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Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Six, The Ghost of Christmas Present


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We are now halfway through this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you’ve missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive Districts. Day Two, Turnout Problems. Day Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. At the end of the diary there is a poll to vote in, please show your support by voting!

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me…Come in and know me better!

Of course, if day three was the Ghost of Christmas Past, day six is the Ghost of Christmas Present! Virginia Democrats may be depressed with the first part of this series, but this holiday season, they have a lot to be thankful for. In honor of this being New Year’s Eve, we’ll be looking at reasons to look forward to 2014.

First, good girls and boys of all ages across Virginia have opened up their invitations to an inauguration featuring three Democratic officials. Combined with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the party has demonstrated that the far right is no longer welcome in statewide elections in the Commonwealth.

In 2014, Mark Warner will be up for reelection and Virginia Republicans are desperate to find a warm body with a pulse to run against him. Earlier this year, Warner’s approval ratings were above 50% and he was leading all challengers by double digits. Right now, with concerns over the implementation of Obamacare, his numbers may be softer, but this will be temporary as the health care roll out improves in 2014. I question what Republican will be foolish enough to run; Warner will march onward to reelection. Even with a strong challenger, only delusional Tea Partiers believe Warner is truly vulnerable.

Here’s one prediction for 2014. Although he will win, Warner will look back on his 2008 win and wonder why he couldn’t break 60% again. Make no mistake; the presidential hopeful is preparing a significant campaign in order to run up his margins. But as he has been forced to take stances on national Democratic issues, including health care, Warner’s once messianic status in some parts of rural Virginia has a little tarnish. This will bring his total under 60%.

Also, stay tuned for a return of Sarvis. His big donor supporters wanted to secure ballot access in Virginia for the Libertarian Party. They fell short in 2013 but have another shot in 2014. The likely Republican nominee will have no chance at winning and won’t be an impressive candidate, giving an opening to Sarvis to pick off dissatisfied Republican. Also watch for efforts to target Democratic voters by selling Sarvis as a protest vote and a way to express support for a more liberal agenda on gay marriage or marijuana than what Warner currently supports for.  

In an early Christmas surprise, long-time Republican Congressman Frank Wolf announced his retirement next year. Democrats have rallied behind Fairfax Supervisor John Foust, while Republicans are looking at candidacies by Delegate Barbara Comstock, State Senator Dick Black, and some guy who’s lost twice before, Keith Fimian. Earlier, there were hopes that there would be a wide-open Republican primary, featuring everyone from Tim Hugo to Artur Davis. That’s not going to happen, but the Comstock-Black feud could be good to watch.

While Black is clearly the crazier of the two, Democrats shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch if he is the GOP nominee. Black’s 13th state senate district is a marginal district; Romney and Allen only won with 51% of the vote. Black knows how to win by mobilizing the socially conservative base; the lower turnout of a midterm means he could win if there’s just a little bit of a pro-GOP breeze nationally. Foust will have a hard fought campaign, one that we’ll be following closely this year.

Can Virginia Democrats pick up other congressional seats? Doubtful. The national party is going to target Rigell, again, but they’ll come up short unless there’s a strong Democratic swing. Don’t expect any surprises in the 2014 elections in Virginia, but here’s a final prediction, not for 2014, but 2018 and beyond. Watch Randy Forbes for a potential retirement in the next few cycles.

As a senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Randy Forbes has attracted attention recently for his push to have the NRCC deny support for the party’s gay congressional candidates. Was this an attempt by Forbes to rally support for his desire to be Chairman of Armed Services, or a hit job leaked by his opponents? In either case, it will be very ironic if one of the gay Republicans, Carl DeMaio, manages to win and then goes on to serve on the Armed Services Committee with Forbes (very plausible for a San Diego area representative).

If Buck McKeon retires, and the Armed Services Chairmanship passes to Texan Mac Thornberry instead of Forbes, it will be at least six years before Forbes has another shot at the gavel. Facing a long wait until 2020, will Forbes stay in the House instead of cashing in and becoming a lobbyist?

If the 4th district opens up, is there even a Democratic bench to provide a strong challenger? Delegate Roslyn Tyler? Evandra Thompson, who lost to Delegate Rosalyn Dance in the Democratic primary earlier this year, might be an interesting choice if she can find a way to put more public experience under her belt. What can we do to build this bench now?

Given the important role that Virginia has played in electing Barack Obama, twice, and our bench of nationally recognized leaders (Warner and Kaine), we should also be ready for the chance that one of them will join the next Democratic Administration. I’m actually starting to upgrade Warner’s chances for the presidential if Hillary doesn’t run, but that’s still unlikely and that hypothetical is for after 2014. But if not as VP (doubtful), Kaine could still make a good cabinet pick. What would Governor McAuliffe do if facing a vacancy? Would he try to avoid a bitter Herring-Northam primary? Or look elsewhere for an appointment? Vote below!

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