Home 2014 Races First Major 8th CD Straw Poll Coming Up in Mt. Vernon: Expected...

First Major 8th CD Straw Poll Coming Up in Mt. Vernon: Expected Order of Finish


One of my fondest memories of the 2006 Jim Webb for Senate campaign was Webb’s shocking upset of Harris Miller at Gerry Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day “Fete” and straw poll. In addition to being a great deal of fun, that one might actually be an example of a straw poll that: a) made a difference in the race; and b) fairly accurately predicted the results (Webb won the straw poll 58%-42% and went on to win Fairfax County 61%-39%). But Webb’s straw poll victory in 2006 was probably more the exception than the rule, as I wrote about here.

Having said all that, two Democratic 8th CD straw polls are coming up soon – the Mt. Vernon Democrats’ event on Saturday evening, March 1, and Rep. Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day “fete” on…yep,  you guessed it, St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂  Here are my expectations for the candidates at the Mt. Vernon straw poll (note: last year, Aneesh Chopra and Mark Herring won this poll, with Justin Fairfax doing very well). Obviously, there’s a lot of uncertainty in straw polls, so this post is more to get a conversation started than anything else. Still, these are my best guesses. What are yours?


1. Don Beyer: The event is being held at Don Beyer Volvo in Mt. Vernon (note that this fundraiser has been held at that location for years, and is not being specifically held there this year for any reason, such as to benefit Don Beyer). My understanding is that Beyer has been very helpful to the Mt. Vernon Democratic Committee for years, so obviously he knows a ton of people there. Plus, Beyer should have the highest name ID, given that he was Lt. Governor of Virginia and the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1997. That’s a pretty big “home-field advantage” as far as I can tell. Beyer should certainly be a favorite to win this thing or come very close to winning it.

2. Lavern Chatman: She has deep ties to Alexandria, including the fact that she attended Mt. Vernon High School. Mt. Vernon/US1 also has a large African American population, so an African-American candidate like Chatman certainly could perform well at the Mt. Vernon straw poll – obviously, if she can get her people out. Also, Chatman also has Mt. Vernon native (and former House of Delegates candidate) Jack Dobbyn, who was the Master of Ceremonies at last year’s Mt. Vernon Democratic Committee Mardi Gras party and straw poll, as her finance director. Finally, I’ve been told that Chatman has boatloads of money, so she certainly can afford to help supporters attend this event. She really should finish in the top 2 at this event.

3. Sen. Adam Ebbin: His State Senate district takes in a good chunk of Mt. Vernon (my understanding is that the Mt. Vernon precincts vote fairly heavily in primaries), and he is well known in the Mt. Vernon area. In 2011, Ebbin won the Mt. Vernon straw poll in the 30th District State Senate Democratic primary. Although he’s busy in Richmond, where the General Assembly remains in session for a couple more weeks, Ebbin should do well (e.g., top 2 or 3 candidates) in this straw poll.

4. Del. Mark Sickles: His district includes parts of Mt. Vernon, and he also has been endorsed by Sen. Toddy Puller, who represents parts of Mt. Vernon. Sickles should also be a favorite to do quite well (top 3 or 4) in this straw poll, with the only caveat that he’s busy in Richmond right now, with the General Assembly in session. It will also be interesting to see if Sickles’ support for car title lenders will hurt him in Mt. Vernon, where anti-car-title-loan sentiment is strong. {UPDATE: Del. Sickles called me to argue that he isn’t any different than a number of Democrats, including some running against him, on bills like this one (96-2 vote on “SB 606 Motor vehicle title loans; establishes requirements, penalties.” – Ebbin, Herring and Hope all voted for it). On the other hand, on this bill (“SB 1367 Motor vehicle title loans; loans to nonresidents”), Sickles voted yes, while Ebbin, Herring and Hope voted no. To read more about that bill, see Rosalind Helderman’s article here. In general, I think it’s fair to say that Del. Sickles believes these types of loans are necessary because there aren’t viable alternatives for a lot of people, so we need to regulate the industry as long as it exists. I’d argue that the government needs to provide viable alternatives so that godawful industries like this aren’t needed and go out of business. The question is whether or not Sickles is substantively different from his opponents on car title lending and/or payday lending. Clearly, he voted differently than his Democratic opponents on SB1367, so I guess in the end it comes down to what you think of SB1367. I hope this issue is thoroughly debated in coming months.}


5. Mayor Bill Euille: He’s been Mayor of Alexandria for over a decade, so you’d think he’d have support (or be able to convince his supporters to drive) a few miles south in Mt. Vernon. Euille should at least do decently in this straw poll.

6. Del. Charniele Herring: She’s from Alexandria, although not Mt. Vernon, but she’s had a chance as DPVA Chair (and as a major campaign surrogate for Terry McAuliffe) to get a lot better known all throughout Virginia the past 14 months or so. Currently, she’s tied up in Richmond as the General Assembly is in session. Still, she should do pretty well in this straw poll. If not, it’s probably a sign that her campaign has not really gotten going yet.

6. Del. Patrick Hope: Represents North Arlington in the House of Delegates, with no ties to Mt. Vernon as far as I’m aware. Also, as with Del. Lopez, Hope is tied up in Richmond to a large degree until session ends in a couple weeks (although obviously he has a campaign team that isn’t in Richmond and can focus on this event and others). Overall, I wouldn’t expect Hope to finish towards the top of this straw poll, but demonstrating an ability to motivate 100 or so supporters to make the drive to Mt. Vernon would really show something positive here about his organization.

6. Del. Alfonso Lopez: Represents South Arlington in the House of Delegates, with no specific ties to Mt. Vernon as far as I’m aware. On the other hand, this is an opportunity for Lopez to show he can seriously compete in one of the most heavily Latino areas of the 8th CD. As with the other General Assembly members on this list, Lopez is still tied up in Richmond for the most part, so one question is how much time his campaign has put into preparing for this.

[NOTE: That was not a mistake; I put the last three candidates in a 3-way tie for 6th place…]


9. Derek Hyra: He’s from Alexandria, but I’m not sure he’s very well known there. Also, he just announced his candidacy, so it would be surprising if he’d be able to get organized for this straw poll. I’d expect him to finish towards the bottom in this one.

10. Mark Levine: He might be known somewhat through his hosting of a popular political show at Fairfax County Public Access TV, but other than that, I’m not sure Levine has any ties to Mt. Vernon or much name recognition. I’d expect him to finish towards the bottom of this particular straw poll, unless he pays to bring in a (large) bunch of supporters.

11. Bruce Shuttleworth: From Arlington, with no ties that I’m aware of to Mt. Vernon. Also, I doubt many people in that part of the district know who Shuttleworth is. He should finish at or near the bottom, unless he pays to bring in a (large) bunch of supporters.

  • Fairfax Voter

    People who live in the area well recall the explicitly anti-gay smear campaign against Mark Sickles for his first re-election as delegate, and his decision to keep his private life private. Fortunately, the idea that a state delegate might be gay did not alarm the district’s voters, as the GOP had assumed, and he won anyway (this was 2005, btw).

    In the light of this recent local history, I think people in the district — especially Democrats with an interest in politics — paid attention that he wrote a long op-ed this weekend coming out publicly as gay and explaining what led to this decision. Whether it will affect the straw poll one way or the other (not whether it “should,” but whether it will) is a mystery to me. Here’s the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

    His piece, btw, includes a link to a story on that ugly time in the past. As the Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote of the GOP tactics then, “I’ll wait while you [the reader] wipe off the slime.”

  • Dan Sullivan

    They do.

    Not so much in picking the eventual winner, but rather in determining who has game at all. As you discuss, the playing field is not level, but if a candidate cannot generate at least some support, then it is time for personal reflection. And if a candidate with an advantage cannot muster a competitive showing, it may be time to reconsider strategy.

    This particular one is unique to Virginia Democratic politics just by the crowd in the field. Imagine the attendance.  

  • demomatic

    I know they’ve been having the event here for years, but really? Del. Herring is still DPVA chair, Don Beyer’s hosting a straw poll at his dealership- This race is about to get a whole lotta crazy.

  • LAS

    Ah, the Webb victory at Connolly’s St Patrick’s Day Party.  Good times….thanks for taking me back, Lowell–that was my very first straw poll!

    Your analysis and prediction of how candidates will do in our upcoming straw poll is interesting, but I think I should point out that the majority of the attendees are actually NOT MtV committee members, nor even necessarily from our district. Last year, we had over 300 attendees and most of them were from other parts of Fairfax County, Alexandria, etc. You don’t even have to be from the 8th CD to vote.

    Unlike previous years, most people I talk with are still truly undecided (myself included–I mean, we’re still a bit in shock from Moran’s announcement, it’s a long way until June and there are ELEVEN candidates!)so this will be a good opportunity to meet the prospectives on a more personal level. I remember once reading a quote from a picky New Hampshire primary voter, “I wouldn’t even consider voting for a candidate I haven’t at least danced with twice.”

    Speaking of dancing, we have an AWESOME party band, so I hope everybody will get on the dance floor! There’s also  the Cajun/Creole buffet, drinks, an amazing Silent Auction AND a special tribute planned for Jim Moran. So there’s plenty going on besides the Straw Poll, although obviously that’s a very exciting part of our Mardi Gras!

    Thanks for your posting, Lowell! We’ll see if you’ve predicted correctly soon enough, won’t we?  

  • leedynamo

    I think we want to know where these people stand on the issues.  Organization is a means to an end.

  • leedynamo

    I think the straw polls are kind of a silly exercise.

    Put up video from an issues forum, promote forum topics from this website, etc.

    It will take some time to find out what some of these people really intend to emphasize, judge their speaking ability, etc so it is about a lot more than positions on the issues.

    I think it is reasonable to expect this CD to dig a lot deeper than is typical in American politics.

  • We need to be united behind the person who will be the best representative for the eighth district…and by that, I mean the person who is willing to do anything to be elected and stay there until a medical examiner takes him away.

    Like my Facebook page for my campaign and, together but mainly through me, this district can have someone who deserves to be in Congress.