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Top 10 Virginia Political Stories of 2010

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I asked a bunch of Virginia Democrats what they thought the Top 10 Virginia political stories of 2010 were. I also performed a sophisticated mathematical analysis of Lexis-Nexis hits and…yeah right, forget that! Instead, I racked my blog-addled brain trying to think of anything remotely interesting that happened in Virginia politics this past year. Here are the results – the Top 10 Virginia political stories of 2010 – followed by the Virginia Democratic politicos’ own lists on the “flip.” Enjoy, and please list your own “top stories” in the comments section. Thanks.

1. The Rise of Ken Cuccinelli: Not even close — the rapid rise of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as a major, Virginia and national GOP political player was definitely Virginia’s #1 political story of 2010. As one Virginia Democrat put it, “He, not McDonnell, is the politico folks identify Virginia with and he’s planning on running again- we just don’t know for what.”  Not that this is a good thing overall, certainly not for Virginia, but it does gives Virginia Democrats an opportunity to take the offensive against Republican radicalism and overreach. We’ll see if they take advantage of it under their new “management.”

2. Cuccinelli Follies: It’s almost endless, from his witchhunt against climate scientist Michael Mann to his crusade against the (originally Republican idea) “individual mandate” (a recent ruling by a Republican-appointed judge with a major conflict of interest notwithstanding) to his attempt to take us back to the pre-Civil War era in terms of “states rights” to laughable stuff like an uncovered “boob” ont he state seal to….As I said, it’s almost endless, and most of it is deeply embarrassing for anyone who cares about Virginia’s reputation as a modern, forward-thinking, tolerant, inclusive southern state in the year 2010.

3. Democrats lose 3 House seats: Say goodbye to Representatives Glenn Nye (D-2nd), Tom Perriello (D-5th), and Rick Boucher (D-9th), all defeated in Virginia in the Republican “shellacking” of 2010 (by Scott Rigell, Robert Hurt, and Morgan Griffith, respectively). Obviously, this sucks. Also, obviously, I’m saddest to see the superb Tom Perriello go. I’m sure Tom will be back, one way or the other; he’s too young and way too talented to keep down for long! As for Glenn Nye, I honestly can’t say I’m sad to see him go, with his votes against clean energy and climate legislation, health care reform, etc., plus his campaign ads against Democratic leadership. With friends like that… As for Rick Boucher, here’s my analysis of why he lost. As an extremely knowledgeable politico in the 9th CD told me, Boucher did exactly what he was told to do by the coal industry, but “the coal industry forgot their part of the quid pro-quo.” More broadly, Boucher was overconfident, and in the end was one of those candidates/campamigns who “operate in a vacuum far too often, and make decisions based on prior experiences and not current conditions.”

4. Bob McDonnell follies: Even before Bob McDonnell (aka, “Pat Robertson’s Manchurian Candidate”) was sworn in as governor, there was a controversy over his selection of Robert Sledd – despite massive conflicts of interest due his serving on the  boards of major corporations – for Secretary of Commerce and Trade. It went downhill from there, as McDonnell “balanced the budget” on the back of the Virginia Retirement System and federal “stimulus” money (which Republicans like McDonnell hypocritically claim to hate); employing the usual funny Republican math in the process. Don’t even ask about ABC Privatization, just grab a stiff drink! McDonnell also declared April as Confederate History Month, then was forced to quickly backtrack after a national uproar. His government “reform” commission, led by corrupt Nixon “Jew counter” Fred Malek, was a debacle, as predicted. His always-mythical plans for offshore oil drilling revenues to finance transportation went glub glub glub. Then, there was McDonnell’s disastrous Confederate History Month proclamation, which he later recovered from to some degree, but…wow, can we say “not ready for prime time?” Also, let’s not forget McDonnell’s triumphal claims of bringing jobs to Virginia via his pals at Northrop Grumman (again via large amounts of corporate welfare), all of which amounted to…yeah, you guessed it, cuts in Virginia jobs, plus a massive computer failure. Yet, despite his lack of success in almost any area, Bob McDonnell is still being talked about – by no loss than Karl Rove –  as a “comer in the future” politically. That says it all about today’s Republican Party, where miserable failure leads to being promoted! Amazing.

5. Gerry Connolly squeaks by in the 11th CD. In part, that’s because Rep. Connolly ran a tough campaign, never taking his opponent for granted. Also, Republican challenger Keith Fimian made some major mistakes, particularly in closing days with his politically disastrous comments about Virginia Tech students “packing heat.” In the end, Connolly eked out a win by fewer than 1,000 votes, but heck, “a win’s a win” right? And next time, in 2012, it should be a lot easier. We’ll see.

6. DPVA elects a new chair. Long-time Democratic Party of Virginia chair Dick Cranwell announced he was stepping down, leading to a race to succeed him between former Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Peter Rousselot and former Delegate – and current lobbyist for the for-profit “education” industry, along with our old pal Harris Miller – Brian Moran. In the end, Moran won easily, making continued ineffectiveness of DPVA for the foreseeable future a likely prediction. Why the “powers that be” pushed Moran is beyond me, but of course, these were the same folks who pushed Harris Miller as a brilliant choice to run against George Allen in 2006, and the same folks who allowed the 2009 Democratic primary to devolve into a nasty, bitter debacle (with the weakest of the three candidates being nominated in the end). Perhaps it’s time for some leadership change, new blood, fresh ideas, etc., or at least a more democratic (small “d”) process by which decisions are made?

7. A couple Democratic bright spots. Despite all the Democrats’ problems this year, there were some bright spots, including continued control of the State Senate (Dave Marsden won a special election to fill Ken Cuccinelli’s vacated State Senate seat in Fairfax County) and a victory by Eileen Filler-Corn in a special election to fill Marsden’s vacated House of Delegates seat. Most importantly, Democrats kept control of the State Senate, meaning they’ll have a voice in post-census redistricting, certain to be one of the Top 10 Virginia Political stories of 2011!

8. ABC Privatization Goes Nowhere: Already mentioned above, in “Bob McDonnell follies,” but this item deserves a mention of its own. All I’d add is a question: what on earth were Bob McDonnell and his team thinking on this one? Did they do any serious work on this idea? Did they make any effort to sell it politically, even within their own party? Did they think it through at all? What the hell? Anyway, the end result was that this thing went nowhere, undoubtedly leaving the McDonnell team with a bad hangover, and leaving Virginia roads as clogged as ever, with no real hope of that situation changing in the near future, given the governor’s complete lack of a transportation plan of any kind. And no, borrowing money we don’t have sure as heck isn’t the answer. Heckuva job, guys!

9. Possible closing of JFCOM. If there was one issue that united Virginia Democratic and Republican politicians, it was the proposed closing of JFCOM – the Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk. Sen. Webb even threatened for a time to block the Senate from considering defense nominations over the issue. Despite all this, it looks more likely than not that JFCOM closure will proceed in 2011, but stay tuned…

10. Virginia Democratic leadership vacuum: If it weren’t for a few Democratic leaders, in particular State Senator Donald McEachin, stepping up to the plate in the aftermath of the November 2009 Virginia Democratic wipeout and making the case for Democrats/against McDonnell-Cooch, where would we be at this point?  Basically, in a complete leadership vacuum, with the DPVA not even having a communications director for most of 2010. It’s inexcusable, as we missed opportunity after opportunity, handed to us on silver platters by Virginia Republicans, to define them on what they really are and what they really stand for. Anyway, thanks to those Democrats who did speak up in 2010; but for the most part, the silence was deafening. So…ln the one hand, often when the leaders try to lead, the outcomes have not been great; on the other hand, when leadership is needed, we often have a vacuum. Why is this true and what can be done about it?

UPDATE: Also, how about #11, the rise of Eric Cantor to House Majority Leader (although his victory on November 2 was not particularly impressive)?  Now, on the White House?  Yeah, I know – the horror, the horror!

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Now, on to the comments by Virginia Democratic politicos I contacted.

Democratic Delegate from eastern Virginia

Navy Veterans Association.

Confederate Month Proclamation.

The fact that the VRS raid was a non-story and is now an issue again.

GOP wave crashing on Virginia shores. (Yes, we are purple).

Oh, yeah and the fact that Ben Tribbett now likes Patrick Hope.

Democrat from Arlington:

1. The rapid rise of Ken Cuccinelli as a VA GOP/national GOP political player.

2. The emergence of Terry McAuliffe as the apparent front-runner for the Dem nomination for Governor in 2013

3. Don McEachin’s stepping up and speaking out against the terrible policies of McDonnell, Cuccinelli, et al., as others, most notably DPVA, sat mutely and helplessly on the sidelines.

4. 2009 Golden Boy Bob McDonnell badly tarnishes image with a series of 2010 gaffes, including Declaration of Confederate History Month and catastrophic flaws in multiple plans to privatize ABC stores

5. 2010 VA Dems continue slide begun in 2009 statewide candidate wipeout by losing 3 Congressional seats and control of VA’s Congressional delegation

Democratic Delegate from NOVA

The federal elections (upset of Boucher, how close Perriello came), ABC liquor store debacle, antics with our AG (which could fill up your top 10 very easily from UVA, health care lawsuit, suit against EPA, discrimination letter, regulation of abortion, etc), DPVA election.

Young, Talented, Up-and-Coming NOVA Democratic Committee Chair

1. Ken Cuccinelli’s rise and Judge Hudson’s decision in his favor. Cuccinelli has placed political liaisons in just about every committee in the state. He, not McDonnell, is the politico folks identify Virginia with and he’s planning on running again- we just don’t know for what. It’s hugely important that the case be made around Virginia that sending a Republican to Richmond in 2011 means supporting Cuccinelli. That’s the message I’m driving home in [my committee] – we don’t live in a vacuum and we have to balance out what Cuccinelli is trying to do.

2. Repeal of DADT. Given that Virginia is home to the largest Naval community in the world, along with the Pentagon, it’s huge. Also, Sen. Webb being a pivotal player in that issue only made it that much more interesting here in VA. This is part of the larger story of Obama’s “comeback” after the midterms.

3. The huge losses Democrats suffered on Nov. 2. We saw some real energy behind Perriello and we all thought, perhaps, that the election would be some type of statement about the type of politics Perriello brings to the table and, say, a Glenn Nye. While Perriello didn’t lose as badly as Nye, they both lost. What was overshadowed in all of this was Boucher’s loss. Losing that seat is huge. The Democratic Party- Warner, Kaine, etc. have worked extremely hard over the years to build a Democratic brand in Southside Virginia. It is going to be really interesting and a challenge to keep and build Democratic support in the most economically depressed area of the state. If Webb runs again, it will be interesting to see how he does there. Another storyline as a result of this election is how critical turnout will be in 2012 and 2013 in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

4. Brian Moran’s election as Chair of DPVA and, as a result, a clear(er) path for Terry M. to win the nomination for governor. Also, while Brian won decisively, both he and Peter had very similar platforms and in 2011 folks will be watching to see what kind of new energy can be put into the DPVA.

Democratic campaign manager/politico

1) Boucher, Perriello and Nye Lose in Wave

2) McDonnell completely fails to achieve anything

3) President Comes to Charlottesville to Help Perriello

4) McAuliffe and Moran Kiss and Make up?

5) Deeds Gets Divorced

6) Obama Administration Stops Offshore Drilling off of Virginia Coasts

7) Cuccinelli and Health Care – suit, scores victory

8) DPVA Continues to be ineffective

9) something about the tea party?

Democratic Chief of Staff

Confederate history month, failure on ABC privatization scheme, Fimian “packing heat,” losing 3 Congressional seats, winning Marsden/Filler Corn specials, health care reform goes into effect, world does not end (we can get you VA-specific facts)

Democratic State Senator from NOVA

1.  Rise of the Cooch.

2.   Defeat of Rick Boucher

3.  Election of Dave Marsden  and Dems hold control of Senate.

Democratic State Senator from NOVA

Special election wins by Marsden and Filler-Corn.

Democratic Delegate from NOVA

Boucher losing

Some of the McDonnell-Cooch follies

*Confederate History Month screw up

*Cooch and the boob cover up

*Cooch chasing the UVA prof

Democratic blogger

I actually think Ken Cuccinelli is the story of the year in Virginia politics, in how aggressively and successfully – from his point of view – he has used the AG’s office to push his political agenda. I’m frustrated and unhappy about what he has done, and think his legal arguments range from ridiculous to mediocre, but I also believe he has  fundamentally changed the potential of the office and the nature of Virginia politics for at least the next few election cycles…

…While Cooch’s actions are clearly aimed at his future political goals (Governor Cuccinelli. President Cuccinelli.), I suspect that the way in which he has operated as AG may make the office a goal in its own right, rather than simply a stepping stone. And to the extent that it may still be a consolation prize for aspiring governors, Cooch will leave it a much more valuable one…

Democratic blogger

Beyond Cooch:

ABC Privatization

Forbes’ conviction for theft from the Tobacco Fund

HRT debacle

Budget balancing by robbing the VRS

McDonnell backtracking on the pension promise

Moran, Brian, one each

Pat Robertson supporting marijuana decriminalization

JFCOM closing

Execution of Teresa Lewis

Democratic Committee Chair from NOVA

Cooch’s Healthcare lawsuit is probably the top one

[Krystal] Ball Pics

Navy PAC Scandal

Election Results

New DPVA Chair and Exec Dir.

VDOT Audit Results

McDonnell’s Failed ABD and transportation proposals

Marshall’s comments from disabled children to gays in military

Stewart’s Rule of Law, immigration comments, and Nazi comment

Former DPVA Chair

Cuccinelli is the top story, I would leave 2nd place blank, to show there was no real news alternative.

3) McD’s ABC follies

4) Boucher losing

5) Cantor becoming major natl player

6) Perriello emerging as iconic figure

  for natl reporters

7) McAuliffe’s emergence as likely 2013 Dem nominee

Top Virginia Democratic political operative

– Republican wave hits VA hard, Republicans win three seats in Congress, including Boucher’s, and Fimian comes closer than expected

– Cantor plays a role in the Republican takeover, co-authors “Young Guns,” increases his influence in the Republican Party, and becomes majority leader

– Governor’s privatization plan of state liquor stores has no Republican support

– Governor’s failure to recognize/mention the horrors of slavery in the first proclamation of Confederate history day in 8 years

– Cuccinelli wins first round in his healthcare law suit

– Cuccinelli becomes a national figure in the tea party movement and becomes the most influenical leader of the VA Republican party

– Fimian runs a stronger then expected race with help of Republican wave

– Allen remakes himself and positions himself for a rematch with Webb

– Younger Republicans don’t step aside easily for an Allen candidacy for senate

– Bolling – who?

– One major theme is how bad and unprepared Bob McDonnell is to be Governor. It’s amazing. Rookie mistakes, signs of poor planning, and a lack of understanding of how to get things done.  On the Cuccinelli front has he done anything to help Virginians.  The answer its all about his political agenda.  

  • “One major theme is how bad and unprepared Bob McDonnell is to be Governor. It’s amazing.  Rookie mistakes, signs of poor planning, and a lack of understanding of how to get things done.”

  • Teddy Goodson

    The rise of Mr. Cuccinelli is correctly identified as the leading story in Virginia politics, but it strikes me that he is also the leading edge, or the poster boy, for the new type of politician coming into prominence across the country.  These politicians combine fervent religious dogma with a vicious political teachnique, and their intention is to force that religious dogma on everyone else, changing the political system as necessary to achieve their objectives. It is a lethal combination in the hands of a cunning practitioner, unhampered by any doubts as to his righteousness. Therefore, while Cuccinelli is a Virginia phenomenon, he has national implications.  

  • Steve Vaughan

    deserves a mention..both for National impact and contribution to other top stories…like the rise of Cuccinelli. Could be a bigger factor in 2011 as it pushes GOP caucus to the right… and they are already at a point where some consider Bob Marshall a serious candidate for the U.S. Senate.