As I prepare to vote Tuesday, I find the prospect less that thrilling. I do have a choice in my delegate and senate races, unlike the majority of Virginians. However, the chance the people I’m voting will win is about the same odds as my winning the lottery.
Before my senate district was gerrymandered, I would have had the great satisfaction of voting for Brandon Bell over Ralph “Mr. Carpetbag” Smith. Now, I will be voting for Robert Short, a 24-year-old Iraq veteran Democrat with no money, against Steve Newman, the Falwellian Senate Republican Caucus leader. The thought that Newman would “represent” me in Richmond is disgusting, but as a friend of mine from Lynchburg joked, “The only good thing about Newman is that you won’t have to see or listen to him again until the next election.”
Even though I was gerrymandered out of my old house district, I have a fine Democrat to vote for. Lewis Medlin is a small businessman from Bedford County who would be a great representative. While this time Medlin has the best shot he has had in his three runs for the House of Delegates, he’s still faces long odds. He’s running against that old fossil Lacey Putney, the Byrd-Democrat-turned-Independent who caucuses with Republicans. Putney has a Republican opponent, Jerry Johnson, a Tea Partier who won’t get many Republican votes. Bearing Drift said of Putney, “Del. Putney is not only an unofficial face of the GOP in Richmond, but he is also a recognized face among the party faithful in central and western Virginia.” So, I’m sure the majority of GOP voters will break their party pledge and go for Putney.
I may not be happy with the way gerrymandering has changed my districts, but I will vote. It is imperative that all Democrats go to the polls and vote. I won’t be voting for people likely to win, but Democratic turnout is the key to keeping the State Senate in Democratic hands. Everyone should also remember that local offices are on the ballot.
I’m extremely pleased that Robert Short was willing to enter the race against Steve Newman. I would have really felt bad if I had been forced to do a write-in against that guy. However, Short as a war veteran knows that some battles have to be fought even against very long odds. I wish more Virginia Democrats were like Short and willing to put themselves on the line by coming forward and running for office. Perhaps more of them would if they got encouragement at the state and local level.
Getting the Democrats to once again be the majority party in state races will require that the DPVA and many local committees overcome their defeatist attitude and recognize that party-building is a long-term deal. They need to actively seek out potential candidates, offer those candidates training in how to run a campaign and raise funds, and pledge financial help. The key to building the party is to have a strong leader of the DPVA. That hasn’t happened since Mark Warner led the party in the mid-1990’s. It’s long overdue.