Home 2019 Elections VA-10: Lessons From Primary En Route Voting to @DumpComstock

VA-10: Lessons From Primary En Route Voting to @DumpComstock



  • Congratulations to the Democratic Party nominee, Senator Jennifer Wexton. Come early in the evening 6 November 2018, with all of our efforts combined, she will be Representative-Elect Wexton (D-VA10). After all, watch out Barbara Comstock, Change is Coming!

  • Thank you to the five other candidates. You each brought passion, experience, and important perspectives into the primary election — and you each committed serious time (at the cost of other endeavors) to put these options before the district’s Democratic Party voters.  The VA10 voters who I know discussed the election and thought through their votes: you made us think and consider this seriously
  • Thank you all for committing, prior to the primary vote, to unifying together to propel #BlueWave2018 forward with, specifically, your commitment to end extremist Barbara Comstock‘s era of non-representation and Trump-enabling in Congress.

With the above in mind, the following are some impressionistic (my own, from acquaintances – both very active and more passive politically) take-aways from the primary for helping build the momentum for November.

Up front, let no one be lulled into a calm confidence about November 2018 in Virginia’s 10th. Barbara Comstock is a dogged, skilled, (often) dirty-tricks operative. A victory is not assured … even as we have emerged with a strong candidate and Democratic unity heading into the general election.

Every candidate had their strengths and weaknesses.  The Wexton campaign (and the candidate) should take seriously, even with the comfortable win, the other campaigns’ and candidates’ strengths and see what can be applied in the general election. Here are some quick thoughts as to some potential ‘lessons’ (note that many of these cross multiple candidates even if only one name is applied to an example)

  • Alison Friedman spoke directly and firmly about how her experience fighting international trafficking applied to the threat that is Donald Trump. This resonated with many, had heads nodding in agreement (and respect) as she spoke of the need to confront the illegality that is the Trump Kakistocracy. Friedman also did not shy away from directly confronting Wexton, including a rather stark and harsh mailer just a week before the election — which, not just in my opinion, hit Senator Wexton hard on what was viably the most serious vulnerability issue in a Democratic Primary. That sort of firmness in being willing to speak about Trump and about starkly laying out how Comstock’s extremism is at odds with the voters would not just help mobilize base voters but also speak to those who have the mistaken impression of Comstock as ‘moderate Republican’ (a false impression dutifully cultivated by extremist Comstock for many years).
  • Lindsey Davis Stover eloquently melded the power of a competent woman’s success in a male dominated world while raising a lovely family.
    • Note: all six candidates showed a rich combination of professional achievement and personal (parenting and other) strength of character in the primary — another reason to respect and appreciate all of them and how they approached the campaign.
    • UPDATE: Highlighted by Ken Wheeler, Lindsey paid attention to the western portions of VA10 and the election results reflect that: Stover received the most votes throughout that portion of the 10th.  While Wexton is not likely to ‘win’ the western portion of the 10th, having 40-45% of that vote rather than 25-30% (notional numbers) could well be the margin of victory across the entire district. Mobilizing Stover and Stover’s volunteer network could help this occur along with helping build up the Democratic Party base in these communities.
  • Dan Helmer tackled the campaign with a range of inventiveness and willingness to step outside the comfort zone. From his off-key serenading of “Barbara, you’ve lost that moderate feeling’, to demonstrating how easy it is to buy guns in Virginia, to an advertisement (accurately) stating that the most serious threat to American democracy today occupies the Oval Office, Dan’s videos gained serious earned media — stretching dollars while highlighting serious issues. Taking risks can provide returns … escaping traditionalist political operatives’ advice can reach voters.
    • Impressionistically, Helmer seemed the most active — individually — on social media — such as with frequent twitter engagements, going both national and local.
  • Paul Pelletier’s passion for holding the Trump kakistocracy’s feet to the fire got the base’s blood boiling … Elections are about the base, today, not muddying waters with pablum to ‘reach the middle’ (though, extremist Comstock’s faux moderation is a counter point).  If ‘the base’ shows up in droves come November, it will be Representative Wexton in 2019.  Pelletier’s impassioned and direct commentary about how he would put Trump in jail is a message that can motivate those wanting a check on Trump’s excesses and criminality to get out to vote.
    • As a side note, there were elements of this for all the candidates (such as having one of Lindsey’s daughters tagging along as a volunteer knocked on my door, etc, etc, etc …), but kudos to Paul for his ‘big brother’ mailer that really made me step back and like the man, as a person, more than I already had.
  • Julia Biggins brought science to the table in the primary — the GOP War on Science is serious, is seriously damaging the nation (and humanity), and is actually a quite viable and strong political issue. Despite Biggins’ presence in the race, Comstock’s complicity (active role) in the GOP War on Science got little (essentially no) attention. Comstock is a member of the Republican’s House (anti-)Science Committee which has been described as conducting a Spanish ‘inquisition’-like environment against climate scientists.  As far as I (and, well, scientists I communicate with) can determine, Comstock hasn’t lifted a pinky finger to defend scientists (including government scientists who live and vote in the 10th) from these attacks.  This is not just a serious issue arena, critical for America’s future, meriting serious attention and addressing but also an arena of likely political advantage worth exploiting.

In addition to the above, there are also nuts and bolts issues to consider. As an example, from across Fairfax County, on primary day, I heard reports of polling stations without Wexton signs or material for voters. (Actually, having been told by someone who ‘should know’: “there isn’t a single Wexton sign up …”)  At the polling station I volunteered at, there was just one Wexton pamphlet (brought by one of the volunteers and taped to the table) with material for voters from all of the other campaigns along with volunteers from both the Friedman and Stover campaigns.  Surprisingly to me, there were voters in the primary who arrived to vote without knowing who was running — e.g., that literature and those signs actually mattered in at least several cases.  Perhaps those absent signs were a judgment that ‘this wasn’t necessary’ (borne out by the result), but many noted there absence.

But, back to the beginning:
  • Congratulations to Jennifer Wexton.
  • Thank you Alison Friedman, Lindsey Davis Stover, Dan Helmer, Paul Pelletier, and Julia Biggins.
  • Let you — we all — combine to work together so we will congratulate Representative-Elect Wexton the evening of 6 November 2018

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