Home 2018 Elections Let’s Not Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of (Potential) Victory

Let’s Not Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of (Potential) Victory


I knocked on a door today, while out canvassing in the 10th CD. I heard some dogs barking, and after a minute, a woman opened the door a crack, holding back two dogs with her foot and looking annoyed. I introduced myself as a volunteer with the Jennifer Wexton campaign. She told me to wait a minute, and closed the door. When she came back, she was holding a mailer in her hand, and she asked me, “Have you seen this thing?” I hadn’t.

It was a mailer from another Democratic candidate. With side-by-side pictures of Senator Wexton and Republican Congresswoman Comstock, and wording that implied that they were basically similar candidates, on the basis of a single gun vote that Wexton took in 2016.

The mailer is ridiculous for so many reasons.

First, it’s easy to criticize the only candidate in the race who’s ever had to actually do the job of legislating. The other candidates have only their words about what they think they would do if they were legislators. Great, I’m sure they mean well. But legislating from the minority means either getting nothing at all accomplished for your constituents, or making compromises.

As a state senator, Wexton has voted against a dozen concealed carry bills, most of which passed without her vote and had to be vetoed. She’s voted against more than a dozen other bills that would have weakened our protections against gun violence. She’s consistently had an F-rating from the NRA. In the case of the vote in question, she wanted to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and this was a chance to do that. You may or may not think the compromise on extending concealed carry reciprocity was worth it. That’s fine. But to equate Wexton to “Barbara Bumpstock,” who’s ranks 10th in Congress on the NRA donations list, who has an A-rating from the NRA, who opposes universal background checks, one handgun-a-month, banning bump stocks, closing the gun show loophole (every one of which Wexton not only supports but sponsored legislation on) is thoroughly ridiculous.

You may think I had to explain all this to the woman at the door today. You would be wrong. Because this woman was angry and disgusted at the negative tone of the mailer. This woman ranted to me about how we Democrats always do this to ourselves–we always find a way to take what should be our best chance at a win, and find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Because the truth is that we have six really great candidates vying for the chance to defeat Barbara Comstock in the Fall. Six candidates with an incredible diversity of life experiences, who would stand up for 10th district Virginians, who would actually hold town halls with their constituents, who would fight for women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, and who would fight to reduce gun violence.

We don’t know who will win next Tuesday, but whoever it is, we want him or her to be in the strongest position to hit the ground running, ready to crush Barbara Comstock. And we want volunteers and Democratic voters who are excited and engaged and all-in, not frustrated and turned off by negative campaigning. And as for the woman I canvassed today, she was an undecided voter before that mailer. She’s now eliminated one from her list.

  • Noe Flores

    Me and my 10 relatives are undecided in the 10th. Especially since we are all liberal gun owners. Help! Which one is most progressive?

    • Cindy

      As far as I can tell, they’re all progressive. Some more than others on a particular issue or other. It depends what issues are important to you. I really think Wexton is a strong candidate for these reasons: http://bluevirginia.us/2018/05/working-to-build-the-blue-wave-before-the-democratic-primaries But you should do your own research too!

    • A_Siegel

      Honestly, I recommend reading Lowell’s discussion as to why he endorses Wexton: http://bluevirginia.us/2018/05/jennifer-wexton-for-congress-in-va-10

      As I commented there, “This mirrors, in many ways, my thinking about the race — my mind was truly open. Having had the chance to be in the room with all the candidates (and talked with many), I come to same conclusion” (and will vote for Wexton).

      All of the candidates have “progressive” positions — some more forcefully in some arenas than others.

      RE “liberal gun owners”, not sure what that means. None of the candidates, as far as I understand/see, is advocating “take guns away” to make the US like a Japan or UK or even (hunter-friendly) France — all are advocating for/support more sensible gun laws and regulations that will help to reduce the potential for gun violence (over time). Believe all, for example, have are “Mom’s Demand Action” candidates.

  • Alec

    If a candidate can’t survive the attacks in the primary…it’s good we weed them out before the general.

    • Jim L Cunningham

      Someone missed the point of the article!

  • True Blue

    I had a similar experience to the author’s, only when phoning supporters. None of the six candidates are remotely a Comstock. They all show up to forums and town halls! it’s not surprising that a negative campaign has to self-fund, to the tune of $1 million. Many of us vote for a message, not the mud-slinging which is a known Republican tactic.

  • dave schutz

    Johnny One-Note here: this kind of attack can pay off in a first-past-the-post primary, though it then hurts the party’s eventual nominee in the general. If you have ranked choice voting, though, it makes sense for a candidate to be meliorative and friendly in hoping for the number two votes of backers of another candidate. I recommend reading about Jean Quan’s victory over Dom Perata for Oakland Mayor, I think about eight years ago, to see how much ranked choice improved the atmosphere in that race (and gave Oakland a mayor who was pretty clearly preferred by most Oakland voters).

    • Again, lobby Virginia General Assembly Republicans on this…they control the legislature.

      • dave schutz

        I’m banging this drum for whoever will listen! Obviously, I don’t have very good lines to the Reeps, though I have tried to sell Arlington Independent and historical Reep John Vihstadt on the idea.

      • LaureenMT

        They control it for now. Let’s change that!

    • Kenneth Ferland

      Approval voting is better then ranked choice in my opinion, much simpler for the voter and is more effective at getting the candidate that has the widest support.

  • A_Siegel

    1. Well laid out discussion … however,
    2. Amid all the issues to try to follow/keep up with/remember, did not realize/had forgotten the linkages to the domestic abusers. Thank you for that paragraph/reminder/discussion.
    3. Some ‘gaps’
    A. I’d like to note that I don’t think that there is any inaccurate information in the (rather dark) mailer in terms of that vote/bill. I appreciate how Lowell discussed that legislation in his endorsement of Wexton. http://bluevirginia.us/2018/05/jennifer-wexton-for-congress-in-va-10
    B. It might have been worthwhile to highlight that Wexton was ‘a’ Senator and this was legislation strongly pushed/supported by the McAuliffe (the Democratic governor). Most Democratic Party Senators did vote against it but, well, don’t know how much McAuliffe’s push might have played in a ‘the isn’t good, but best we can get at the moment and it does something good’ decision by Wexton.