Two years ago, almost to the day, I posted a diary on Blue Virginia bemoaning the fact that there were only 15 “R” vs. “D” House of Delegates races listed by VPAP. That’s right: in June 2011, only 15% of the 100 House of Delegates seats were being contested between a Democrat and a Republican. And today?
Well, let’s just say, what a difference 2 years makes! As of today, by my count, there are 43 “R” vs. “D” House of Delegates races listed on VPAP. That’s nearly three times as many as what we had two years ago. Of those 43 races, I count 28 districts where Democrats are challenging incumbent Republicans. I count only 6 districts where Republicans are challenging incumbent Democrats.
Also of interest, the 28 districts where Democrats are challenging incumbent Republicans include 14 districts (2nd, 12th, 13th, 21st, 31st, 32nd, 42nd, 50th, 51st, 67th, 86th, 87th, 93rd, 94th) won by Barack Obama in 2012. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee – or even make it likely – that the Democratic challenger will defeat the Republican incumbent in November. However, it DOES mean that if Democrats can get out as many “Obama voters” as possible, we’ve got a good chance of picking up at least a few of these.
Anyway, the bottom line is that we’re doing a lot better in 2013 in terms of fielding Democratic candidates for Virginia House of Delegates compared to 2011. That’s a testament, in part, to the strong recruiting efforts by Democratic House leadership. Now, the key will be adequately funding the Democratic candidates with the most realistic shots of winning. How much money are we talking about? Looking back at 2011 statistics, we’re generally talking in the range of $100,000-$500,000 for victorious candidates of the seriously contested races. That means we could fund all 14 “Obama district” Democratic challengers for $7 million, assuming $500,000 per candidate.
That may seem like a great deal of money, but it’s not a lot when you consider how much money’s floating around out there, how much is spent on federal elections, and also what’s at stake here. For a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg, for instance, to fund candidates at the state level who support common sense gun safety measures would seem to be a much smarter investment of his money (e.g., more “bang for the buck”) than attempting to “play” at the federal level, where Congress is hopelessly gridlocked anyway. At the state level, in contrast, it’s a much more conceivable prospect that we could take back the state legislature, then start churning out strong bills on energy, voting rights, health care, gun safety, you name the topic. Clearly, the right wing (e.g., the Koch brothers, ALEC) “gets” this, which is why they have put so much effort into winning elections – and passing legislation – at the state level. The question is, when are wealthy progressives going to slap their foreheads and realize what a huge opportunity they’ve been squandering? Perhaps that might start in Virginia 2013? Let’s hope.