Home 2019 Elections Winners and Losers: Virginia Special Elections, August 2014 Edition

Winners and Losers: Virginia Special Elections, August 2014 Edition


Here are a few winners and losers from the 2014 Virginia primary election cycle that I believe are worth highlighting. As always, this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive – just a few that jumped out at me – so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section. Thanks.


1. Fairfax County and Arlington County Democratic Committees: Great job by these two committees on the 48th House of Delegates race all around — including having just 6 days to organize a well-run caucus, with Instant Runoff Voting no less and a debate, followed by a strong general election campaign in the “dog days” of August, when many people are at the beach or getting ready to send their kids back to school. Nice job by everyone involved, including of course ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky, FCDC Chair Sue Langley and  Dranesville District Democratic Committee Chair Greg Brandon.

2. Rip Sullivan’s campaign team: Or should I say Patrick Hope’s former campaign team (in his run for the 8th CD Democratic nomination this past spring, in which he finished second to overwhelming favorite Don Beyer)? Great job by campaign manager Jarrod Nagurka, widely touted as a rising star of Democratic politics; finance director Kate Peterson; and the rest of the team (e.g., the field director, Tucker Cavanagh, whose previous experience was in Maryland, but who learned the Virginia 48th district quickly). Also, I’ve been critical of the Chadderdon Group’s work in the past, but their direct mail program for Rip Sullivan appears to have been effective in this race.

3. House Democratic Caucus: Holding two seats in deep-blue districts shouldn’t be particular cause for celebration, but given the weird timing and the nature of special elections, Republicans thought they might have a shot at the

48th. So much for that theory. The House Democratic Caucus leadership – Dave Toscano in particular – has to be smiling right now.

4. Columbia Pike streetcar: Republican candidate Dave Foster basically ran on one issue, his rabid opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar, and it didn’t appear to gain any traction at all. Perhaps this will continue to be a big issue at the County Board level, but based on this election, it appears that passions may have cooled somewhat, that factual information has finally started to get out and counter the reams of misinformation and disinformation spewed out there by streetcar opponents, and that the county’s doing a better job of explaining the myriad benefits of this project to Arlington (e.g., the return on investment will far more than pay for the project, providing increased money for schools and other “core services”).

5. Arlington Democratic County Board nominee Alan Howze: Item #4 bodes well for Alan Howze this November. It may be that the call for a referendum on the streetcar, while in my view really stupid policywise, has been smart politics in terms of defusing the issue. We’ll see in November, but Alan Howze must be feeling a bit better this morning (come to think of it, maybe add Arlington County Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, both of whom will be on the ballot next year and both of whom support the streetcar, to this list?)

6. Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment: Yep, Tommy Norment will now be Senate Majority leader, potentially for a long while. It’s awful for Virginia, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that Norment was a big winner last night.

7. The Democrats’ urban/suburban/exurban strategy: While Democrats continue to flounder in rural Virginia, for whatever reason(s) – and after the loss of the 38th Senate District last night, we’re just about a pure urban/suburban/exurban party at this point – the strategy of Democrats focusing on where the population is growing, the NOVA-Richmond-Hampton Roads “triangle – seems to be more applicable than ever. Given that there are something like 17 or 18 House of Delegates districts won by Obama and/or Kaine, but currently held by Republicans, and that these are overwhelmingly in suburban/exurban areas, how about we focus on getting our voters out THERE in 2015 and beyond, and stop wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to win districts that, at this point, are simply unwinnable? On the positive side, the path back to a majority in the House of Delegates runs through districts like Barbara Comstock’s, Tom Rust’s, Dave Albo’s, Scott Lingamfelter’s, Tag Greason’s, David Yancey’s, David Ramadan’s, Bob Marshall’s, Rich Anderson’s, Jackson Miller’s, and other suburban/exurban districts. Let’s get to work on those and stop screwing around with Romney/Cuccinelli districts.

8. VPAP: Great job last night reporting election results in a timely and highly informative (maps included) way. As far as I can determine, VPAP is the best site in the country for election results, hands down. The only glitch, and it probably wasn’t VPAP’s fault, was misreporting from the Kirby precinct in Fairfax County, which apparently flipped its numbers between Dave Foster (who actually lost that precinct, along with every other precinct), and Rip Sullivan (who won every precinct).  


1. Arlington and Fairfax Republicans: If they ever had a chance to pick up a Democratic seat in the House of Delegates, it would have been in a special election in the middle of August with a supposed “moderate” Republican and former Arlington School Board member (ergo, higher name ID than Rip Sullivan) like Dave Foster. In the end, it wasn’t even close, as Sullivan romped 62%-38%, with about 9,600 votes cast.

2. Dick Saslaw/Senate Democratic Caucus: Where to even begin on this one? How about back in June, when I first pointed out that the 38th State Senate district was a 2:1 Cooch/Jackson/Obenshain district, and that perhaps Democrats might be wiser to save their resources for 2015, when the entire State Senate will be on the ballot, and when Democrats will need an all-out effort to a) hold what we’ve got; and b) pick up a seat (or two?) to take back control of the upper chamber? I  was basically told that I was wrong, that we had a decent chance (I even heard numerous rumors from various sources of “polls” that supposedly showed Hymes down just 5 points or whatever; I never believed them for a minute), and that regardless we “had to” fight for this seat. Of course, nobody had a serious response to my point about the district’s hard-“red” character, nor did they have a serious response to the fact that just last year, Democrats didn’t contest this State Senate special election. So why did we “have to” contest this one exactly if we didn’t contest that one? Who the heck knows (other than Dick Saslaw’s desperation to be Majority Leader again)? Even worse, Senate Democrats poured half a MILLION dollars into this hopeless cause, for god knows what reason (note: the DPVA chipped in another $326k – ugh). Then the race itself was a fiasco, fighting a doomed battle on Republican turf — who was more pro-gun and pro-coal — that, regardless of the merits, Democrats could never win. Instead, Democrats should have quickly moved the debate to broader issues affecting the district – education, health care, the economy, transportation, etc. But they didn’t. Just a #FAIL in every way, from beginning to end, top to bottom. As several of us were discussing last night at Rip Sullivan’s victory party, Dick Saslaw has now managed to lose the State Senate despite the fact that these are the districts he wanted and he drew. Saslaw’s also been continually out-maneuvered, in fight after fight, by the Republicans. Seriously, why hasn’t this guy retired yet or been forced out of leadership by his colleagues for complete incompetence (not to mention that when he opens his mouth, you never know what cringe-inducing embarrassment will spew forth).

3. Gov. Terry McAuliffe: Talking to a bunch of people last night at Rip Sullivan’s victory party, none of us could figure out how McAuliffe would get anything done without the State Senate, the House of Delegates, or any serious prospect of regaining them in the near future. The feeling seemed to be that McAuliffe needs to go into fundraising and campaign mode, big time, but that he doesn’t want to do that. In my view, that’s the only way to go, as McAuliffe needs help in the legislature if he wants to be a consequential governor on a whole host of issues. Right now, he doesn’t have it.

4. Former Sen. Phil Puckett: Just wanted to put his name on here so I could bash him again. In sum, he handed Republicans the Senate majority on a silver platter in exchange for promises of jobs for himself and his daughter, but ended up (at least so far) with nothing but ignominy. Heckuva job.

5. 38th State Senate District: The people of this district were a huge loser last night, yet again voting strongly against their own self interest – first and foremost, Medicaid expansion, but really on a whole host of issues. It’s just mind boggling that people would vote AGAINST getting their own money back to pay for expanded health care that they desperately need, but there you have it – democracy at its finest. Ugh.

6. Mike Hymes’ Campaign: Just pathetic on every level. Like, who the hell did the polling for this race? Whoever it was, they apparently had no clue whatsoever what they are doing, and/or they were just flat-out lying that the race was within reach for Hymes. Remember, this is a race that Hymes ended up losing by 27 POINTS (!!!), even though he was everything we’re told we “needed” in that district: a rabidly pro-coal, pro-gun, conservative Democrat in Name Only (DINO). Yeah, that strategy worked out just greeeeeaaaaat, really motivated Democrats to turn out in droves…NOT!!! Meanwhile, whose brilliant idea was it to spend much of the race arguing about what exactly Hymes said – or didn’t say – about guns? Did anyone seriously think that would be a winner in this campaign? How about a crisp response immediately following the Republican attack on Hymes in the first place, instead of…basically no response at all for weeks? Did I mention how pathetic this campaign was?

7. The Democratic Party in Rural Virginia: It wasn’t looking good before last night, and it’s really not looking good after last night. See item #7 in the “Winners” list above for more on what to do about this situation.

8. Turnout in the 90th district: Only 2,100 voters managed to drag themselves to the polls in the 90th House of Delegates district yesterday, less than one-fourth the 9,600 voters (still a pitifully low number, but a lot better than 2,100!) who cast ballots in the 48th district, which is about the same population as the 90th. Sure, the race was a foregone conclusion in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, but still, call me old fashioned, but my belief is that voting is a precious right and obligation of all Americans, and I’m a firm believer we should never fail to exercise that right.

9. Dave Foster’s statewide political future. There goes this “shape shifter”‘s argument that he’s a “moderate” who can win in blue parts of Virginia. And no way in hell are Republicans ever going to believe him that he’s a hard-core right wingnut (even though in many ways he is). The only other thing I can think of for Foster would be to try and run in 2015 as an “independent” candidate for County Board. But after last night’s abysmal performance, it’s hard to believe that Arlington Republicans will be beating a path to his door…