Is “Kathleen Murphy’s victory is a bad omen for Virginia Republicans?”

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    Fascinating analysis by a self-desribed “political consultant and web developer for pro-life female candidates and elected officials in DC, Maryland, and Virginia” and “a political independent.”

    The special election for the 34th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates was on Tuesday, January 6, 2015. Turnout was anticipated to be and was indeed low. There was also a freak snowstorm.

    All this should spell doom for the Democrat Kathleen Murphy against the Republican Craig Parisot in a toss-up district, correct?

    Except it didn’t. Kathleen Murphy defeated Craig Parisot 51% – 48%. What was even more telling was that Murphy only lost to Parisot by 3 votes in Loudoun County, which was expected to carry the day for Parisot.

    Are Democrats poised to make significant gains in Virginia in 2015 after capturing all statewide offices in 2013?...Does that fact that Kathleen Murphy came within 3 votes of capturing Loudoun County with an almost nonexistent Loudoun County Democratic Committee mean that the demographic tidal wave has swept Virginia in such a way as to mitigate the DPVA’s ineptitude outside of the big 3 jurisdictions? If low turnout and bad weather hurts Democrats as both parties would agree, does Kathleen Murphy’s victory in a toss-up district bode well for Democrats in the 2015 general election where turnout is expected to be higher?

    I ran this by a few Dems I respect. Their reaction was cautious, mostly “we’ll see,” with one adding: “if Republicans take their chances for granted in safe-ish seats, then yeah, this is a harbinger.” I’d also note that a few other factors have changed recently: 1) Republicans now control the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, meaning they can no longer even semi-plausibly argue that everything’s the Democrats’ fault; 2) the economy has really improved, with economic confidence into positive territory (according to Gallup) for the first time since they started tracking this in early 2008; 3) President Obama’s approval ratings are up, with Gallup pegging them at 46%-48% as of yesterday; and 4) Republicans now control both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, which means that Virginians will get to see just how extreme they are.

    Anyway, the bottom line is this: Democrats picked up a House of Delegates seat last night, in a “purple” district that had been held by Democrat Margi Vanderhye until the 2009 Deeds-McDonnell disaster led to delegates like her losing (in Vanderhye’s case, to right wingnut Barbara Comstock, now hanging out with her fellow right wingnuts in Congress). The fact that Dems were able to do this in a special election in early January, during a snowstorm no less, has got to be encouraging. Or am I missing some reason here why it might not be a “bad omen” for Virginia Republicans after all?

    • NotJohnSMosby

      Margi had that seat for a single term.  Vince Callahan had it forever, and when he retired, Margi picked it up.  She barely lost it to Comstock in the anti-Deeds wave of 2009.

      Then, that district was heavily gerrymandered to favor Republicans.  Bob Brink picked up the Democratic precincts in McLean, and Republicans added Republican areas in Loudoun County.  This was verified when Comstock won big over Pam Danner in 2011.

      In 2013, Comstock’s margin dropped to 1.5%.  A big difference in 2 years is probably due to 2011 being a fairly neutral year, and 2013 being a decent year for Dems.  I doubt if the partisan lean of the district moved 6-7 points more Democratic between 2011 and 2013.

      I’m not sure how Parisot ended up as the Republican nominee.  They surely knew, as we did, that Comstock was going to beat Foust, and that they would need a candidate to replace her.  Running a dud of a candidate like Parisot – who never really did anything – is probably more hubris on their part than anything else.  A strong Republican candidate would have probably won, with the low turnout.  

      The 34th is a seat that probably is a good bellweather during general elections.  We lucked out that even with low turnout, we had a good candidate running against a bad one and won the seat in a snowy special election.  Murphy should do well in November, especially as the national climate towards Democrats improves.  

    • True Blue

      Conservative bloggers posted many thoughts about Parisot’s loss:

      blaming the McDonnell curse, the turnout, the weather, underfunding, his being unknown or unmentioned on conservative sites, not filling out vcdl survey, and of course ballot and other election snafus.

    • wolfrunner

      Special elections are almost never omens, harbingers, or barometers.  Especially in a snowstorm, they are special (bless their hearts) each and every one.  

    • blue bronc

      I still think to have a start then Comstock would still be sitting at home instead of looking at a lifetime of House Representative benefits, including lifetime better health care than you.