The Republican races for governor, LG and AG are off and running. Among Democrats? Not so much.
Considering what a disaster the last Democratic contest for governor turned out to be, you may think it a good thing for our primary race to be postponed a bit. So let me tell you why it isn’t.
What Virginia Democrats desperately need right now is leadership. We haven’t and won’t get much of it from leaders in the General Assembly. Legislative leaders tend not to be particularly visionary or inspiring while they’re busy trading votes, getting feted by lobbyists and trying to supplement their measly salaries of $18,000 a year.
Beyond that, DPVA is generally hurting for leadership. Brian Moran’s tenure has been uninspiring and compromised by his day job as a lobbyist for a questionable industry. Dick Saslaw can certainly be a tough leader, but sadly one who seems to spend as much time fighting for Republican priorities (like pro-industry energy policies) as Democratic ones.
To be sure, a number of state Senators and Delegates found their voice and stood strong and articulate against the right wing orgy that has been this year’s legislative session. A few of the most outrageous bills, like personhood for embryos, were halted.
But that’s not nearly enough. At a time when the right-wing, Koch-funded, ALEC-fueled, Limbaugh-inspired reactionary machine is in overdrive, VA Dems are politely suggesting that someone tap on the brake. Sorry — that won’t do. You don’t pack a butter knife to fight a nuclear war.
The only way that a new set of Democratic leaders for the Commonwealth emerge is if they step up and run for statewide office. (And most certainly we need to elevate a whole new generation of leaders in the party machinery itself, but that’s another topic for another day.)
Our leadership crisis is what makes me anxious for the Dems to get engaged in the 2013 contest. But that race is stalled by two people who have not yet stated their intentions. Terry McAuliffe, after being very active in the 2011 mid-term elections, has recently gone MIA, saying barely a word as the Republicans in Richmond do their best to build a bridge to the 13th century. And Mark Warner has not responded one way or another to the rumors that he might leave the Senate to run for governor.
As long as these two keep quiet, this race will remain stalled and Republicans will continue to have free rein in the state. M-War in particular would clear the field for governor; T-Mac may not completely clear the field, but his decision would have a big impact. In both cases, other potential candidates for any of the three statewide offices will have to adjust what they do based on what the Big Two do. Which explains why we don’t have any outright declared candidacies yet.
For this reason, we should all be grateful to Chap Peterson and Mark Herring for starting to float trial balloons about potential candidacies. Such efforts will hopefully force Mark and Terry to stop playing Hamlet and get either in or out of the ring so this race can begin in earnest.
And this will be a hugely important race, one that right now includes the two worst demagogues in modern Virginia history — Ken Cuccinelli and Corey Stewart. Want them as your state leaders? If not, then please nag Terry and Mark to get off their duffs and make up their minds.