State Senator John Watkins has announced his retirement from the Virginia state senate and already hopes from Democrats are that they can pick up this seat, achieve a 20-20 tie, if they don’t lose any other seats, then take control with Northam as the tie braking vote. Wow, they even brought the red ribbon and tied this package up in a bow. But taking a close look at this seat, it’s clear the GOP has the edge. And frankly, if Del. Manoli Loupassi, R-VA is the GOP nominee, he will be difficult to beat.
Chesterfield County accounts for 49% of this district, the City of Richmond 37%, and Powhatan County, home to too many Tea Partiers per square foot, 14%.
Throw out all of the election results except the AG race in 2013 and the Senate race in 2014 and use that as a guide. Herring barely won the district, 51% to 49% in 2013; Warner did slightly better, winning the district 49.7% to 46.6%. Clearly Warner did about a point better than Herring did, which is not too surprising, since Warner was still able to carry some GOP voters and Independents who lien to the GOP, in the Richmond suburbs. So, clearly on a statewide race for governor, senator or president, the Democratic nominee can clearly carry this district. That’s the good news.
But get into a local race and our voters are like bears hibernating in the winter – no where to be seen. Adding insult to injury, many of the precincts in this district in Chesterfield County are the most Republican in the county and they turn out in bigger numbers in these types of elections than our Democratic brethren. Ditto in Powhatan County, where the margins in the precincts in Powhatan are even bigger than Chesterfield for Republicans.
This state senate district has to be considered as a lien Republican district. Even if a Dem wins the City of Richmond and it goes 2-1 for the Democrat, you still face big margins running up against the GOP vote totals in Chesterfield and Powhatan.
But this is where the power of a Manoli Loupassi candidacy can turn the tide for the GOP.
Loupassi is a former member of the Richmond City Council, a former Vice Mayor of Richmond and President of Richmond City Council. Manoli served as Chairman of the Richmond Public Safety Commission for 4 years and was a multi-district state prosecutor in the Metropolitan Richmond Area including Hanover County, Henrico County, Chesterfield County and the City of Richmond.
Loupassi has deep roots in Richmond and was quite popular and in a match up with a Democratic candidate, Loupassi could easily win 40% of the vote in Richmond, and combined with his haul in Chesterfield and Powhatan, could easily win this seat with 55% of the vote or more.
The big elephant in the room for Dems is turnout – how do you get Democratic voters to turn out in an election like this. Whoever is the nominee is going to have to build an incredible organization and have assistance from everyone – state elected officials, local Democratic committees and other left leaning organizations. Even Dwight Jones is going to have to get off his ass and do something – I guess ANYTHING is possible.
So, who should the nominee be? Who can eke out a win in this district? I don’t have a clue.
I know Baliles is on city council, sitting in Loupassi’s old seat in Richmond, but does Baliles have the campaign organization, and ability to raise the money he needs to run a good race? Is he a good campaigner? Where is he on the ideological spectrum? Do you run a very progressive campaign to turn out your supporters in BIG numbers in Richmond and in some precincts in Chesterfield, as well as locating your supporters and turn them out in more GOP leaning precincts throughout the district?
Or, do you go with Decker in Chesterfield, where 49% of the voters live in hopes that his successful run as a Chesterfield County Supervisor will pay dividends at the ballot box? Can Gecker get a big vote in Richmond and reduce the GOP margin in Chesterfield that he can eke out a win? Or by nominating Gecker with not ties to Richmond, do we lose the ability to tun out big numbers in Richmond?
Everyone has to understand that this seat is going to be an uphill climb to win because we have voters who fail to turn out in elections like this. Hard choices are going to have to be made about who should be the nominee and what type of race should be run. And everyone has to buy into the strategy once the nominee is picked. No whining, no complaining – just get the job done. Control of the senate is at stake here and it’s going to be a tough one to win.
One other thing – everyone needs to look at these numbers when Watkins won re-election in 2011 against a Democratic candidate. The Dem won Richmond, taking 67% of the vote, more than 2 to 1 and he still lost the district by 5,000 votes. The Dem was crushed in Powhatan 78% to 22%, not quite 4 to 1, and in Chesterfield the Dem lost 63% to 37%, just shy of 2 to 1.
The massive turnout in Powhatan was impressive for Watkins. In a senate district where Powhatan is 14% of the district, Powhatan cast 7,207, or almost 24% of all votes cast. That is a huge problems for Dems and they have to have a strategy district wide to deal with it.
Some might say that these voters turned out for Watkins for a lot of different reasons, and that another Republican can’t duplicate what Watkins did but I don’t believe that. The GOP will pull Dave Brat into Powhatan and Chesterfield and rally all the nut cases there to keep the senate in GOP control so Dems better get their act together quickly.
So saddle up everyone.