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.
Virginia's current tax code is full of exemptions, exceptions and credits that lower state revenue by billions of dollars every year. In 2011, the General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) estimated that current loopholes in Virginia's tax code reduced state revenues by $12.5 billion.
The question then becomes, what do we do with this additional money?
Some of it could be used to help support existing programs that are under extreme budget pressure, such as K-12 and higher education, but the primary focus should be on providing tax relief in areas that would help support economic development and enable working families to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Don't reform taxes to invest in government services. Reform taxes so we can cut taxes elsewhere. The list that Bolling provides mentions almost every tax in Virginia, from the corporate income tax to the BPOL tax to the individual income tax. It's far from a specific policy proposal, ironic given that Bolling also talks about how challenging tax reform can be because politicians aren't courageous enough to work for ideas that can create winners and losers.
Last year the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy put out an idea to increase the state sales tax by expanding the goods and services covered, while cutting local taxes that Virginia's business community has long complained about. Expanding the sales tax to cover services is not necessarily a Democratic or Republican idea, DC recently adopted this as part of the so-called "yoga tax."
Putting aside the grand claims of Warner's success in rural Virginia, suppose there's an argument that with the older, more white electorate that by its very nature turns out in off-years Democrats have to campaign as more centrist, bipartisan political creations in order to hit roughly the same performance we see in presidential turnout years, even in rural localities. Trying to run as a proud Democrat and campaign on issues that mobilize our base risks alienating more voters than it turns out to the polls, a la Udall in Colorado.
While I can't explain away what happened in Colorado, I can provide some counterpoint to the idea that the only way to sustain Democratic performance in an off-year is to run as a watered down centrist.
What if you compared Mark Warner's 2014 performance with another Virginia Democrat who lost in a lower turnout off-year, Tom Perriello in 2010?
For this I only compared the localities that were entirely within Virginia's 5th District prior to the 2010 redistricting, which also meant not including the split counties of Bedford, Henry, and Brunswick. I dropped the cities of Martinsville and Bedford (which no longer exists) because they were entirely contained in those split counties, these are a geographically cohesive sample.
I only looked at the two-party vote, ignoring the role of the two independent candidates in each election. In all but two localities (Danville and Halifax), Perriello received a higher percent of the vote than Warner. In some it was minor; their difference in the city of Charlottesville was half a percent. In others it was much larger, like almost 6% in Buckingham.
The result is that while both candidates lost the combined counties, Perriello received 48.9% of the vote and Warner only 46.9%. As noted, it's not just explained by liberal areas like Charlottesville. Perriello ran better in several small rural counties like Buckingham, Greene, Appomattox, and Campbell.
Sadly, the sometimes candid conversation between David Hallock and Paul Logan paled in comparison to the sparks between Chris LaCivita and Ellen Qualls during VPAP's 2013 analysis. Now that was an analysis worth attending! LaCivita is an unapologetic political hack, in the most delightful way possible, who never shies away from defending his dirty approach to politics. No wonder many of my friends simply call him "the devil." Compare that to Logan and Hallock shifting uncomfortably in their seats trying to defend the practice of spamming inboxes in order to raise low donor funds.
Hallock at several times made the point that the lack of engagement during the midyear election depressed both volunteer enthusiasm and eventual voter participation, particularly among the Democratic base. While bemoaning the difficulties of getting Democratic constituencies to the poles, he clung to defending Warner's "statewide" campaign that stressed bipartisanship and reaching out to Southwest and Southside Virginia.
Perhaps Democratic disengagement is not a fact of life for midterm elections, but a byproduct of the type of campaign Warner ran?
In his concluding remarks, Hallock made the case that the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of engaging our voters and turning them out in off-year elections.
Let's talk about that.
34th House of Delegates Special Election
Let's give a brief history of the 34th in the last few election cycles. In 2007, Republican incumbent Vince Callahan retired and the open seat was won in a good Democratic year by Margi Vanderhye. Margi had defeated Rip Sullivan in the Democratic primary (Rip is finally making his way to Richmond from the 48th District). I wonder if Rip's pleased that he didn't end up in the 34th, as in 2009 a Republican tsunami swept out Vanderhye by 422 votes.
Despite my concerns about jinxing the election, a Mark Warner defeat on Election Day is the furthest thing from the realm of plausibility. Consider this trend line of polling in the Virginia Senate race tweeted earlier this week by Speaker Howell's spokesman, Matthew Moran.
I fully expect Warner to win on Tuesday, but I think we should be prepared for a closer than expected victory. Libertarian Robert Sarvis was hoping to build on his surprisingly strong showing from 2013, but he will be lucky to hit 2% this time around. I would not be surprised by a Warner margin of victory of 5 to 6 percent, far closer than earlier polls showing him up by over 20 percent. Warner has run a positive campaign based on his personal brand, playing up bipartisan support from that other Senator Warner and reminding Southwest Virginia of his work bringing Virginia Tech into the ACC. The polls show we won't have the same "Warner Country" that turned out for Mark almost two to one from 2008.
One of the constant themes from my Christmas series was that the Democratic Party of Virginia needs to prioritize competitive races based on the underlying Democratic lean of the districts, not idealizing the magical appeal of candidates who can supposedly swim up stream against the partisan tides that have been moving rural Southwest and Southside Virginia into the Republican column. This year could be a good test of the personal appeal of Mark Warner in Southwest Virginia versus the "War on Coal" rhetoric in Republican attack ads.
The only problem with the map? It's not the full story! The real story is that Medicaid is working just fine for Red Virginia. The reason the GOP opposes expansion is that it will primarily benefit Blue Virginia ...
But if you're like me, you're stuck dealing with Arctic temperatures and no ability to vote. What a waste of a perfectly good Tuesday!
If democracy envy has you blue (and it's not hypothermia from the polar vortex) maybe you can spend some time going back over my "Twelve Days of Christmas" series and vote in the polls there? Check out some of the exciting issues I'm asking Blue Virginia about.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
Keep the gold, pawn it off for cold hard cash, because on this Epiphany, the three magi would be better off bringing money, messaging, and mobilization to Virginia Democrats.
Campaigns are fought on battlefields defined by demographics, candidates, random events and other factors that may be out of our control. But once the battle has been joined, victory belongs to the side that brings the three M's: money, messaging, and mobilization.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A blueing electorate, increasingly racially diverse. While Virginia is growing fast enough to pick up an extra Congressional seat in 2020, it's also becoming less white. Projections from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia show increasing shares of Hispanics and Asian-Americans across the Commonwealth through 2040.
It will take time, but there's an upside to this demographic trend. With each year, Virginia will become a little bit more diverse, some districts faster than others. Day by day, the younger, more diverse population will turn of age and join the ranks of the potential electorate.