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When Democrats Must Vote in GOP Primaries

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A couple of months ago, Frank Leone opined that “Virginia Democrats Shouldn’t Vote in GOP Primaries.” His legalistic rationale: it’s “malevolent interference.” Well, here’s the bottom line, without a Democratic candidate in the race, Republicans have all the say. There’s nothing malevolent about wanting a vote in your representation.

“One caveat – there may be the rare time when people actually think a GOP candidate is worth voting for (McCain in 2000, some would say) – but mostly Democrats think that they want to vote for the ‘weaker’ GOP candidate. Don’t bother.” – Leone

Frank seems blind to the fact that Virginia Democrats increasingly have no say in local and state elections unless they vote in Republican primaries or for Republicans. City and County Democratic Committees are reluctant for many reasons (some not so honorable) to field any candidates at all. And if there is no Democratic candidate, then the only say Democrats have is by voting in the Republican primary or backing an Independent or Republican in the general election, hoping a less reactionary soul will win out. That is not malevolent. It is informed self-interest. Frank is really expressing the self-cultivated paranoia of the DPVA Central Committee. They know Republicans pull off malevolence without a hitch. They also know that they just don’t have what it takes to organize a successful raid on a Republican primary.

There are difficult choices. Look at the recent Chesapeake School Board election. The Republicans put up a slate of candidates that swept the four contested seats. The Chesapeake Democratic Committee backed a candidate whose showing, dead last, was sufficient to ensure the entire Republican slate succeeded. Split her votes between the two incumbents who lost and they both win, each with the largest pluralities. And what does it say about Chesapeake’s committee when the single candidate it backs can muster only 7.93% of the vote? … about half the vote total of each of the two defeated incumbents who were not on the Republican slate. That’s it? The local committee can influence about a twelfth of the electorate? Generic Democrat usually gets a third of the vote just being on the ticket in Virginia.

In Virginia Beach, the local committee characterizes city council races as nonpartisan, thereby denying Democrats who run access to resources such as the VAN. Out in Waynesboro, where Tim Kaine drew a standing room only crowd at a recent appearance, the local committee doesn’t hold regular meetings and can’t stay organized.

Even if there is a nominal Democratic candidate, with the inability of the DPVA to organize statewide, there are many general elections that are over with the results of the Republican primary. Unfortunately, this is looking like a trend under the current state Democratic “leadership.” So telling voters to stay home is bad strategy.

Two of Frank’s arguments, that you might get challenged at the polls, or if you want to vote for or be a delegate to the national convention is aimed at whom? Members of the Central Committee? Certainly not the vast majority of Virginians who vote Democratic. They want to be heard and do not worry about being part of a Party they can’t even locate. So his is really an inside baseball kind of rant, that has no bearing on the decisions of Virginia Democratic voters who have no “membership” in any DPVA organization; or any hope of local Democratic representation. Frank Leone either has no clue about the grassroots, is an incompetent, a complete tool, or a combination of all.

This disconnect is a large portion of why the Democrats on the national stage fare better in Virginia than those who must trust the judgment of the DPVA. It is also a part of why the DPVA is headed toward a disastrous 2013.

And Frank, McCain is your example of a Republican worth voting for?

  • he’s anti-progressive and anti-grassroots. Great combination for membership on the Democratic National Committee/DPVA huh? (not)

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Some of the worst examples of video production I’ve ever seen were the ones Frank Leone made to “explain” to those new to the process the rules of the state convention, local caucuses to select delegates, etc.

    I looked at them to see if they would help my local chair, who was new to the process. After viewing, I took the time to write down the process in an orderly fashion. No need to inflict those videos in anyone, certainly not a friend.

  • independent in arlington

    …that it is sometimes good (OK?) for Democrats to vote in Republican primaries, particularly when there is no Democrat who has a credible chance of winning the general election.  Otherwise, there is no way for the Democrat to have a say in who his or her representative is.

    I think the same logic holds true for Republicans living in heavily Democratic jurisdictions (Arlington, Alexandria, etc.).  Do you agree?

  • notlarrysabato

    It’s not something I would do.  That having been said, I have always lived in purple (Fairfax) or blue (Arlington, Alexandria) localities since I became a registered voter.  The situation might be totally different in a strongly Republican area.  

    People should not be subject to threats of later action against them because they choose to participate in an open primary on the other side.  Frank is 100% wrong to say that.  In fact the Chair of the DNC said it was fine for Democrats to vote in the last GOP primary in Virginia!  Here’s a link to that:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    I hope after the Chair of the DNC says that Democrats should vote to the “fullest extent” that Frank will correct his previous statements and promise not to support any actions against those who participated in a GOP primary with the endorsement of the DNC Chairwoman.

  • FreeDem

    When I see a matchup in which there’s a Republican who I believe would clearly drag the GOP in a more sane direction. I’ve only done it once.

  • If you don’t want open primaries, then you should work to change the voting system in Virginia.  There are good reasons for open primaries, and some negative consequences.  There are some good reasons for closed primaries, and some negative consequences.  

    I personally never cared that Republicans voted in Dem primaries (I know quite a few Republicans voted in the 2008 Obama/Clinton primary in my own local precinct, for instance) and I have voted in Republican primaries three times (I think — it’s two, three or four, but it isn’t often.)  Personally, I always vote for the candidate I think would be the best person to represent me, should that person be elected.  I do not, personally, do operation “chaos” type voting.

    But again, if you don’t like the way it’s done, work to change it.  But as someone who lived in states with closed primaries, don’t think that will magically make things better or worse — it still about the basics: candidates, messages, campaigns, timing.