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Winners and Losers: Virginia Politics 2016


Here are some “winners” and “losers” from Virginia politics in 2016. Note that, as usual, this list isn’t comprehensive, so please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section. Also note that being a “winner” doesn’t mean I approve of what you did or what you stand for, just as being a “loser” doesn’t mean I disapprove; it’s simply an objective analysis of who “won” and “lost” politically in the past year. For instance, note that EW Jackson, who I utterly despise (because he’s an extremist, bigot, etc.) is on the “winner” list. Likewise, a bunch of stuff I strongly support is on the the “losers” list. I mention this simply because people get REALLY confused about this, year after year, equating “winner” with “good” and “loser” with “bad,” even though that’s not at all what this list is about. With that…enjoy (or not)! 🙂

P.S. Thanks to everyone who provided input, anonymously in most cases, to this list. Also note that the item on DPVA is directly quoted from a contributor.

Richmond Mayor-Elect Levar Stoney: Elected Mayor of Richmond at the age of 35, on his first try at elective office, after trailing in polls for most of the race, and without even having to go to a runoff election — very impressive! We’ll see how it goes, but if Stoney does a good job as Mayor, his political future for higher office in Virginia is potentially very bright.
John Adams: With the announcement in late November by Del. Rob Bell that he would not be running for the GOP Attorney General nomination in 2017, Adams ends up 2016 looking very strong to be on the 2017 Virginia GOP statewide ticket. Sure, the guy’s a right-wing extremist, but he’s also a “winner” when it comes to the Virginia politics 2016 list.
Justin Fairfax: Similarly, with the announcement in November by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn that she would not be seeking the Democratic LG nomination in 2017, and with a bunch of endorsements, Fairfax ends up 2016 looking like the favorite against the other announced Democratic candidate, Gene Rossi. We’ll see what early 2017 brings, including the possible entrance into the race of former Joe Biden Chief of Staff Susan Platt, but for now at least, Justin Fairfax is a winner.
Rep.-Elect Donald McEachin: He’s a winner in multiple ways. First of all, he’s a great guy, strong progressive, environmentalist, etc. Second, he gets to escape from the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly, and also from Democratic Senate “leader” Dick Saslaw. Third, McEachin is heading to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing what should be a fairly “safe” seat in the redrawn 4th CD. On all counts, McEachin’s a 2016 winner. Good luck to him as he settles into Congress; I great look forward to hearing his progressive voice on the floor of the House of Representatives!
Virginia Ex-Felons: Thanks to Gov. McAuliffe, and in spite of Republicans and the Viriginia Supreme Court, ex-felons in Virginia now are not stuck without fundamental rights, and Virginia is not stuck being an extreme outlier among states when it comes to restoring voting rights to ex-felons.
Rep. Barbara Comstock: Comstock didn’t win her reelection race against Democratic nominee LuAnn Bennett  by a lot (the final results were 53%-47%), but the bottom line is that Comstock won, and even more impressively in a district that went for Hillary Clinton 52%-42% over Donald Trump. Now, the question is whether Comstock stays in the House or moves towards a run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against Tim Kaine. Stay tuned…
Stephen R. McCullough: Sadly, the Republicans’ politics-as-blood-sport power play worked, and right winger McCullough replaced Gov. McAuliffe’s State Supreme Court appointee Jane Roush, who was forced off the Court by Bill “ALEC” Howell, Tommy “Literally in Bed with a Lobbyist” Norment and Company.
LG Ralph Northam: Donald Trump’s election as president, even as he lost Virginia by 5 points, should bode well for Northam’s gubernatorial prospects next year, particularly if Trump is (very) unpopular in Virginia next October/November, which seems like a good bet.
AG Mark Herring: Same reasoning for Mark Herring and his run for reelection as Virginia AG.
Former Gov. Bob McDonnell: The guy was as corrupt as they come, but he got away with it and will join his buddy Pat Robertson’s Regent University (of course!) as a professor.
Rep.-Elect Scott Taylor: I’m told he’s not the “brightest bulb,” but of course luck in politics matter a lot. In this case, Taylor took advantage of the fact that Randy Forbes was a carpetbagger, and also that Democrats couldn’t manage to come up with a serious candidate in the 2nd CD.
Rep.-Elect Tom Garrett: Crazy, extreme, corrupt, you name it…but he won. Also, the Republicans had to bail him out (e.g., by sending him hundreds of thousands of dollars), and he might be heading to Congress in the GOP doghouse, but again..he won.
Del.-Elect Mike Mullin: Did everything right, ran a strong campaign against a strong opponent in House District 93 and is headed to the House of Delegates, to replace Del. Monty Mason, who himself is a winner as he’s headed to the State Senate. Congratulations to Mullin and Mason on their wins.
House Democratic Caucus: Small in number, but it stuck together and upheld Gov. McAuliffe’s vetoes of terrible Republican legislation (note: the Senate would have upheld the vetoes regardless, but still…good work by House Dems and its whip operation).
Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC): Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Arlington was 72,000 votes, almost the same as the total number of votes by which Clinton lost WI, MI and PA. Clinton’s margin of victory in Fairfax County was nearly 200,000 votes, approximately Clinton’s statewide margin of victory. Nice job to Kip Malinosky, Sue Langley, Josh Katcher, Frank Anderson, and many others who worked hard – and effectively – in Arlington and Fairfax to help carry those counties huge for Clinton.
Khizr Khan: I was going to put him in the “mixed” category, since the candidates he campaigned for the hardest (Hillary Clinton and LuAnn Bennett) both lost. However, I’m putting him in the winner’s category because of the enormous courage he showed in 2016, the fact that he emerged from nowhere to become a hero to tens of millions of Americans, and his tremendously important moral stance against rising bigotry and intolerance in the age of Trump and Trumpism. Thank you to Khizr Khan for his great service, and his family’s enormous sacrifice, to the country we all love.
DPVA: “Despite its dysfunction, seems able to rely on demographics and NOVA to deliver yet another ‘blue’ win in a presidential year…without any great effort on its part.”
Organized Labor: The defeat of the noxious, Orwellian-named “right-to-work” amendment (to Virginia’s constiution) was a nice boost on an otherwise depressing election day. Congratulations to the working people and labor unions of Virginia on that one, although unfortunately “right-to-work” remains law in Virginia.
EW Jackson: He’s a bigot, extremist, theocrat, etc., but his candidate (Donald Trump) won, so I guess it’s “happy days are here again” for ol’ EW. Thrills, eh?

Sen. Tim Kaine: Basically everyone assumed he’d be Vice President of the United States starting in January 2017, but instead, the Clinton-Kaine ticket “lost” (in quotes because they won the popular vote by a whopping 2.9 million!) and Trump will be the worst President in U.S. history instead. On the other hand, Kaine remains in the U.S. Senate. On yet another hand, Kaine could face a tough reelection race in 2018. So, mixed bag for Kaine…
PW County Board Chair Corey Stewart: Speaking of “on the one hand/on the other hand,” Stewart’s presidential candidate (Trump) won, but Stewart was FIRED from the Trump campaign for insubordination, incompetence, etc. On yet another hand, Stewart will run for Virginia gov in 2017 as the most pro-Trump candidate among Republicans, which could help him in a GOP primary.  Stewart had better hope he’s elected Governor, because the demographic and voting trends in “majority minority” PW County are not looking good for him – or Republicans in general – long term.
Ed Gillespie: Seems to be grabbing most major endorsements, building a big money lead, and generally emerging as a strong favorite for the GOP 2017 governor’s nomination. The downside for Gillespie is that Trump’s win means that Virginia Democrats could be fired up next year, especially if Trump is unpopular by late summer/fall.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe: Some good stuff happened to McAuliffe this year – the victory of his political protege/ally Levar Stoney for Mayor of Richmond, the fact that Clinton-Kaine won Virginia, working to reinstate tens of thousands of ex-felons’ voting rights, etc. The bad stuff includes Hillary Clinton losing the election (so much for an administration position for T-Mac), losing the Judge Roush fight, and not seeing much of his agenda (e.g., Medicaid expansion) move ahead in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Plus, McAuliffe’s time as Governor is winding down rapidly; after this General Assembly session, he’s basically a lame duck, given that he can’t run for reelection.
LuAnn Bennett: She didn’t defeat Rep. Barbara Comstock, but in winning 47% of the vote, Bennett performed better than any Democrat in the 10th CD since…decades, as far as I can determine. Still, it’s frustrating, as it seems like she was SO close to winning this one. Maybe there will be  a “next time?”
Rep. Bobby Scott: Stays in Congress to continue his excellent work. Sadly, though, with Clinton/Kaine’s loss, Scott appears to have lost his best shot to become a U.S. Senator…hopefully not ever, but given that he’s not a young guy, possibly so. Sigh.
State Sen. Mamie Locke: If Scott had move up to the U.S. Senate. Locke could have run for Congress and almost certainly would have won. On the other, she is not State Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, and that isn’t bad at all.

Fairfax County Public Schools: The inaptly-named, poorly-marketed “meals tax,” which was extremely important to funding the Fairfax County Public Schools, went down to defeat 54%-46%. Among other mistakes, the “meals tax” should have been dedicated 100% to education, not 30% to “General Services.” Really unfortunate, especially combined with the Fairfax County Board’s failure to “advertise a dime” increase in the real estate tax, as Sen. Scott Surovell was pushing hard for them to do. For that failure, I guess we should add the Fairfax County Board to the 2016 “Losers” list. 
Ken Cuccinelli: How many ways can you alienate people, piss them off, show your lack of political savvy/effectiveness, etc.? See Cuccinelli’s 2016, in which his presidential candidate (Ted Cruz) lost, while Cooch went to war with the Republican Party, stating that the “thugs are in charge at the RNC.” We’ll see if Cooch’s political career ever recovers from the debacle of 2016.
Joe Morrissey: Speaking of debacles, Morrissey complete imploded and (badly) lost what most polls were showing as his race to lose for Mayor of Richmond. I’m not even sure this one was his campaign team’s fault, as Morrissey is an effective one-man wrecking crew…on himself!
Jane Roush: Booted of the Virginia Supreme Court by vindictive, ruthless General Assembly Republicans. Fortunately, the eminently qualified, universally respected Roush appears to have landed on her feet, but still…
Robby Mook: He’s a good guy and he looked like a “winner” there…until around 8 pm or so on November 8, at which point it all came crashing down for the Clinton campaign, which he managed. Also, in recent weeks, there has been a spate of articles and “post mortems,” most of which have contained serious criticism of the Clinton campaign’s strategy, tactics, polling, modeling, resource allocation, you name it. For instance, Democratic political professional Donnie Fowler recently ripped the Clinton campaign for “a top-down, command-and-control, don‎’t-move-unless-we-give-you-permission culture,” the “polar opposite of the Obama and Silicon Valley model of top-down leadership and empowerment that is combined with bottom-up collaboration.” Ouch.
Former Sen. Jim Webb: After a short-lived stint as a Democratic candidate for President, Webb toyed a bit with running as an independent candidate, hinted that he’s support Donald Trump for President, then reappeared to speak at an event put on by The American Conservative (natch) and to tweet stupid s*** at Bill Clinton. Great job. Not.
Metro: Another year gone and STILL no dedicated funding source or long-term solutions to Metro’s woes. And with a Republican Congress plus regional disunity (e.g., McAuliffe hasn’t been leading, but instead has been hemming and hawing, when it comes to funding Metro), that’s not looking likely.
Federal Workers: They make up a big percentage of northern Virginia, both in terms of population and also economic clout. Unfortunate, with the election of Donald Trump and a Republican Congress, it’s quite possible that Federal workers are about to get screwed in a variety of ways. Not good.
Virginia Beach:  Voters there rejected light rail by a 57%-43% margin — major lost opportunity for Virginia Beach’s economic and transportation future.
Soon-to-be Former Rep. Randy Forbes: Essentially lost his district (VA-04) thanks to the courts, then lost a Republican primary in VA-02 by a wide margin (53%-41%) to Scott Taylor. Maybe he’ll end up as Navy Secretary in 2017, but for now, Forbes is a major loser of 2016.
Knowledge, Learning, Freedom of Thought – Banning classic books like “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Beloved,” “Brave New World,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” etc. is a horrendously bad idea, but one which apparently won’t go away, as a “proposed change in the Virginia Department of Education’s regulations…directs school systems to have clear procedures for providing ‘non-explicit’ material should any parents request alternatives.” Note that this would be “nearly identical to the ‘Beloved’ bill vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.” Huge #FAIL.
Virginia Economic Development Partnership: What a mess, with “a scathing government audit of the ­public-private agency that is central to his administration’s top priority,” including that it is “not an efficiently or effectively managed organization” and that it “lacks many of the fundamental components of organizational management needed to operate efficiently and effectively and to coordinate well with external entities.” Great, huh?
Virginia’s Environment – Things are not looking great right now if you care about clean water, clean air or a healthy environment in any other way here in Virginia. From coal ash to the toxics release inventory to science-denying/fossil-fuel-industry-tool Trump’s victory to Virginia’s legislature and regulatory agencies being 100% in Dominion’s pocket, it’s just not a good situation…
Hampton Roads – “Four years of Trump environmental degradation will make eastern Virginia even more prone to flooding.”
Arlington County Board: Caved on I-66 widening (thanks a lot Libby Garvey!), didn’t utter a peep on Dominion Power’s 13,500-gallon oil spill from its Crystal City (Arlington County) substation into the Potomac River, which among other things killed a bunch of Canadian geese. What do these people do exactly? Got me.
Virginia Political Press: With the news that RTD politics reporter Jim Nolan is leaving to become Richmond Mayor-elect Levar Stoney’s spokesperson, the quantity and quality (including institutional memory) of reporters covering the Virginia General Assembly and Virginia politics more broadly continues to decline, at a time when we need such coverage more than ever. Add in Julian Walker and Bob Lewis, both of whom moved on to greener pastures in recent years, and also consider the enormous decline over the past decade or so in traditional media coverage of Virginia politics, and it’s truly a sorry situation…
SW Virginia: Voted heavily for Donald Trump…and against a LOT of things that would have benefited them if Hillary Clinton had been President, such as health care, infrastructure investment, public education, serious help in transitioning from the near-dead (thanks to cheaper, Western coal plus fracked natural gas plus increasingly competitive solar and wind power) coal industry to other industries, etc, etc.


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