elected Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, there will soon be a special election for the 34th House of Delegates district. Other special elections will be held in the 4th district (Southwest Virginia, to replace newly elected State Senator Ben Chafin) and the 63rd district (Petersburg, to replace newly elected State Senator Rosalyn Dance) -- but don't expect any surprises there. Here's a preview of what to look forward to in Virginia politics.34th House of Delegates Special Election
Let's give a brief history of the 34th in the last few election cycles. In 2007, Republican incumbent Vince Callahan retired and the open seat was won in a good Democratic year by Margi Vanderhye. Margi had defeated Rip Sullivan in the Democratic primary (Rip is finally making his way to Richmond from the 48th District). I wonder if Rip's pleased that he didn't end up in the 34th, as in 2009 a Republican tsunami swept out Vanderhye by 422 votes.
FreeDem :: It's Never Over in Virginia
When Vanderhye lost by the narrowest of margins, Bob McDonnell was winning the district with 53.47% of the vote. Vanderhye was able to run ahead of Creigh Deeds at the top of the ticket, but not by enough to win. With redistricting, Republicans padded Barbara Comstock's margin by a few points, and she won reelection in 2011 by a 54.8%-45.1% margin over Pamela Danner. Comstock didn't need the redistricting help then, but she certainly did in 2013, when she narrowly defeated Kathleen Murphy by only 422 votes.Where have I seen that number before?!
In 2013, the statewide Democratic ticket was sweeping at the top in the 34th. Comstock had to run ahead of her conservative clown car nominees in order to sneak out a narrow victory. But unlike in 2009, she had built up enough of her own brand to swim against the tide.
We saw that again in 2014, as Comstock ran ahead of Gillespie in the 10th District by four percentage points. Mark Warner won 51% in the 34th District, better than Obama's narrow 49.79% win in 2012, but behind Tim Kaine's 53%. In her own district, Comstock ran ahead of Gillespie by seven percentage points. These are discouraging numbers for Democrats hoping to knock her off in 2016, as it indicates she may have the political skills to run ahead of the Republican Presidential nominee.
In the upcoming special election for Comstock's House of Delegates seat, Democrats have a chance to pick up a House of Delegates seat that they must win if they ever want to retake the majority. The Democratic nominee will face a grueling calendar, having to run again in next fall's state legislative elections. But I think the Democrats start with a solid floor in the special election. This district does not swing wildly back and forth; statewide Democrats (including Deeds) do better in minimizing drop-off here in low turnout odd years compared to other districts further out in the more diverse suburbs and exurbs. It also means that the district, unlike other parts of Northern Virginia, did not swing towards Obama as the electorate grew more diverse in 2012. It has a small but stubborn swing vote, the small pool of Romney-Kaine voters that may also explain Comstock's ability to survive in 2013.
Demographics is not going to hand the 34th to Democrats. We have to win it on our own. It may be now or never for us.
Virginia's Republican members of Congress are challenging the ruling which orders the state to redraw its Congressional lines and reverse the racial "packing" of minority voters into Bobby Scott's 3rd District. A higher court may overturn the ruling, and there's plenty of time for more mischief to occur.
What could happen is anyone's guess. Unpacking the 3rd could spill over to the 1st, 2nd, and 4th, easily. Making the 4th a more diverse district would assist Democrats in taking out Randy Forbes, but others believe that if forced to redraw the lines the General Assembly Republicans are more likely to throw David Brat under the bus.
Drawing a metropolitan Richmond district, essentially recreating the old 3rd CD represented by Thomas Bliley before the 1990 redistricting, would create a sharply difference district today given trends in the area. The seat would vote Democratic in all but the worst years and be well over one third African American. State Senator Donald McEachin has been discussed as a likely candidate for Congress in the future, with or without this redistricting.
The problem for Virginia Republicans is that drawing the existing 3rd district as a more compact minority-majority district in Hampton Roads wouldn't leave enough for both Rigell and Forbes. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, their respective home territories, are too close and too isolated. Given the population centers, two Districts with fair minority representation seem likely: a Richmond-based one and a Hampton Roads-based one. Which one is the actual minority-majority district could depend on the balance of the white suburbs and who gets more of the Petersburg and Southside area. This blows open the 4th, and I haven't seen a plan yet that doesn't give Forbes a clear seat to run in... but I've been thinking about one (stay tuned!).
Right now, as the legal fight continues, Governor McAuliffe will have to decide if he wants to sign off on a Republican quick fix, or hold the line and veto anything that falls short of meeting certain benchmarks for transparency and fairness.
Democrats are backed into a corner, with few pickup opportunities in the State Senate. The 2014 election gives cause for concern, as low-turnout affairs in this political climate are mostly being won by Republicans. Democrats will need to seize on an issue to rally our base. Will it be Medicaid expansion?
There are only two Republican-held State Senate seats won by Obama in 2012: the 7th (Wagner, Virginia Beach) and the 10th (Watkins, Richmond suburbs). Obama narrowly lost in the 13th (Black, Loudoun and Prince William), the 17th (Reeves, Spotsylvania and Central Virginia) and the 20th (Stanley, Danville and Southside Virginia). Tim Kaine narrowly won in the 17th. It is hard to see justification for competing in seats beyond this handful, and even then they are arguably a real reach.
With limited opportunities for offense, Democrats will be playing defense in several seats: the 1st (Newport News) and the 33rd (Loudoun) in particular. Strong turnout by Miller and Wexton could assist the House of Delegate candidates in at least four winnable seats in the fall.
2016 and Beyond
The odds of Mark Warner ever becoming more than just the Senior Senator from Virginia dipped significantly after his electoral scare. But with Tim Kaine near the top of everyone's short list for VP, or a cabinet position, Governor McAuliffe may be be given the opportunity to appoint a new Senator sometime in 2016 or 2017. While this could avoid a bruising Ralph Northam-Mark Herring primary fight for governor in 2017, something tells me that the political forces are going to work behind the scenes to resolve the line of succession before it comes to that. Northam in particular should be worrying about Herring's higher visibility in the key fights in the Commonwealth. I think McAuliffe may look elsewhere for a Senate appointment...

Ed Gillespie for Senate 2018? Barbara Comstock for President 2020?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Does that headline seem far-fetched? Crazy even? It certainly would have seemed far-fetched, if not crazy, a few weeks ago. But how about today, after Gillespie nearly pulled off one of the biggest political upsets of the year, and possibly the greatest in Virginia political history (I'd rank Dave Brat over Eric Cantor at the top of the list in recent history)? How about after Comstock not only defeated, but utterly crushed (by 16 points) a well-funded, popular Democrat in a "swing district?" A few points to consider.*Comstock is just 55 years old and, by all accounts, highly ambitious. Can anyone seriously picture her as a "lifer" in Congress?
*In her campaign this year, Comstock demonstrated an ability to bring together all wings of her party, attract independent voters in the above-mentioned "swing district," and steamroll to victory. Since then, she's been touted as one of the big Republican winners of 2014. Do you think someone with Comstock's ambition isn't going to be seriously think about, and be seriously courted for, higher office going forward?
*Comstock also has ties to some of the biggest names, biggest $$$, and most influential voices in both the Republican Party and the right-wing echo chamber (e.g., Sean Hannity, Mark Levin).
*Let's say Hillary Clinton wins the White House in 2016 against whoever the Republicans nominate. That means 2020 will be wide open, with Republicans looking for someone who can bring their party together and take back the White House. Could a three-term Congresswoman (assuming Comstock's reelected in 2016, she should then easily win in 2018 as well) from the crucial state of Virginia, a woman no less, be someone Republicans might turn to for President or Vice President in 2020? Of course, it's a long way off, and a lot of things can happen before then, but it seems highly plausible to me, as long as Comstock keeps doing what she's been doing. And no, that doesn't make me happy in the least, because I view her as dangerous and extreme.
*As for Ed Gillespie, my money's still on Mark Obenshain getting the 2017 Republican nomination for Virginia Governor. If so, then the next realistic opening for Gillespie would be U.S. Senate in 2018, when Tim Kaine comes up for reelection. That's assuming, of course, that Kaine's still in the Senate, as he's widely considered on the "short list" for VP in 2016.
*In that latter scenario, where Kaine moves up to Vice President in 2016, Gov. McAuliffe would appoint someone to fill the vacancy temporarily. According toVirginia Code:
When any vacancy occurs in the representation of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate, the Governor shall issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term. The election shall be held on the next succeeding November general election date or, if the vacancy occurs within 120 days prior to that date, on the second succeeding November general election date. The Governor may make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy until the qualified voters fill the same by election.
*So, if I'm reading this right, it's possible there could be an election in November 2016 or November 2017 for U.S. Senate. In that case, change "Ed Gillespie for Senate 2018?" to "Ed Gillespie for Senate 2016 or 2017?"Anyway, there's no doubt this is all mostly navel gazing at this point, but I just wanted to throw it out there to put on your radar screens.