Before I get to my reasoning and ultimate choice, here are my two main criteria for choosing Virginia’s 2013 Person of the Year. First, I’m using the same definition that Time Magazine does for its “Person of the Year;” namely, “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.” And second, I’m taking into account the Blue Virginia community’s voting on this question.
With that, here’s my reasoning on each of the nominees, in reverse order of their standing in the Blue Virginia poll. Keep in mind that there were only 48 votes cast, despite the fact that Blue Virginia has 2,432 registered users. To me, that says a great deal about the level of enthusiasm – or lack thereof – there is for just about anyone in Virginia politics at this point.
14-15. 3-Way tied between Eric Cantor, Boyd Marcus and Bill Howell (0 votes): I’d argue that he should have received a few votes, as he is the “leader” (using the word loosely) of the House of Representatives Republicans, the folks who did yet more damage to America in 2013. But no, his impact on Virginia per se wasn’t huge, except insofar as he played a role in the government shutdown in October. Still, I’d rank Cantor higher than tied for last place. I’d also rank Bill Howell several notches higher at least, as he played a huge role in getting the deeply flawed, but “bipartisan” (that magic but mostly meaningless word) Virginia transportation bill passed, and also in maintaining the enormous GOP majority in the House of Delegates. As for Republican consultant-turned-McAuliffe-supporter/consultant Boyd Marcus…yeah, he didn’t really have much of an impact in 2013.
10-13. Four-way tie between Robby Mook, Jonnie Williams, Robert Sarvis and Russell Wilson (1 vote each): I’d rank both of these guys higher, as Mook (McAuliffe’s campaign manager) played a major role in keeping USS McAuliffe afloat, on course, and away from deadly icebergs in 2013. That’s no small feat. As for Jonnie Williams, he played a huge role in almost bringing down Gov. McDonnell, in ruining McDonnell’s political future, and in tarnishing Ken Cuccinelli’s ethical reputation as well. That’s a big impact for one hustling huckster. In the end I don’t believe that Robert Sarvis had much impact on the election, and I also don’t think he had much impact on the way Terry McAuliffe ran his campaign or will govern. So… meh. QB Russell Wilson had a big impact on the Seattle Seahawks, but on Virginia? Not so much.
8-9. Two-way tie between E.W. Jackson and Tim Kaine (2 votes each): I’d argue that Jackson helped tarnish the Republican ticket as an “extreme team,” and thus helped lose the election for Cuccinelli et al. That’s “impact” of a sort. As for Tim Kaine, he had an impressive first year in the U.S. Senate, including delivering the first Senate floor speech ever in Spanish. The problem is, the Senate is so dysfunctional, that even if you have a good year there, you still can’t accomplish much. Hopefully that will change in coming years.
6-7. Two-way tied between Bill Bolling and GOP endorsers of T-Mac (3 votes each): Kind of “inside baseball” stuff, but I’d argue that Bolling’s hostility to the Republican “extreme team” and the fact that numerous Republicans, such as Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, endorsed T-Mac, cumulatively had an impact. Hard to prove, of course, but imagine if Bolling and the other Republicans had been 100% united behind Cuccinelli?
5. Ken Cuccinelli (4 votes): Cooch was my first, gut instinct pick for “Person of the Year.” Why? Because, although he accomplished very little (if anything) as Attorney General, he did manage to allow the 2013 gubernatorial election to become a referendum on him. And that was not a good thing for Virginia Republicans, as we all saw on November 5. I’d add that even among McAuliffe voters, most said their vote was more AGAINST Cuccinelli than FOR McAuliffe. So, again, 2013 was to a large extent about this weird, wacky, extremist dude we like to call “Cuckoo.”
3-4. Two-way tie between Bob McDonnell and Rosalind Helderman (7 votes): I also seriously thought about making Bob McDonnell “Person of the Year,” as his scandals received a huge amount of news coverage in 2013, and certainly didn’t help Republicans on November 5. But, in the end, what did McDonnell actually DO in 2013? Many people would point to the transportation bill, but I’ve addressed that and concluded that the bill passed in large part in spite of McDonnell. Also, it’s mostly an alternative history case, but IF McDonnell hadn’t been scandal tarnished and IF he actually wanted Ken Cuccinelli to succeed him as governor (I have strong doubts about that), perhaps he could have pushed Cuccinelli to victory on Nov. 5? We’ll never know. As for Rosalind Helderman, I’d definitely say she (and her colleagues) played a significant role in the 2013 election through her/their reporting on Bob McDonnell’s scandals. How much of an impact that had is very hard to quantify, but it certainly couldn’t have helped Cuccinelli’s run for governor.
2. McDonnell’s former chef (7 votes): I mostly threw this one in there for humor value, and am surprised he received as many votes as he did. I would certainly say he had an impact (if nothing else, on the Governor’s Mansion pantry – lol), but would rank him much lower than second.
1. Terry McAuliffe (11 votes): In our poll, McAuliffe got 23% of the 48 votes cast, not exactly overwhelming to put it mildly. But that was enough to vault him to the top of our “Person of the Year” poll. With all due respect, though, I disagree. For starters, as I noted above, this election became more of a referendum on Ken Cuccinelli than anything else. Note that this is exactly what the McAuliffe team wanted, so that’s no knock on T-Mac at all. Yes, McAuliffe winning the Virginia gubernatorial election was a big deal, but in the end I’m not sure that T-Mac “affected our lives” much in 2013, as he wasn’t in a position of power to do so. In 2014, on the other hand, it will be a completely different ballgame, and McAuliffe certainly has a chance to make a major impact on Virginia in the New Year. But for 2013…not so much.
Bottom line, who’s my pick for Virginia’s 2013 Person of the Year? I can see arguments for several of the people mentioned above, but none that jump out at me as an obvious choice. So, my choice for Virginia’s 2013 Person of the Year – an utterly uninspiring year in almost every sense for Virginia politics – would have to be NOBODY. Call it lame, call it a cop-out, call it whatever you want, but that’s my pick and I’m sticking with it. Now, let’s just hope we do better in 2014!