Following Up on Mark Warner’s 2014 Performance

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    Before the 2014 election I wrote about specific areas to watch for sorting out ongoing political trends in Virginia. After Mark Warner’s nail-biting reelection night, I tore apart the Warner campaign’s claim that they ran significantly ahead of other Democrats in Virginia’s rural areas, with a follow-up diary comparing Mark Warner to Tom Perriello. Today, I want to take the time to follow up on some of the areas I picked as canaries in the coal mine of Virginia politics. While dissecting Election 2014 by House of Delegates and State Senate district is still being finalized by the good people at VPAP, here are some preliminary findings.

    9th House of Delegates District (Franklin, Henry, Patrick Counties): The 9th had been at the center of Warner’s crossover support in 2008, and featured a lively fight by Ward Armstrong after Republicans targeted him in their gerrymandering. The result in 2015? Mark Warner received 36% of the vote, just marginally above Obama’s 34% in 2012.

    12th House of Delegates District (Montgomery and Giles Counties, Radford City): Warner received 52% of the vote here, higher than Obama’s 50% but behind Kaine’s 54%. This is a unique district, the influence of Virginia Tech makes it very different than other Southwest districts. It also remained one of the best districts for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.

    6th House of Delegates District (Wythe, Carroll, Smyth Counties): Warner’s 34% of the vote is behind Democrat McGrady’s 37% from his 2013 delegates race, which somehow House Democrats convinced themselves was in the bag. About the same as Tim Kaine’s 34% in 2012, but not an impressive showing based on prior Warner claims about Southwest popularity.

    14th (Danville City; Pittsylvania and Henry Counties) & 16th (Pittsylvania and Henry Counties; Martinsville City) House of Delegates Districts: Warner received 48% of the vote in the Danville based 14th, marginally better than expected given his near defeat statewide. His 43% in the 16th was similar; better than normal Democrats, but only by a few points.  

    2nd (Parts of Prince William and Stafford Counties) and 13th House (Prince William County, Manassas Park City) of Delegates Districts: While not all of the House of Delegates districts have their numbers finalized, the 13th so far stands out in one category. It is the worst House District for Mark Warner relative to expected performance. Warner ran almost 6 points behind what you’d expect for the district in higher turnout years, a sign that the 13th is really two separate districts: a Democratic leaning one in Presidential years, and a slight Republican one all other times. Warner’s 47% of the vote was less than the 2013 ticket by a few points. It’s just a matter of time though before demographics catch up with Bob Marshall. The 2nd was Warner’s third worst House District relative to expectations, another sign of the challenges of turning out the New Democratic coalition in non-Presidential years.  

    Warner’s worst performance was clustered along the 95 corridor south of Fairfax; in addition to Prince William, districts in Stafford and Spotsylvania were worse than expected. Warner also underperformed in the Northern Virginia exurbs (the 30th in Orange and Culpeper Counties and the 18th in Fauquier) and the Shenandoah Valley (the 15th and 26th).  

    34th House of Delegates District (Parts of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties): Mark Warner won the 34th, narrowly, 51% to 47%. This is around 3 points better than expected given his almost defeat statewide. The 34th is a district that tends to have two almost nearly evenly matched bases that are good at turning out even in off years. Good luck on the special election!  

    1st State Senate District (Newport News City; parts of James City County, Hampton City, Williamsburg City, York County, Suffolk City) and 94th House of Delegates District (Newport News City): Warner won the 94th 50% to 48%, a close victory, and won the 1st by a more commanding 56%. Both should host strong contests in 2015, and it’s good to see that even in this close victory they turned out for Democrats.

    10th State Senate District (Chesterfield County, part of Richmond City and Powhatan County): Now that this is an open seat, it elevates even more in priority … but it already should have been the biggest target for Democrats. Warner’s 50% to 47% victory shows again that it’s possible to win this seat even without Obama on the top of the ticket. A seat that went all Democratic in 2013 is a good target going into 2015.

    A few more concluding observations, for what they are worth.

    Warner’s best district relative to base Democratic performance? It’s not in Southwest Virginia, it’s Arlington’s 47th District. With 71% of the vote he even beat Obama’s 66% from 2012.

    Second best wasn’t in Southwest Virginia either, it’s the Suffolk and Chesapeake based 76th. Which was also one of the best districts for Terry McAuliffe relative to Democratic performance. Seems like this district may be trending Democratic, but I’m not familiar with the local community. It’s still barely on the edge of competitive territory, so not something to target immediately.

    Best Sarvis District? Charlottesville based 57th, with almost 4% of the vote. Second best was the Blacksburg based 12th. How about those crazy college kids?

    • runbmc

      Mark Warner did better in Bill Stanley’s and Frank Wagner’s districts than he did in Bryce Reeves and Dick Black’s districts. I sincerely hope DPVA is targeting the right seats. I’d say Kim Adkins chances in a 47% Mark Warner district are a lot better than we first thought.  

    • runbmc

      I think it is important to expand the playing field rather than narrowing it. Dr. Dean implemented a 50 state strategy that helped lead to our massive victories in 2006 and 2008. I totally disagree with the idea that we should only play offense on two seats and then spend the rest of the cycle playing defense. We need to make RPV sweat and get as many quality candidates and campaigns in all 40 seats. I also believe that money should be appropriated to individuals who are willing to go the extra mile and run excellent campaigns. Mayor Adkins has already raised north of $50k and it isn’t even 2015 yet. That is impressive and she deserves to be on the list as well.