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Not Showing Up: A Sure Way for Democrats to Lose Elections (McLean Day, 2017)

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by A. Siegel

The annual McLean Day festival draws a crowd, well over 10,000 each year, and today was no exception.

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While the ‘big’ political event is the McLean Community Center Board election (with the candidates and candidate tables a gauntlet along Lewinsville Park’s main entrance),  the signage today around the park resembled election day.

To Dump or Not to Dump Barbara

In a new addition, “Dump Comstock” signs were prominent and quite visible to Representative Barbara Comstock — whose hours schmoozing at McLean Day answered, for at least a little while, the question of “Where’s Comstock.” (Note that Barbara has time, with staff surrounding her, to ‘work the crowd’ but can’t seem to find her way to holding a townhall) Comstock had — like several past McLean Days — easily a dozen (if not double that) people out in “Comstock” t-shirts giving further visibility to her name.

Amid these tens of thousands of people, who was schmoozing the crowds and with a heavy presence?  Ed Gillespie, running for the Republican nomination for Governor, and Comstock had their time hanging out together.

VA governor hopeful Gillespie laughing it up w/Barbara Comstock

Although, this was the Gillespie-Comstock association that greeted people walking into McLean Day:

On the Democratic side, the supposed fervor of the 2017 primary was, well, pretty muted if not outright absent. Here is this observer’s impression of the situation:

  • Governor’s race — NADA
    • Zero Tom Perriello or Ralph Northam signs seen
    • No literature at Dranesville District Democratic Committee (DDDC) booth
    • No (seen around McLean Day nor according to discussions with people at DDDC booth) volunteers from either candidate’s campaigns.
  • Lt. Gov.’s race
    • [UPDATE] Candidate Susan Platt took time to engage with people at McLean Day and I/family members saw four Susan Platt volunteers(photo below) and there were at least four people Two Susan Platt volunteers seen (and, recounted by a family member, at least two others there)

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To be clear, at least several elected Democrats were there (John Foust, Kathleen Murphy — and likely >5 people wearing Murphy t-shirts), and activists worked the DDDC booth.

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There were  several (quite popular) Dump Comstock volunteers at the DDDC booth.

(Re ‘popular’, I put on a ‘Dump Comstock’ and had more than 20 people ask me where I got it as I walked around McLean Day.)

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As to the last, the 10th district is pretty much near the top of everyone’s list for the 2018 election. While an adept and skilled politician, Barbara Comstock’s extreme voting record is seriously at odds with a district (here is how Comstock voting aligns with Trump) that went for Clinton (and would likely go 10+% more for Hillary today in light of #TrumpRussia/etc). People are lining up to run against her, yet it was Comstock out in force today, NOT the effort to unseat her with someone more in line with the 10th District’s voters.

  • Potential D opponents to Rep Comstock mildly there
    • Dan Helmer was there (though didn’t see him over several hours) though no literature/material seen at DDDC booth.
    • Lindsey Davis Stover literature was at the DDDC booth (no indication that she was there).
      • NOTE / UPDATE: Should have worded (in this quick post) that parenthetical statement differently — mentally, I was thinking: “Lindsey was probably there but I saw no indication that she was there’ but certainly didn’t convey that correctly.  In fact, Lindsey was at McLean Day speaking with many she hopes become her constituents..
    • Jennifer Wexton was out in Loudoun County with no sign of Wexton literature or volunteers.
  • Bird-Dogging Comstock
    • No evidence of anyone following Comstock around McLean Day, videotaping her interactions.
    • No sign that activists were engaging Comstock directly
      • to, for example, ask:
        • “Why don’t you hold a town hall?”
        • “You are one of the most skilled investigators, with Justice-related experience, in the House. You were pugnacious in the Clinton investigation. Why do you seem to think that Congress has no role in investigating Donald Trump’s seemingly impeachable offenses?
        • “You hold yourself as someone promoting women. What would you say to my daughter who, quite literally, says she is afraid of Donald Trump?”
        • You sit on the House Science Committee, which is notable for its and its Chairman’s attacks on science and scientists. There are likely 1,000s of scientists in your district.  When will you stand up for science and earn their respect and appreciation? When will you stand up for serious climate action? When will you reject, rather than enable and support, your colleagues’ bullying of people who merit listening to? How do you explain your supporting people who likely couldn’t pass the seventh grade Virginia science SOL?
      • And, back to above bullet, where there any such interactions being videotaped?

“Being there” is a top-tier requirement for winning political campaigns … that too many Ds failed to meet when it came to McLean Day, 2017. As Woody Allen correctly put it, “80% of success is just showing up.”

  • How hard would it have been for the Northam and/or Perriello campaigns to get literature and some volunteers to McLean Day?
  • If Wexton sees herself as the D nominee for the 10th District, why no literature or volunteers (or her) at McLean Day?
  • Why no D ‘bird-dogging’ of Comstock?

NOTE/UPDATE: From comments, the ‘no ‘bird-dogging’ (at least partially) derives from impression when at McLean Day. Evidently, at least one person sought to record Comstock. Here is Cameron’s account.

Here’s what happened when I did try to follow Comstock and video her interactions: She immediately surrounded herself with staff and ran to pick up her granddaughter. After that her daughter came up to me and told me she didn’t want her daughter being recorded. There’s no way that sequencing was a coincidence.

Let’s be clear, Barbara Comstock is smart, hard-working, tenacious, an adept politician working hard to create an appearance of distance from Trump and ‘crazy GOP’ … and (with, okay, the exception of town halls) she is “just showing up.” Comstock won’t sleep walk through this election, which means the Democratic Party establishment and those seeking to replace her need to step up their game. If not, I worry that come election day 2018, VA-10 will remain far redder in Congress than its constituents truly desire.

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  • John Farrell

    The 10th CD doesn’t revolve around McLean.

    • A_Siegel

      Absolutely agree … and a good share of the attendees aren’t 10th CD voters. But, quite a few are … and worth have presence/activity at McLean Day just as it is useful to have presence/activity at major events elsewhere in the 10th CD.

      By the way, no note here re, for example, Wexton asserting that she should have/needed to be there if she was doing something else (which she was) as opposed to why not have literature/volunteers …

  • Cameron Higgins

    Here’s what happened when I did try to follow comstock and video her interactions: She immediately surrounded herself with staff and ran to pick up her granddaughter. After that her daughter came up to me and told me she didn’t want her daughter being recorded. There’s no way that sequencing was a coincidence.

    • Innnnnnteresting.

    • A_Siegel

      Note: updated post with your comment.

    • LDJ

      Tbh, not sure why “I’m not recording your granddaughter, I’m recording my Congressional representative” is not a viable answer here.

      • Exactly!!!

      • Cameron Higgins

        I gave a similar response and kept going, but the daughter was very combative, trying to stand in the way, and trying to film me (who cares?)…. it’s all very funny because she didn’t seem phased at all by the photographer Barbara brought with her snapping nonstop pictures.

        • LDJ

          Perfect response! Hypocrisy, thy name is Comstock.

    • LDJ

      Thanks for trying though, Cameron. Ugh, she’s such a coward – using her own granddaughter as a shield to avoid interactions with her constituents. Shame on her.

  • VA10Congressional

    This is fascinating coverage. It’s sad that Comstock draws a distinction between “activist” and “constituent,” as if the two things are mutually exclusive.

  • chrislm

    On the CD10 race, I think the strategy of local Dems to focus on pushing the Dump Comstock messaging is very smart and effective – as it is way too early to push any candidate and the candidates are still in flux. On the other hand, totally agree with the article that the Northam and Perriello no show (including thru volunteers or signs) is disturbing. Gillepsie was smart to not only be there, but have his giant campaign bus parked right at the entrance for every one to see, giving him free publicity.

  • A_Siegel

    Comment from Lindsey Davis Stover:

    “It was great to see so many friends and neighbors at McLean Day. It’s an event our family always looks forward to attending. I spent the day talking with folks and listening to their concerns. We need someone who isn’t just going to show up in the community, but someone who will stand up for our community and put people over politics.”

  • Ken

    This is amusing as well as inaccurate. Adam Siegel, the author, is whining about the no show Dems. That part is accurate but perhaps it’s because Barbara won every McLean precinct in 2016. We’ve been going to McLean Day for years with a large presence; I’ve been going to it since I was a kid. As Adam knows , since he was circling our booth all day, Barbara was talking to constituents throughout the family friendly festival, not anchored to a booth. Adam posted a picture of Barbara and falsely said it was staff in the picture, when in fact she was talking to a constituent her office had helped because of a recent tragedy. As for Cameron Higgins, who was stalking the Congresswoman and her family, including her daughter and granddaughter, he lives in Silver Spring, MARYLAND. Unlike Barbara’s family who has attended the event for years, Cameron was obviously not familiar with this family event. . He also was violating the rules which the McLean Community Center provided which said such taping and harassing is not allowed at the event. While Higgins, a Maryland activist, should have been kicked out under the rules, the local Dems harbored him in their booth. As Don Beyer said last year, your only strategy is to flood the 10th district with activists from the 8th, 11th, DC and Maryland.

    • A_Siegel

      1. False on so many levels.
      2. “Circling booth all day” … wow … walked past it three times, total … with, honestly, perhaps 30 seconds in front of it.