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.
Curious about who's benefited from Dominion's concern for Virginia's political process, I thought I'd survey the contributions to candidates reported on The Virginia Public Access Project. Intending to provide a roster of recipients, it became clear that it is easier to list General Assembly members who have missed the beneficence.
Members of the Virginia Senate who are not beholden to Dominion:
Members of the Virginia House of Delegates who are not beholden to Dominion:
Sullivan, Richard C. (Rip), Jr. (D-48th)
Rasoul, Sam (D-11th)
Lindsey, Joseph C. (D-90th)
Farrell, Peter F. (R-56th)
Bloxom, Robert S., Jr. (R-100th)
Berg, Mark J. (R-29th)
Adams, Leslie R. (R-16th)
The range of contribution amounts ranges wildly from a quarter thousand to a quarter million dollars and seems directly proportionate to some combination of seniority and influence. The fact that the highest percentage of contributions (but not by far: 54 to 43) goes to Republicans follows that logic but I have not looked at trends over time. The "honor rolls" for both chambers will be presented separately.
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone (R) represents the 99th District in Virginia's House of Delegates.
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone is the daughter of Ronnie and Shirley Bevans, who own Bevans Oyster Company, Kinsale, VA.
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone is an employee of Bevans Oyster Company.
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone sponsored HB 648 that changes the dimension of the containers used by oyster harvesters, reducing the minimum size from 2,800 cubic inches to 2,500 cubic inches - a 10.7% reduction. Because oysters are sold by the container, Bevans Oyster Company now sells 10.7% fewer oysters for the same price as before. Who benefits from this legislation?
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone sponsored HB 1092 , that prohibits localities from exercising eminent domain to condemn privately-leased riparian and general oyster planting grounds that are under lease from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). This means: If a locality wants to build a public pier or other public facility over an oyster lease held by Bevans Oyster Company, they are prohibited from doing so. Who benefits from this legislation?
Delegate Margaret B. Ransone had A. J. Erskine appointed to the VRMC. The VRMC regulates the taking and selling of oysters. Erskine is an employee of Bevans Oyster Company as well as a consultant to Cowart Seafood Company, Lottsburg, VA, a large oyster packer. Who benefits from this appointment? By the way -- a few months ago a driver for Cowart Seafood was arrested in Maryland for transporting under-sized oysters from Maryland to Virginia. Of the 188 bushels of oysters on Cowart Seafood truck, 187 contained undersized oysters.
Is this business as usual, or, is it conflict of interest??
We are no closer to expanding health care coverage in Virginia than we have ever been. Governor McAuliffe blames the tea party but that is too kind to the legislators who do not support expansion. They are either math challenged or corrupt, morally and/or ethically. The tea party provides obfuscation.
"There still is a House of Delegates which remains unmoved and unmoving on this issue." - Reverend John Peterson speaking at an Organizing Virginia vigil for Medicaid expansion just prior to the Senate joining the forces of obstruction
Hospitals and patients in Virginia have to live within the reality of the law whether or not one agrees or disagrees with the Affordable Care Act, explained John Peterson, Chairman of the Board of Augusta Health. So it is in all our best interests to find a solution that makes the law as workable as possible for as many patients and those who serve them as possible. $300 million in annual payments to Virginia hospitals were eliminated under the Affordable Care Act including disproportionate share hospital payments for treating the uninsured and cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates. Those Medicare reductions were to be offset by Medicaid expansion in the states.
Peterson outlined the effects of failing to expand Medicaid. Augusta Health provided some $25 million in uncompensated care last year and an additional $5 million in community benefits related to care.
On the fifth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Incumbents who are so safe in their seats they don't remember the last time they had to actually campaign. Could they even fundraise if they tried? Do they know anything about targeting, polling, and tools like Votebuilder or Catalyst?
In 2013, 41 incumbent Delegates were not even challenged by another candidate, either by the other major party or by a minor party candidate. One more was able to win their first election without any challenge at all, walking right into office. That may seem sad, but it's an improvement over 2011, when 59 incumbents were unchallenged in their newly drawn districts. That's similar to elections in 2003, 2005, and 2007, where over 60 delegates on average, almost two-thirds of the chamber, were unchallenged. In the ten years from 2003 to 2013, well over half of all delegate races were unchallenged.
This is the fourth part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Day one focused on challenges facing Virginia Democrats in competitive districts, day two focused on problems with turnout. On day three, we were visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past to teach us the lessons of past campaign mistakes. Thank you for reading, please make sure you vote on the poll at the end!
On the fourth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...A Republican gerrymandering that has silenced Democratic voters downstate at the House of Delegates!
Wait, another post on gerrymandering? Lame!
Hold on, hear me out, this is about an aspect of Republican gerrymandering that has gone more unnoticed. As we know from day one, the Republican gerrymander isn't the only problem facing Virginia Democrats in the House of Delegates. But the gerrymandering's impact has negatively influenced Democratic recruits for higher office outside of Northern Virginia.
This is the third part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Day one focused on challenges facing Virginia Democrats in competitive districts, Day two focused on problems with turnout. Thank you for reading, make sure you vote on the poll at the end!
On the third day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...FLASH!
Hark! I am the Ghost of Christmas Past! I represent poor choices, mistakes, and questionable judgment. Let us travel first to 2009, the year in which eight Democratic incumbents were defeated during a landslide Republican election. Listen to my warnings!
In 2009, the Democratic Caucus spent almost $100,000 assisting Democrat Carole Pratt's campaign in the 6th District, an overwhelmingly Republican district where Bush had won over 60% of the vote in 2004 and where Anne Crockett-Stark had knocked off Democrat Benny Keister in 2005. In 2008, Obama managed just under 38% of the vote, 1% ahead of Kerry's 2004 performance. Yet the House Democratic Caucus led by Matt Mansell decided to prioritize this race where his mother was running ...
The result? Pratt received less than 35% of the vote. And elsewhere, incumbent Democrats dropped left and right, for a total of eight defeated incumbents, including some by the narrowest of margins: Mathieson by 14 votes, Valentine by 209, Nichols by 269, and Vanderhye by 422.
(This is the second part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Check out day one. Please join in by commenting below your thoughts on some of the topics raised in the diary, and please vote in the poll at the end on which rematch you'd like to see in 2015!)
On the second day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A system of odd-year elections, shared mainly by Southern outliers and hotbeds of two-party democracy (hah!) like Mississippi and Louisiana that depresses voter turnout from high profile elections in even-years.
In 1948, the great American political scientist V.O. Key wrote that Virginia was a "political museum piece . . . more akin to England about the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 than to any other American state."
Don't forget to take the poll at the end on your least favorite part of the Republican gerrymander!
On the first day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates that is the excuse for everything that goes wrong?
It may seem as exciting as a lump of coal, but the Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates gets a lot of attention from thankful Virginia Democrats. Why? Because these district lines have become the perfect excuse for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad performance of House Democrats in 2013.
Manage to pick up only one seat, on net, in the House of Delegates? No worries, blame the Republican gerrymander!
A total of 14 Barack Obama-won delegate districts still held by Republicans, and 16 won by Tim Kaine? Mumble mumble, gerrymandering ...
Terry McAuliffe won 11 delegate districts held by Republican Delegates, and Mark Herring still won 9, but .. Look over there, it's a gerrymander! Run for your lives!
Wow! Talk about a total collapse; Virginia Republicans should start transferring money to local dog catcher races to try to hold onto power after next week's election. The latest Washington Post poll shows a blue tsunami coming down on the GOP. I've stopped worrying if Herring will win, he should, and have started asking just how high this tidal wave will go.
In 2005, Senator Creigh Deeds lost the race for Attorney General to then Delegate Bob McDonnell by just over 300 votes. It set McDonnell up for his run for Governor four years later, forcing Bill Bolling to step aside. Just minor changes to the outcome on election day in 2005 would have almost certainly produced a Deeds vs. Bolling match-up in 2009. Deeds may well have lost, but who knows how things would have developed for Virginia ...
Furthermore, if Obenshain wins, he'll have four years building a record to run on in 2017. Cuccinelli lost the race for Governor by being too extreme during his time in the AG's office, waging a war against science at the University of Virginia and prioritizing defending bans on sex in court. We can hope that Obenshain is that stupid, but we should fear him finding un-offensive issues like human trafficking, drugs, and defending the elderly that hide his conservatism from the public eye in 2017.
Without Obenshain, the Republicans will be in disarray in 2017, as the growing discontent expressed from Republicans like Bill Bolling and Tom Davis will be aired out in the open by more members during any nomination fight. The party could do some soul searching and come up with a moderate nominee in 2017, but more likely an effort to run a moderate will result in a bloody, brutal primary (or convention).
We need Mark Herring to win. How could that happen?
All eyes on Virginia. Governor Howard Dean and Purple to Blue 86th District House of Delegates candidate Jennifer Boysko will be featured on a special call Monday to talk about the shutdown crisis and how we can make it a game changer up and down the ballot, starting in Virginia.
"Republicans in Virginia are cut from the same cloth as the folks who just held our country hostage, and they're governing the same way, too. They've slashed education funding, essentially outlawed abortion, passed strict voter ID legislation and blocked efforts to control deadly weapons."
You will be able to join the call using a computer with working internet or, if a computer isn't available, by calling in with your phone. Register online to receive instructions for participating tomorrow at 8:30PM. Note that the registration page indicates "EST." I have written DFA asking for clarification. (Update: The E-mail notification uses "ET" rather than "EST," so local time)
I was planning on turning to the Attorney General's race next, but for a number of reasons I'm going to look at the House of Delegates first.
In 2001, Democrats broke back into the Governor's Mansion in Richmond after eight years with Mark Warner trouncing Mark Earley. Along the way, Warner helped Richmond Mayor Tim Kaine win as Lt. Governor, but he couldn't get Donald McEachin over the finish line against Jerry Kilgore. More importantly, the Warner-Kaine victory came despite a Republican landslide at the House of Delegates level, mainly due to the new Republican gerrymandering. As Democrats look to sweep at least the top two spots in Virginia on November 5, how are their chances in the House of Delegates looking?
Under the new Republican-drawn lines, Obama won only 45 House of Delegates districts, despite his statewide victory. Tim Kaine won an additional six and was close in several more. Although McAuliffe could poll as high as 52%, the internal polling indicates that there will be some variance compared to Obama's similar statewide victory in 2012. Let's look at this regionally.
We're counting down the days until the Election in Virginia and there's growing evidence that Democrats are sweeping the top two statewide slots. Republicans are shifting resources to give Obenshain a fighting chance at the Attorney General's race; the Republican State Leadership Committee has given Obenshain $500,000 in hopes he can salvage the GOP ticket and protect down-ballot Republicans.
In the House of Delegates, Democrats have released three internal polls showing our candidates well positioned to make gains. But there are also signs that the wave on election day may crash upon hostile shores down-ballot. All that, and MORE, to be discussed in this, the first of a multi-party diary analyzing what we know so far about the Virginia election.
First, the good news for Virginia Democrats. Terry McAullife's position in the latest NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll shows him expanding his lead against Ken Cuccinelli, up 46% to 38%, with Libertarian candidate Sarvis receiving 9% of the vote. That's up 3 percentage points from the pre-shutdown Marist poll.
It's only one poll of many, but it can't be good for the Virginia GOP that both McAullife and Sarvis are gaining in the polls while Cuccinelli is flat. The only "good news" in the last few weeks for Republicans may have been their ability to exclude Sarvis from the debates, limiting his exposure, but he's still polling in the high single digits.
Without Sarvis, the Marist poll has McAullife up 52% to 43%. That 52% may be a good approximation of McAullife's ceiling in these closing days of the campaign.
George Allen loved sports metaphors. Now that he's history, I'm taking them back.
Imagine, if you will, that you're Frank Beamer, legendary coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies and Hillsville, VA native. Say that you just had a disappointing season (like, say, last season). You're Frank Beamer. You're not going to let it happen again. To make matters worse, you know you'll have an empty roster due to graduations, transfers, underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft, etc. Through some horrible stroke of misfortune, you now see that you're going to only have 20 players (unbelievable, but stay with me here)! You can't even take the field with a full offense or defense (never mind any players that may want to play both ways, it's not feasible today). You MUST go out and recruit in advance of this potentially disastrous situation.
So what would you call a college football program that doesn't even bother to recruit enough players to not only fill the roster, but even start the game?
You would call them a team not playing to win. In other words, losers.
So what do you call a political party that needs 51 seats (in the Virginia House of Delegates) to pass anything in its agenda that only runs 43 candidates?
As of today, we have 43 Democratic House of Delegates candidates either currently in office and not saying they will retire or challenging current Republicans. I applaud the 12 brave Democrats who have stepped up to challenge sitting Republicans, some of whom are challenging entrenched incumbents with multiple terms of experience in very red districts. At least 5 are running in districts President Obama won in 2012.
Please don't view the new House of Delegates-passed bill for Virginia to study creating its own currency as a sign that this state is governed by ignorant, wacko, redneck, conspiracy-theory driven morons who just crawled out of some godforsaken Hillbilly Hell.
No -- view it as an opportunity. Because what could be more fun than designing your own money?
In the spirit -- as always -- of aiming to assist our Republican overlords, I am initiating this brainstorming session on what our new Commonwealth Cash should look like. Come on and add your own ideas. The only rule is that this currency must be limited to right-wing figures and themes, since Democrats of course lack the wisdom and foresight to protect us from UN conspiracies and stuff. So, here goes:
- The Ken Cuccinelli $397 bill: Because round numbers are a liberal conspiracy. The front of the bill would depict His Cucciness on a throne holding a scepter while scientists around him are being whipped and beaten. The back would depict the goddess Virtus -- whose left breast Cuccinelli ordered covered up as one of his first acts as Attorney General. This time, she'd be wearing a chador.
- The Bob McDonnell's hair $100: Have we ever had a governor with such newscaster-worthy hair? The front of the bill would pay tribute to Gov. Bob's hair. The back would be devoted to depicting all of the governor's accomplishments during his term. It would be blank.
- The Transvaginal Probe $50: The wondrous wand that keeps women pure by penetrating them surely deserves its own bill! Perhaps women could even use this bill when paying for this medically unnecessary procedure. The back would show a proudly barefoot, pregnant Virginia woman cooking food for her husband while holding two wailing infants.
In the latest attempt to push right-wing legislation through the General Assembly, the House of Delegates passed a bill this morning that would establish a panel to research the possibility of Virginia creating its own currency. The bill, which basically passed along party lines, authorizes almost $18,000 to be spent on establishing a 10 person panel that would "study the feasibility of a metallic-based monetary unit."
In other words, it would require the state to spend financial resources on studying whether or not we want to return to the gold standard. On top of that, it would require state employees to spend countless hours on the project -- time that staff members simply don't have due to all the cuts Republicans have made to the public workforce.
Since the ultimate goal of the measure is something that's only supported by the extreme right flank of the GOP, it shouldn't be too surprising that the measure was sponsored by Bob Marshall -- a delegate from Prince William County who has earned the reputation of being extremely conservative and more than a little odd. Marshall has tried to pass similar legislation since 2008 and has tried to use it as a way to discuss his opposition to the Federal Reserve and the policies it promoted during the economic recovery process.
While many of his fellow Republicans might have joined in his opposition to a large centralized governmental agency like the Federal Reserve, he had a difficult time getting any support for the measure before this year. Governor Bob McDonnell, for instance, has publicly said that he doesn't think Virginia should print its own money. And the idea was once considered such an absurdity that a lobbyist handed out fake coins at a dinner in February of 2011 for the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association that read "In Bob We Trust."
The measure will probably have a hard time surviving both the Senate and McDonnell's veto pen, but it does force you to look at how conservative the House Republican caucus has become recently. I mean, the legislation has gone from being considered an absurdity being promoted by a lone ultra-conservative member to making it's way through the House.
The announcement that the long-serving Virginia Beach Delegate Bob Tata will not be running for reelection in 2013 should not come as a surprise to political junkies. I had been predicting a likely retirement back in January of this year and encouraged Democrats to consider the district as a "must contest" in 2013 when the seat became open for the first time in almost three decades. While the 2012 election should rightly keep our primary attention for now, Tata's announced retirement should serve as a reminder to Virginia Democrats that 2013 is just around the corner.
After the destructive elections of 2011 and 2009, Virginia House Democrats have good reasons to feel cynical about future prospects. The new Republican-drawn lines stack the deck against them and it will arguably take several cycles for population growth and demographic shifts to tilt the playing field back toward even. But a look back to the 2000s shows the Democrats that all was not right with the world before 2009 and the partisan redistricting that followed. The deck may be stacked against Democrats, but we're making the job easier for the Republicans.
Over the last decade, Virginia Democrats made steady gains in the House of Delegates, before wipe outs in 2009 and 2011. A look back reveals that most of these gains were from special elections and winning open seats. Knocking off an entrenched incumbent was a rare occasion.
It truly astounds me that a district formerly represented by sane, reasonable people like Vincent Callahan (Moderate R) and Margi Vanderhye (D) is now (mis)represented by a Karl Rove favorite who's been described as "almost unhinged [in her passion to bring down the Clintons]" and as "a kind of one-woman wrecking crew targeting Democratic leaders." This year, 34th district voters have an excellent chance to boot right-wing hack Barbara Comstock (learn more about her at Comstock Votes) from office and replace her with someone far better - Pam Danner. Let's hope they do so, and that the "one-woman wrecking crew" isn't allowed to do any more damage to Fairfax, to Virginia, and to the nation.
In recent days, a couple of northern Virginia Democrats kicked off their campaigns. First, Mike Kondratick held his kickoff for the 87th district (around Dulles Airport) this past Sunday at Bonefish Grill in Ashburn. Click here for a Flickr photo set from that event, and also see the photo above, with Kondratick and Sen. Mark Herring. Who is Mike Kondratick exactly? Click here to "meet Mike" and click here to learn about his concept of "Inventing Our Future Through a Partnership for Progress."
The crisis of leadership we face is a crisis of creativity. Our representatives in Richmond are content to recycle old solutions rather than inventing new ones. They can't begin to solve our problems because they have refused to look at them from a different perspective. I've built my campaign to provide this new perspective.
Rather than simply looking at what services to cut, what taxes to increase, or how much money we can borrow I want to build a government that looks first at how to innovate its way past these same, tired decisions. I want a government that can help invent our future rather than one that is held captive by a lack of imagination.
Good luck to Mike Kondratick, we hope to hear good things from you in coming months! :)
Second, see the "flip" for the campaign kickoff announcement by Jack Dobbyn, who is running against the abysmal Del. Dave "Abuser Fees" Albo in order to "deliver real leadership for Southern Fairfax County." I sure hope he succeeds, because truly, as a formerly great blog that exists no longer used to say, "Albo Must Go!" :)
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