Home Virginia Politics Only 15% of Virginia House of Delegates Seats Being Contested? WTF?!?

Only 15% of Virginia House of Delegates Seats Being Contested? WTF?!?


I usually don’t link to or quote right-wing blogs, but this one by Mason Conservative raises an extremely important issue:

But even I was taken aback when I saw THIS list from VPAP outlining the contested elections in the House of Delegates for 2011.  I was stunned.  Of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates, ONLY FIFTEEN WILL BE CONTESTED BETWEEN A REPUBLICAN AND A DEMOCRAT.  That is an astounding 15% COMPETITION RATE.  Wow.  

For the record, here are the districts:  9, 10, 13, 19, 20, 31, 34, 36, 37, 42, 52, 59, 64, 75, and 87.

As a comparison, there will be 17 competative state senate seats out of 40, at a clip of 42% competition rate.

It made me wonder why this is?  Part of it is certainly is redistricting, but I think any Democrat in Virginia should be ashamed of their leadership and candidate recruitment.  On the list of delegates not being challenged are people like Jim LeMunyon, Tim Hugo, Rich Anderson, Tag Greason, Ron Villenueva, Chris Stolle, and Tom Rust; candidates who in the past have had to win close elections and many of whom are freshman.  Democrats failure to, thus far, find candidates to run in these districts is almost laughable and makes one wonder if DPVA Chairman Brian Moran should spend more time running his party rather than running scam schools.

I was going to write my own thoughts on this, but a long-time Democratic activist friend of mine nailed it in an email, which he/she kindly said I could use. Enjoy (actually, you wont’t and you shouldn’t! — bolding added by me for emphasis).

UPDATE: I just double-checked VPAP, and Mason Conservative is correct, there are currently 15 “R” vs. “D” House of Delegates races listed by VPAP. Of course, VPAP’s list may not be comprehensive, but even if you add 15 more, it’s still only 30% contested. Heck, even if you add 30 more it’s still only 45% contested. It should be 100% in a real democracy!

UPDATE #2: I just talked to a good friend of mine who’s a Connecticut state representative (equivalent to “delegate” here). He was very surprised, not in a good way, at how low the percentage of contested races was in Virginia. In Connecticut, in contrast, approximately 134 of 151  House seats (89%!) were contested in 2010. For the Connecticut State Senate, 31 of 36 seats (86%!) were contested. And remember, Connecticut is even more lopsided than Virginia in terms of partisan makeup, except it’s the flip in Connecticut (99-52 D’s vs. R’s in the House; 22-14 D’s vs. R’s in the Senate). In other words, it’s far more hopeless for Republicans in “blue” Connecticut than for Democrats in “purple” Virginia, yet the percent of seats contested in Connecticut is orders of magnitude higher than here in Virginia. Why? A few possibilities: 1) they have public financing in Connecticut, we don’t in Virginia; 2) they hold elections in even-numbered years, we don’t in Virginia; 3) their redistricting is by bipartisan commission, despite the huge Democratic advantage in the state, as spelled out in the Connecticut state constitution. Those three structural factors appear to account for a major chunk of why Virginia and Connecticut are so different with regard to contested races. We didn’t get into state party effectiveness, but I presume that would be part of it as well. Any other theories?

By any fair standard, this is a disgraceful performance by the Virginia Democratic leadership.

Mason Conservative underplays the negative contribution of partisan redistricting in general, and the particular role of Saslaw, Whipple, Howell, and Barker in this process. It was their squalid deal with the HOD Republican leadership that has consigned VA Dems to a generation of super-minority status in the HOD, and that terrible decision has made it harder for Brian Moran, Ken Plum & company to recruit Dem HOD candidates. But, there is no public record of which I am aware documenting that Moran or Plum ever spoke up and protested what Saslaw & company were doing to the House Dems.

Even if you take the very negative impacts of partisan redistricting as part of the way “business is done” (which I reject), the Democratic candidate recruitment efforts for the HOD were abysmal–and time has expired.

It is against this sorry background, that the Virginia Democratic leadership now wants everyone to work hard and knock doors for our Democratic candidates. That is a great idea where we have good Democratic candidates. Sadly, due to the failures of the leadership, tens of thousands of doors will go un-knocked because there is no Democratic candidate on whose behalf a knock can be made.

This sucks on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. As a progressive, it sucks. As a Democrat, it sucks. As a citizen who believes that our Democracy depends on competitive elections, it sucks. That about does it for now, but feel free to add your own ways this sucks in the comments section.

  • In the 99th District we currently are represented by Democrat Al Pollard — however — Al announced he is not seeking re-election and his seat is open.

    At least four Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination while two others are rumored to be thinking about getting into the race.   One of those still “thinking about it is Catherine “Bullet Box” Crabill who almost beat Al Pollard.

    A Democrat named ???? from Westmoreland County made some noise about running but he hasn’t been seen or heard from for weeks.

    As a result, Al Pollard’s seat likely will go to a Republican.

    Brian Moran reminds me of the old saying about tits on a boar hog.  Or something like that.

  • The Richmonder

    You seem to think that Brian Moran is failing–he’s not: he’s succeeding brilliantly . . . at his day job.  Simply put, Brian Moran (and his employer Harris Miller) have a vested financial interest in the long term failure of the Democratic Party in Virginia and nationally.

    While not all Democrats are progressives, most progressives are Democrats.  The Progressive drive to use government as an agent of reform and social justice runs counter to the economic interests of many of Harris Miller and Brian Moran’s clients.  To the extent that Miller and Moran can stifle the Democratic Party’s ability to compete in elections they can stifle attempts to regulate and reform the crooked business practices of their clients–of which for profit schools are simply the most obvious at the moment.

    When DPVA installed Moran as chairman without demanding that he break all financial ties with Harris Miller it was obvious what would happen–DPVA’s needs would be subordinated, even sacrificed, to further the needs of Moran’s clients.  Moran’s clients don’t want the Democratic Party to be competitive in Virginia, so the Democratic Party will not be competitive in Virginia as long as Brian Moran is calling the shots.

    Brian Moran is succeeding.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    This state of affairs is absolutely disgusting. It’s almost as if the Democrats have decided to let their numbers get as low as the Republicans once had in the H of D in the era before Vance Wilkins came on the scene. Wilkins as Republican leader took his party to majority status (before his hubris got him into trouble for sexual harassment). He did that by recruiting candidates in every House district and raising money to fund them. His typical method was to go to a local Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Rotary Club, etc., and ask people who they thought were the best potential people to run for office. Then – and this is critical – those people were given financial and logistical support.

    For as long as I have been involved in Virginia democratic politics, the Democratic Party has operated the opposite of that. Too often, it waits for candidates to come to it. Then, when someone does, he or she gets no help, financial or otherwise. Indeed, the state party will demand that a candidate spend big money on polling before even considering giving financial assistance. Money gets controlled by party caucuses and office holders who are most interested in protecting themselves.

    Brian Moran is simply following the pattern that has become “business as usual” at DPVA, but these numbers are NOT final.

    A caveat: The deadline has passed for those candidates who wish to participate in the August 23 primary. However, the  party has until August 23rd at 7 p.m. to turn in candidate names for the general election, so all hope is not lost. Indeed, the local parties cannot turn in other non-primary names to the State Board of Elections before July 1.  

  • Johnny Longtorso

    I went through and checked VPAP’s list against the Board of Election’s list of where primaries are being held and I came up with 18 seats with primaries where no opposing candidate is listed (and I’m pretty sure that list will shrink, because VPAP’s candidate list is incomplete). Not that I’m expecting the DPV to recruit candidates everywhere they’re currently lacking.

    Either way, this seems to be a problem with off-off-year elections. In 2007, only about 40 House seats were contested. The problem is compounded by redistricting, where there’s no guarantee that you’ll still live in the seat you started running for months ago.

  • blue bronc

    Nothing says winning like waiting until the right time to run.  For those old enough there was a short lived strategy of 50 states; basically run someone in every race – something the Republicans do.  That was so radical because for some odd reason the Dems won.

    To ensure no surprises anymore the Dems really hold back their punches so they only run in races they can win.  It helps to have a distinct lack of a copper and zinc alloy; commonly called BRASS.

    From the top on down the whole Dem party is becoming an embarrassment of weakness and fear. Vitter isn’t the only one needing diapers.


    yup. Damn shame we don’t have a atrategy. It is surprising to me that Virginia even HAS a democratic party. lol

  • mrg.uva

    this is a problem with the Democratic Caucus in the House of Delegates, not with the overall party.

  • dpoole

    As some postings have noted, it’s too early to know how many of Virginia’s 100 House seats will be contested this November. Candidates have until August 23 to file qualification paperwork with the State Board of Elections.

    While the number of contested House races may turn out to be low, everyone should take a deep breath until we know for sure. In fact, VPAP just posted four new contested House races today.

    If you know of any candidates we have missed, let me know at dpoole@vpap.org

    David Poole

    Executive Director

    Virginia Public Access Project