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The Race in the 7th District: Eric Cantor Can be Beaten

by: Eric Steigleder

Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 16:58:34 PM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

November 6 has come and gone, and Democrats, Liberals and Progressives the Commonwealth over have breathed several hearty sighs of relief. Despite a contentious and worrisome election season, Virginian's can now look forward to a second term for President Obama and six years with Senator Kaine.

But a problem remains.

A problem that espouses extreme rhetoric yet doesn't have the guts to identify as such. A problem that blocks, stalls, impedes and stonewalls. A problem that stands before the steady trudge of history screaming for it to stop. A problem that continues to weigh down the Old Dominion like a self-important albatross. A problem named Eric Cantor.

The shortcomings of the current House GOP leader are far too extensive to list here. But even as a casual reader of the news and this blog can attest, Eric Cantor makes headlines more for his anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-compromise cry-baby antics than for any significant legislative accomplishment. Lucky for us, while Mr. Cantor is a significant impediment to progress, he's also exceedingly beatable.

Case in point: This last election cycle, Eric Cantor was challenged by Democrat Wayne Powell, a community lawyer from Chesterfield and a first-time candidate. Mr. Powell ran a spirited, passionate campaign that took Cantor to task and held his feet to the fire. As the deputy director of communications in the final months of the campaign, I saw first hand the groundswell of anti-Cantor sentiment that seethed just below the surface of the 7th district. And although we lost, I am proud of the candidate I supported, the work we did and the ground we covered. This race also proved that Eric Cantor is far from the the unconquerable behemoth that has the DCCC shaking in its boots.

Firstly, there's the much-discussed Hickman Analytics poll released in June that revealed Eric Cantor's popularity had taken a substantial hit due to, among other things, his antiquated stance on women's health issues and his refusal to work with the president. The poll also showed that 43 percent of 7th District residence would vote to replace Cantor, as opposed to only 41 percent who maintained their support.

What's more, this race marked the first time in ten years that Eric Cantor had agreed to debate an opponent. Coupled with a surprising onslaught of expensive ad buys and direct mail attacks, and its clear Mr. Cantor is terrified that his grip on the district is slipping.

And then there are the actual election results.  

Eric Steigleder :: The Race in the 7th District: Eric Cantor Can be Beaten

The news organizations called the race rather early for Cantor. After all, it would seem a foregone conclusion that a well-funded and well-connected candidate like the GOP Leader would carry the day in such a conservative district. Indeed, Powell garnered 42 percent of the vote to Cantor's 58 percent. Yet this seemingly straightforward electoral sweep belies a rather heartening truth for Virginia Democrats. Say what you will about the nature of 7th district politics, but the numbers don't lie. And the numbers point to a slow but steady trend in favor of Democratic candidates.

To wit: In 2002, Eric Cantor's first challenger garnered a mere 30 percent of the vote. By 2008, challenger Anita Hartke had bridged that gap and came away with 37 percent. And this year, Wayne Powell earned the support of 42 percent of the electorate, the highest of any challenger to date. All told, this reveals an embarrassing loss of 12 percentage points for Cantor over ten years. Not exactly a recipe for long-term electoral success.

So what is the ultimate take away? What can we learn from yet another stinging defeat at the hands of Virginia's biggest problem?

That he is beatable. Not easily, and not quickly. Make no mistake: Cantor is a formidable foe, with a campaign war chest that would make even the most seasoned Big Oil CEO dab at his brow with his silk pocket square. And while the electoral trend within the district is indeed a positive one, it has been subject to its own disappointing fits and starts.

Our path isn't an easy one, but it is a clear one. By coupling a tough, progressive candidate with an electorate growing in anti-Cantor sentiment, it is conceivable to foresee a 7th District gone blue. But it's not enough to know what to do. We have to exercise our power a citizens to get it done. Pressuring local and state-wide Democrats to embrace, nominate and fund an unabashed Democratic candidate for the seat is only the first step in a long and winding road fraught with political peril.

The phrase "fortune favors the bold" is attributed to ancient Roman playwright Terence. Despite the intervening years, 7th District Democrats would do well to adopt it as their own.  

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Democrats, Not Cantor (0.00 / 0)
Democratic candidates have been doing better in the 7th because of fundamental trends in the Richmond suburbs, not because of anything specific to Cantor. Yes, Cantor's driving the GOP's popularity down but it's not specifically anti-Cantor as much as anti-Cantor's GOP.

So . . . where do we go from here? (0.00 / 0)
I've never been involved in a campaign other than phone-banking and door-to-door canvassing for Obama in 2008 and this year.  However, it seems to me if we Democrats want to beat Cantor and anyone else, we must start now and not wait until a few months before the election.

Here in VA-01 we had an excellent candidate in Adam Cook -- young, studied the issues, good speaker, meets people well.  I don't have the numbers at hand but I believe he pulled over 40 percent against Rob Wittman.  However, Adam is finished -- he can't afford to campaign for the next two years, so, it seems as though here in VA-01, we'll have to start all over in 18 months or so with a new face.

Seems to me that folks like Powell and Cook should be all over their districts for the next two years:
-- giving media interviews on current issues
-- dogging the incumbents' heels every step of the way; that is, issuing press releases, writing letters to editors, holding the incumbents accountable for every breath they take
-- go all over the district -- speak at the VFW and Legion halls; visit the firehouses and the cafes where people stop for breakfast; attend every fish fry and oyster roast and chicken dinner
-- in other words, make yourself known in every corner of VA-07 or VA-01.

I'm certain, however, that none of our candidates can afford to do this, which means we'll face the same problem in 2014:  Crank up a campaign a few months out against a well-known incumbent.

Bottom Up (0.00 / 0)
We work for local candidates, county officials and House of Delegate candidates, in major populated areas in the 7th and 1st. Henrico, Spotsylvania, for example

We get defeated, most of the time. But eventually not all of the time

After a while we improve our record. We start looking at State Senate races. Pushing up the Democratic performance in statewide races.

And eventually we have a chance at a Congressional seat.

[ Parent ]
My question back to you, is why do you only engage at the presidential level? (0.00 / 0)
As freedem pointed out, to make inroads into democratic gains the focus must be year in and year out.  We need volunteers and supporters that don't shut down for four years and wonder why the candidates can't get traction.   Join the local dem committee, organize your neighborhood, become a precinct captain, all of these things establishes an ongoing presents for democrats that gets traction and eventually results.   Remember we carried 7 house seats in 2008 many winning my very slim margins.   That was accomplished through gains year over year from the 2001 redistricting.

[ Parent ]
Six, Actually (4.00 / 1)
In 2008 Democrats carried six House seats, not seven: Glenn Nye (2), Bobby Scott (3), Tom Perriello (5),Jim Moran (8), Rick Boucher (9), Gerry Connolly (11).

The three Democratic seats left - 3, 8, 11 - were gerrymandered to pack them with Democrats. The 6th and 9th are hopeless for now, at least for achieving a win. However, Democrats may be able to make inroads in some of the others. We just have to remember that it will take time and building and growing a local Democratic presence.

The 1st has been Republican since 1978 (Paul Trible), the 5th only since Virgil Goode switched parties in 2000. The 7th has been Republican since 1970,but demographics are changing there. I could go on, but the point is that we will never win those areas until we become better organized on the local committee level and recruit impressive candidates.  

[ Parent ]
The 7th CD....... (0.00 / 0)
is a tough nut to crack.  Most of the demographic changes that are occurring in the Richmond suburbs, specifically Chesterfield and Henrico, have occurred in precincts that are not part of the 7th CD - they are in the 3rd and 4th CD's.  

The biggest problem for a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 7th is the outer suburbs and frankly, these outer suburbs are hostile to Democratic candidates up and down the ballot and will not be competitive for years to come.  

Cantor won the the 7th CD by almost 65,000 votes.  One third of Cantor's margin came from Hanover County.  Cantor carried the Hanover County by 21,000 votes - 39,091 to 18,069, winning 68% to 32%.  Cantor won Hanover County by more votes than Powell received - not good.  And Cantor carried Culpepper, Orange, Goochland, New Kent Counties by margins of 60% to 66% of the vote.  Cantor won Louisa, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield with over 57% of the vote and Henrico County with 54% of the vote.  The only locality won by Powell in the 7th was the City of Richmond, with 50.37% of the vote.  Basically, Powell was crushed in this district - and Powell's lackluster campaign was a contributing factor as well.      

As Elaine pointed out, most Democratic voters are packed into the 3rd, 8th and 11th CD, which was done on purpose by the Republicans during redistricting.  For districts like the 7th, no amount of demographic changes are going to make districts like this competitive because the districts are just so overwhelmingly conservative.

The only way to change this in the future is to start winning seats in the House of Delegates and state senate in order to have a say in redistricting in 2020.  But as a party, we are again squandering opportunities because our party at the top is dysfunctional, and that dysfunction trickles down to the local level - fish really do rot from the head, down.  We have an outgoing chair who did nothing the last two years to recruit candidates for seats in the House of Delegates and State Senate.  And we now have a new party chair, who will be confirmed next month, selected by our proposed nominee for governor, who will not have time to recruit candidates for state legislative seats next fall.  Nor will she have time to build relationships, which is what it will take to recruit candidates, before she herself leaves the post to run for statewide office and the cycle will start all over again with the next chair, leaving the party in the same position it is in right now.  

The state party chair cannot be a member of the legislature.  They do not have the time to devote to building the party on the local level with their activities in the legislature, fund raising, and, for the most part, full time jobs to boot.  In addition, rather than focusing on party building, most of the time their efforts are spent protecting those that are already in elective office or using the position to run for higher office.  

Until the state party has a full time party chair with proven skills at party building, which needs to be their primary focus, and backed up by a competent executive director, a lot of state legislative seats and congressional seats will be out of reach for many of our Democratic nominees.        

[ Parent ]
New DPVA Chair incoming (4.00 / 1)
who may have some ideas about party-building and cultivating talent, so that otherwise good candidates can be helped to raise their profile (and coincidentally that of the Party) during the 2 years between elections in certain districts. What could the Party do along these lines in each District? Draw up a business plan, an A-List and a B-List, and present it to the new DPVA Chair, is my suggestion.

Video: Eric Can'tor continues to lie, disgrace himself, embarrass Virginia (0.00 / 0)

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Commentary on this video (0.00 / 0)
courtesy of Joan McCarter of Daily Kos:
This, of course, despite the fact that the CBO estimates that the law will reduce the deficit already, by $210 billion in the next decade and about $1 trillion over its second decade. Of course, Cantor and Boehner don't believe that analysis. Boehner said it was just CBO's "opinion" and Cantor refused to believe it because "most Americans don't like the health care bill." Solid arguments, there.

The White House has already answered this, saying that Obamacare is entirely off the table. To emphasize the point, an aide to Senate Democratic leadership said the demand is "a total nonstarter. Boehner's office knows that, so even bringing it up is counterproductive."

It's absolutely counterproductive. It also undermines this supposed attempt by Republicans to demonstrate flexibility on increasing revenue. The election didn't change anything as far as Republicans are concerned. They're still going to fight the Affordable Care Act and they're still going to protect millionaires' tax cuts. What has to be different this time is how President Obama and the Senate Democrats deal with them.

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[ Parent ]

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