As the night of November 4th wore on, it became clear that your political future lay firmly in the hands of Northern Virginia Democrats. Had the progressive counties of NoVa not loyally stood with you, you would now be out of a job.
This reality may conflict with your self-image as a "radical centrist" who likes to show your "independence" by poking your fingers in our eyes. Perhaps you're still fondly re-reading the yellowing news clips of your 2001 campaign, of its NASCAR races and turkey hunts.
But politically speaking, that was ages ago. The architect of that campaign, Mudcat Saunders, defected last year to endorse the ultra-right-wing Ken Cuccinelli. And last week, the NASCAR crowd jettisoned you like so much spare fuel.
They're not coming back, Senator. For better or for worse, there is no center remaining in American politics today. There are only two sides between which every politician must choose.
The results of last week's election mean that you're stuck with us extremist, wild-eyed liberals, Senator. You can no longer postpone paying attention to your base.
You need us - but the truth is that we need you too. We need you to stand up for our values and defend us from all the threats that the new Republican Senate majority represents for our country and our world.
So let's start with the reality that the scientific community is shouting at us to focus on.
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.
(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.
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.
Student debt is currently about $1.2 trillion. Even more staggering is that, according to Brookings Institution figures, the amount increased by 20% in just the past 2 years. And though Brookings' research plays down the consequences, the analysis is flawed. Warner has recognized what could become a significant crisis.
There were stories about student debt on the Wall Street Journal This Morning today and in the Journal's newspaper yesterday mentioning initiatives by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others. Unfortunately and maybe intentionally, our Senator's initiatives went unheralded.
During a swing through Virginia last month, Senator Warner stopped at a number of campuses to discuss his concerns. The commercial media has not given Warner's ideas the attention they deserve and his opponent hasn't been challenged on the issues.
Studies like the one done at Brookings that downplay the impact of student loan debt rely on data from 2010 and before; not recent enough to capture the changes to the economic landscape precipitating from the financial crisis. They also fail to account for the debt generated from loans that paid for "educations" from predatory for-profit colleges and universities and the waste of veterans benefits squandered at those same institutions.
Plus there is an intangible factor bearing on the psyche of graduates that the Senator lays out after explaining that his own first two ventures in entrepreneurship and capitalism ended in failure and financial loss:
"The point of the story is: if I had come out with, the way many students are now, with forty, fifty, sixty, seventy thousand dollars' worth of debt, I'm not sure I would have had the courage or ability to try to take those multiple chances."
College debt may be an obstacle to the kind of freedom necessary for the creativity and invention that made America the leader in innovation. Warner offers a number of ideas to mitigate the challenge that student loan debt presents.
Though intended to serve at least two purposes, the $450 million spent on anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) ads have failed their purpose(s) and may have unintentionally informed the uninsured that they have a path to healthcare coverage. The other intent, to support Republican candidates by inference, may also backfire.
The correlation of negative ad spending to enrollment is not direct and is affected by demographics, but research prepared by Brookings Institution fellow Niam Yaraghi provides some very interesting data. The chart for the television markets that encompass Virginia shows raw spending data from 2013 (national TV market map and data). This is not per capita data, so cannot be used for an accurate correlation, but it is informative. And Yaraghi does point out that the market where the highest per capita spending occurred, Washington, D.C., had the highest Obamacare enrollment rate, 11%.
In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future. People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.
What is also clear from the spending data is that this advertising is aimed at assisting Republicans in states with the most competitive mid-term Senate races: Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. The aim is probably as much voter suppression as it is support for the Republican candidates. In Virginia, these ads may influence the outcome of two Congressional races (7th and 10th) more than the U.S. Senate race not only because Senator Warner has a nuanced position on the ACA but also because his opponent is a cold fish.
In the first of a three part series that began airing last night and continues tonight and tomorrow, a former JMU student tells her story of assault at the hands of three other JMU students while on Spring break in Florida. These were men that she considered her friends and whose video of the assault filtered through the internet before she was fully aware of what happened.
"I'm clearly like not really able to defend myself or fight them off," said Butters, "We were in an enclosed bathroom. It was three of them surrounding me and none of them thought they were doing anything wrong."
But the Administration was slow to act. The event occurred in March 2013 and was reported but the case did not seem to gain any attention until last fall. By the time the three members of the JMU Sigma Chi fraternity were admonished, they had earned their degrees and were allowed to graduate.
Their punishment: expelled upon graduation; not allowed to walk at graduation or allowed back on campus ... but graduated nonetheless.
This ball is not in Senator Warner's court now. This hot potato is Governor McAuliffe's. It is time for him to expel some of the administrators at JMU.
Senator Mark Warner is daddy to three young women. That was clear during Friday's town hall portion of a campaign stop. Responding to a question he could not have anticipated, he answered from the heart: no clichés; no mantras; no sophomoric solutions. None apply. He's had reason to "get it."
The woman who asked the question does not attend college in Virginia but Anna is a Virginian. She asked the question in a city that is home to a large university with a lively social scene; it wasn't directed at James Madison University. It is not about her school (Ferrum College) either. (She told me that the administration at Ferrum supports women's safety.) However, it follows the events in Isla Vista that are a clarion call for a very long moment of cultural introspection. In one horrible manifestation of misogyny, the crisis in mental health care, and the propensity to violence, Elliot Rodger painted an alarming abstract with all these elements that demands our attention.
Other symptoms of these cultural cancers are renown. Senator Warner is absolutely correct that there is no law that will prevent the tragedies; particularly those that are shrouded in shame; never reported. Those cannot even be punished; in practical terms the only remedy a law provides. We must break the cycle of misogynistic abuse through an honest assessment of our culture and ourselves; all of us: men and women, girls and boys, everyone in between. Shame is a curtain of steel and despite the source of our mores, secular, religious, or otherwise, it must be pulled aside to allow sunlight to shine on relations between women and men. All the ugly must be visited even if we desperately want to pretend it doesn't exist.
This reminds me of my own reticence to speak out about the clumsy and ineffective protestations in Congress over the treatment of women in the armed forces. My own angry immediate reaction to each report would do nothing to further the debate over how this problem should be addressed. And human relations are complicated enough without taking out a brush to paint them over with unenforceable pandering. That is what Congress gave us. There is the real shame! No, Senator Warner is exactly where he should be on the issue Anna raised and I suspect on the cultural problems that manifest in the military. I sincerely hope she follows up and that the Senator uses this as a door to help provide a glimmer of cultural leadership.
It will be interesting to see if the presumptive Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate crosses swords with Virginia's senior Senator over Warner's campaign themes. It is hard to disagree with Warner's concern for student loan debt, the federal deficit, or that Congress is too polarized to compromise.
Those were the essence of his three campaign themes as Mark Warner headed out on a six day sweep across Virginia that began last Friday. Born in a middle class family, educated in public schools, and the first person in his family to graduate from college, Warner is the epitome of the American dream. It was not a direct line to success for him; his first and second businesses failed.
"In America, everybody ought to get a fair shot. It doesn't mean we can guarantee you success. But it does mean that everybody ought to get a fair shot."
Warner wonders if our children and grandchildren will have the same fair shot he had at success. If working hard doesn't mean you can make it, then it will become a very different America. Specifically he wonders if he would have had the courage to fail had he come out of college with the crushing student debt people face when they graduate today.
"Prediction here. Next financial crisis: student debt. $1.1 trillion in student debt. More student debt than there is credit card debt."
For every major piece of legislation he works on, Warner seeks out a Republican partner. One such is with Senator Marco Rubio (FL): "Know before you go." He proposes metrics that will allow potential students (and parents) to measure the value of the education they are seeking so they may be informed consumers. He also believes that debtors ought to be able to refinance student loans to take advantage of fluctuations in interest rates.
Any member of Congress who displays shock at the condition of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a liar or a fool. Every member of Congress receives enough constituent complaints about the Department to raise an alarm. That a member did not take enough interest in those complaints justifies their indictment.
Friday at a campaign event in Harrisonburg, Virginia's senior United States Senator fielded a question about changing the delivery of service. It was absolutely clear that Senator Warner has had his hands in this, working to help improve the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is the operative phrase: "working to help improve." He began taking action long before this current flare-up and discussed specifics.
The son of a former Marine who fought on Iwo Jima, Warner's response, clearly unrehearsed and from the heart, demonstrated his sincere, well-considered interest in and grasp of the situation. Veterans at the event who rely upon the VA for care gave testament that he has delivered for them on these issues and earned their determined support.
This year's version of the annual event just outside of Wakefield accomplished little. Though there was a hint of the lunacy usually present at Shad Planking; what there wasn't was much of a crowd nor interest. The biggest symbol of the times was the state-maintained road to the event.
There really wasn't much in the way of genuine politics going on. It was more of an alumni meeting than a political rally; more of a gathering of cronies practicing the Virginia Way interrupted a couple of times by a couple of hecklers. It seems that the last few seasons of rowdies have driven away the attendees who used to come show some civil revelry on behalf of their candidates. And now, with no one in any race to rally around, the most demonstrative types stayed home; and that would leave a big hole in what had become this Ruritan charity event attendance.
Additionally the candidates themselves, apparently led by the Republicans, declared a tacit truce on the sign war; they realized surrender was the better part of valor in that battle. There were a few signs along the road, but not the plastering to which we've become accustomed; maybe a dozen on 460 coming in from Richmond.
And then there was that road. We've discussed here the slow strangling that the McDonnell administration orchestrated during his four years in office in the name of balancing the budget. Well, now it is manifest here. What has been a well-maintained macadam rural route has deteriorated. In fact, the last half mile or more to the event parking area entrance and everything beyond is now feathered with gravel to cover the potholes. It really is symbolic of the treatment of Virginia's infrastructure, from schools and social programs to health care and public safety; not to mention the fraud perpetrated on the Virginia Retirement System when McDonnell announced that the unfunded obligations had been resolved.
There is more to discuss about what was less and that will come in a subsequent post. But if this level of enthusiasm is any indication of the turnout for this fall's election, the margin will come down to the grassroots get-out-the-vote effort. Problem is, for both sides, yesterday showed the grassroots really haven't been fertilized.
The shad are running and Virginia politicians will swim with them today. Last year Democratic candidates gave the Wakefield Ruritan event a cold shoulder. The event's organizers made an insincere attempt to dampen the tea party spirit, discouraging stars and bars. This is a charity event, they cried, after all.
This year Virginia's senior Senator Mark Warner will deliver the keynote and his almost certain Republican opponent will make one of his rare public appearances. It will be informative seeing if Team Warner laid the groundwork for a more civil and less homogeneous atmosphere than this annual carnival for reactionaries nourishes. Earlier this year, they stumbled out of the block when, despite refusing to commit to Democratic events closer in than 60 days, they accepted the Shad Planking appearance well in advance. Maybe, tied to an old playbook, they failed to notice that last year's Democratic statewide success demonstrated the irrelevance of the event. One would hope that the acceptance came with some assurance that the event would be more civil, sane, and inclusive.
The impact of the "traditional" sign war has diminished considerably since the Kaine and Webb surprises during the past decade. When this became a war of paid "volunteers" it was no longer a genuine indicator of anything more than a campaign bankroll. And if the intent is to make this event relevant, where is the outreach from the Ruritan Club or encouragement from more progressive constituents to draw in displays and support from the Democratic Party, the NAACP, or the LGBT community?
So what will today provide? Boney fish, cold beer, and the themes that Senator Warner will employ to shore up and broaden his own constituency, an impressive coalition of common interests. This could also provide the national bellwether for the Democratic strategy that will be used to counter this year's onslaught by Republican reactionaries against the Affordable Care Act. There couldn't be a more promising petri dish.
Sam Rasoul's campaign for the 11th District House of Delegates special election in January 7 got an important endorsement today. According to a press release from the campaign, Sen. Mark Warner said, "I am proud to endorse Sam Rasoul for the House of Delegates 11th District. I worked with Sam in 2008 and was impressed with his work ethic and business background. His experience in finding consensus with people from various backgrounds will make him a valuable asset in Richmond, representing the citizens of Roanoke. Vote Sam Rasoul on January 7."
Kimble Reynolds, who briefly sought an independent run for the 11th, withdrew his candidacy after speaking with Sam Rasoul about his views on education. "I was uncertain as to whether or not there was a candidate that would be that strong advocate for education," Reynolds said in a news release. "...After learning more about Sam Rasoul and speaking with him about the sincerity of his commitment to education, I believe Roanoke has that strong candidate.
Rasoul has stated that one major issue he will stress in the campaign is bridging the gap between public schools and the skill needs of the business community. "As Delegate, I want to do more to empower our educators to be able to implement programs that provide job-ready skills upon graduation. This way our businesses can hire local students who are ready to start their career after high school or community college," Rasoul said.
Now, the key to keeping this district as the only Democratic House seat in SW Virginia is to get our voters to turn out for a special election in the dead of winter. From the activity I have seen so far by Sam Rasoul, that looks better and better.
In the first edition of tales from a sore loser, Virginia Attorney General and loser of November 5th's race for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, suggested that Sen. Mark Warner will be vulnerable during the 2014 election because of the perceived flaws of the healthcare reform legislation. In other words, Cuccinelli could be positioning himself for a senatorial run against Mark Warner in 2014.
According to Cuccinelli, "There is no such thing as an unendangered Democrat who promised, as Mark Warner did, on video, sitting in his Senate office, 'I would not vote for a health-care plan that doesn't let you keep health insurance you like.' " On the other hand, there is no such thing as an unendangered Republican who compares abortion to slavery.
Unfortunately, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Fortunately for Virginia, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Terry McAuliffe.
What a wonderful thing to bolster our pride in this state, after all the depressing news we've had to bear about scandals and reactionary politics. And what a fitting tribute to the Commonwealth that once hosted the great intellects behind the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution - Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison.
Scientific and technological breakthroughs don't happen by accident, they occur because of leadership -- academic, industrial and political. As one article from 2010 noted:
Virginia has put some effort into supporting a commercial space sector, anchored by NASA Wallops. In 2004, governors Bob Erlich of Maryland and Mark Warner of Virginia created the MARS partnership. And in recent years the General Assembly passed two laws to make the state more friendly to space transportation companies. The 2007 Virginia Space Liability and Immunity Act gives companies some legal shelter in the event of a mishap, and the Zero G Tax Act of 2008 provides an exemption to companies doing business in the state with plans to launch from MARS or to do spaceflight training.
Yes, tech-savvy political leaders like Mark Warner make the difference between a state that moves forward into the 21st century, and one that falls backwards into irrelevance and decay. Which brings us to the current race for governor.
I have sat on this post for several days. But this information must be shared, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. We learned in 2007-8 what lax oversight means to this country. If we hoped for any lasting future protections from predatory practices, they were dashed this past week with news of the following Editorial Board editorial from the New York Times. Here we learn that the independence of critical protections are at stake.
For all its rabid partisanship, Congress has shown time and again that it is willing to come together to deregulate corporate America. The latest example is a new bill in the Senate that would effectively end the independence of independent regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
And you know the hijacked (by the Tea Party) House of Representatives will be eager to pass such predation should it pass the Senate. It is bad enough that Dodd-Frank under-protected us, but for Senators to try to weaken even that bill is inexcusable. Making the commissions and Bureaus less independent will do just that. And the SEC isn't the only entity the senators have taken aim at. Strikingly, Virginians have one of their our own to "thank" for this: US Senator Mark Warner. He is joined by Rob Portman and Susan Collins.
(See below for who to contact for help on that matter.)
I won't be diplomatic about Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe's change of face regarding offshore oil drilling. In an about face that dovetailed both U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Mark Warner's (Virginia) bill to overturn the federal hold on offshore drilling in coastal waters, McAuliffe expressed support for offshore drilling for oil.
Previously, McAuliffe expressed his support for exploratory drilling for natural gas, not oil. With his Democratic pals pushing to throw more oil and natural gas rigs into America's coastal waters, McAuliffe has adjudged that the political winds are ripe for a political change of face and a stab in the back to environmentally conscious Virginians who so ardently backed his candidacy.
"Terry believes we need to support coal workers, both through increased exports throughout the world, and workforce training to ensure that displaced workers can find new careers," McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said. "The fact is, we need an all of the above energy policy that focuses on increasing renewable energy like wind and solar while supporting existing Virginia industries."
Support coal workers, WTF?! I have a bitter pill I'd like the coal industry and its employees to swallow: your time is up, so get over it and find jobs elsewhere.
We elect politicians to make decisions. When they refuse to take a stand, it's our job to hold them accountable.
Yet somehow that rule seems to have a huge loophole when it comes to energy. Because the one thing politicians across the spectrum seem to agree on is the need for an "all of the above" energy policy. And we allow them to get away with this cop-out.
"All of the above" is not a policy, it is the absence of a policy. Have you ever heard of an "all of the above" foreign policy? Maybe an "all of the above" economic policy? How about an "all of the above" policy on abortion? Such things sound absurd because they are.
Granted, politics and government often leave us with policies that incorporate opposing positions, once we've ground through the process of give-and-take. But rarely does anyone start with an "all of the above" position. It's where you may end up after you've tried to protect your ground while giving away as little of your positions, and your soul, as you can. If you start with "all of the above" as your position, you're pretty much guaranteed to get nothing.
Remember that famous quote from Martin Luther King? "I have a dream...of an 'all of the above' civil rights policy where we simultaneously protect and deny the rights of all Americans." Me neither.
In an effort to put more holes in Virginia soil to extract materials millions of years old, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are renewing their attempts to lift the federal hold on oil and gas drilling in Virginia's coastal waters.
But wait, here comes the political cover! According to The Virginian-Pilot, Warner and Kaine each "vowed" they wouldn't continue their attempts to lift the federal moratorium on oil and gas drilling unless the Commonwealth received a sizable share of the of the oil and gas revenue that would accrue in the future. Under current law, all such profits would go into federal coffers. How this provision came into effect is also a legislative oddity.
For Virginians who are more concerned about the environment than extracting a finite resource that Virginia and the rest of the country could do without, this renewed push by Senators Warner and Kaine come as another disappointing political move by two supposedly "blue" politicians.
(Mark Warner richly deserves this not just because of his egregious votes yesterday, but for his constant bashing of progressives, for his support of mountaintop removal coal mining and the Keystone XL pipeline, etc. Also note, I added the photo, courtesy of DonkeyHotey's Flickr stream. - promoted by lowkell)
Mark Warner voted against the assault weapons ban. Mark Warner voted against limiting the size of magazines. Mark Warner is the most popular political figure in Virginia, and could have voted for both measures without in any way jeopardizing his reelection in 2014
Mark Warner is from a state that saw the slaughter at Virginia Tech. Cho used both ten and fifteen round magazines for his two handguns. Think how much damage he did. Think how much more he might have been able to do had he had 30 round magazines and had to change less frequently.
I have been involved in Democratic politics in Virginia including at a statewide level. Mark Warner is considered the 800 pound gorilla of Virginia Democratic politics. In a sense my taking this stand may make me toxic in Virginia politics.
I don't care.
It does not matter that neither of these amendments were going to pass. I rely on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
It matters not to me whether Mark Warner believes the baloney of the gun lobby or merely lacks the guts to stand up for what is right. What is right is to stop the slaughter.
If you are unwilling to step up to that, I am unwilling to offer you my support, my money or my vote.
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