Here are a few winners and losers (note: this is not meant to be comprehensive, as that would be endless, boring, and exhausting! LOL) that I believe are worth highlighting from the June 2018 Virginia primaries. As always, this list isn’t meant to be even close to comprehensive, so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section. Thanks.
Democratic Women: It began with the election of a sexual predator as “president,” continued with the amazing Women’s March, and has been demonstrated time and again at the ballot box. For instance, last year, I believe there was only one case of a Democratic woman candidate losing a Virginia House of Delegates primary to a male candidate; other than that, women swept. And so far this year, women have been doing great, including in Virginia last night, when not a single woman running for a Democratic nomination lost to a man: Vangie Williams defeated two men in VA-01; Elaine Luria defeated another woman (Karen Mallard) in VA-02; Leslie Cockburn easily defeated three men in last month’s VA-05 caucus/convention nomination process; Jennifer Lewis won big time in VA-06 against two men and another female candidate; and Abigail Spanberger trounced Dan Ward in VA-07. Starting to sense a pattern here? 🙂
Sen. Tim Kaine: Kaine wasn’t on the ballot yesterday, but he was a big winner, as he got the opponent almost every politico/political analyst believes he wanted to run against – Corey Stewart. And just remember; the bigger Kaine wins this November, the more “coat tails” he could have for “down-ballot” Democrats, including places like VA-10, VA-02, VA-07, VA-05, and even in the Arlington County Board race.
Virginia Democrats: Let me just quote DPVA Chair Susan Swecker on this one. “While Virginia Republicans suffered yet another embarrassment by picking Donald Trump wanna-be and white supremacist empowering Corey Stewart, the most radical statewide candidate in Virginia. Senator Tim Kaine has spent his career fighting for civil rights, good jobs, and education for all Virginians. Corey Stewart has spent his spreading hate and engaging in destructive carnival barking…Endangered and extreme Trump-devotees in Congress Barbara Comstock, Dave Brat, and Scott Taylor will limp into November under the weight of Donald Trump and Corey Stewart. On the other hand, we could not be more proud of the Democratic ticket that Tim Kaine will lead into the fall. Virginia Democrats will field a line-up of impressive and inspiring congressional candidates who will lead the charge in taking back the United States House of Representatives.” That about sums it up right there.
PredictIt markets: They got a scare, but in the end, they predicted that Corey Stewart would win, also that Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger would win easily. Check, check and check. Maybe there’s something to these markets after all?
VA-10 Democratic Exit Poll: Yesterday’s exit poll in VA-10 predicted it as Wexton 37%-Friedman 22%-Stover 17%-Helmer 15%. In the end, that was the order of finish exactly, and pretty close the percentages as well (Wexton ended up at 42%, Friedman at 23%, Stover at 16% and Helmer at 13%). Nailed it, pretty much.
Blue Virginia’s silly, unscientific, online polls: I know that some folks hate them, and I don’t claim that they are scientific, but they do say something about which campaigns have energized grassroots support and are organized to win silly stuff like this (I’d include straw polls in this category). For instance, in our final poll, which asked who people THOUGHT would win on June 12, the results were super-close in VA-01 between Edwin Santana and Vangie Williams (last night, Williams won, Santana finished second); an easy win for Elaine Luria in VA-02 (bingo); a close race between Peter Volosin and Jennifer Lewis in VA-06 (in this case, Lewis won easily over Volosin); an easy win for Abigail Spanberger in VA-07 (bingo), an easy win for Anthony Flaccavento in VA-09 (bingo), and an easy win for Jennifer Wexton in VA-10 (bingo). Not too shabby for silly, unscientific online polls, eh?
Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07): Winning by a huge, 73%-27% margin last night over a well-funded opponent sets Spanberger up nicely for the race against Dave Brat. As does her army of grassroots supporters (e.g., the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County). Nice job, everyone at Team Spanberger!
Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10: A convincing win against several accomplished, well-funded opponents, shows that yet again, Wexton knows how to run and win elections. Now, time to translate that into victory over Barbara Comstock this November.
Washington Post endorsements: I hate to admit it, but the (Com)Post’s Virginia endorsements this cycle – Jennifer Wexton in VA-10 and Justin Wilson for Mayor of Alexandria – both won. Not that they wouldn’t have won without the Post endorsements, but still.
Blue Virginia endorsements: Not too shabby this cycle, as we endorsed Jennifer Wexton in VA-10 (win!); Edwin Santana in VA-01 (ok, lost that one); Elizabeth B. Bennett-Parker for Alexandria City Council (she finished first); John Taylor Chapman for Alexandria City Council (he finished second); Mo Seifeldein for Alexandria City Council (he finished third); Canek Aguirre for Alexandria City Council (he finished fourth); Del Pepper for Alexandria City Council (she finished fifth); Willie Bailey for Alexandria City Council (he barely lost); and Matt de Ferranti for Arlington County Borad (win!).
Greater Greater Washington endorsements: They mostly nailed it endorsing Jennifer Wexton in VA-10 (win!), Matt de Ferranti for Arlington County Board (win!), Justin Wilson for Mayor of Alexandria (win!); and John Chapman (win!), Redella “Del” Pepper (win!), Paul Smedberg (loss), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (win!), Dak Hardwick (loss), and Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein (win!) for Alexandria City Council.
Civility in Democratic primaries: In stark contrast to Republican primaries, which were absolutely vicious in VA-02, VA-05, VA-06, VA-10 and for U.S. Senate, Democratic primaries were veritable models of civility, debate on the issues, and basic agreement on what the problems and solutions are. What’s really striking to me is how, even though Democratic primaries were overwhelmingly high-minded affairs, there were STILL a few activists who thought they were nasty. You want to see nasty? Watch Republican primaries! LOL
Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA02): The good news for Taylor is that he crushed his far-right/Tea Party opponent last night by 28,505-8,978 margin. Also worth noting is that turnout in the VA-02 Democratic primary was only about 28,000 total, with the winner (Elaine Luria) getting 17,540 votes, about 11,000 fewer than Taylor received. On the other hand, Taylor now has to run in a district won by Ralph Northam (by four points) last November, and with neo-Confederate Corey Stewart at the top of his ticket. Plus, the DCCC got the nominee it wanted in Luria. So…not sure I’d be celebrating too much over at Taylor HQ.
Nick Freitas: On the one hand, Freitas lost to Corey Stewart last night. On the other hand, it was super close, showing that Freitas has statewide potential. On yet another hand, Freitas now returns to the Virginia House of Delegates, where his party might be in the majority for only one more session. But then again, Freitas probably won’t stick around the House of Delegates very long, as it’s clear he doesn’t really want to be there.
Corey Stewart: On the plus side, the mini-me version of Trump won last night, albeit by a (much) smaller-than-expected margin. On the negative side…seriously? Seems to me that this guy is a disaster in every other way, and someone Democrats will enjoy exposing the next five months for the demagogue, xenophobe, bigot, etc. that he is. And if Corey goes down in flames this November, will he take a couple House seats currently held by Virginia Republicans – and maybe the entire GOP House of Reps majority – down with him? Let’s not just hope, let’s work HARD to make that happen!
Edwin Santana: He lost yesterday (to Vangie Williams), but I’m very impressed with VA-01 Dem Edwin Santana and really think he could have a bright political future ahead of him.
Virginia GOP Chair John Whitbeck: I mean, this guy has made a habit of losing, losing and losing some more. In 2011, he lost a Republican primary for House of Delegates to Randy Minchew. In 2014, he got crushed (53%-38%) by Jennifer Wexton for State Senate. In January 2015, Whitbeck was elected VA GOP Chair, and since then he has seen his party…lose the 2016 Virginia presidential race, get wiped out in the 2017 House of Delegates and statewide races, and now see Corey Stewart – the exact wrong face for the party who had demanded Whitbeck’s resignation and has been at war with many VA GOP elected officials – win the U.S. Senate nomination. I’m not sure what Whitbeck likes to drink, but he might want to stock up on it, whatever it is…could be a loooong summer/fall.
Dave Brat: My understanding is that there were 45,693 Democratic votes in Brat’s 7th CD yesterday, versus just 37,156 GOP votes. Recall that this is a district Ralph Northam lost by just under 4 points in 2017, so last night’s numbers are not a good sign for Brat. Also, having Corey Stewart at the top of the ticket can’t possibly help Brat, particularly as the 7th CD is more Freitas’ than Corey’s territory (e.g., Freitas ROMPED in Orange, Culpeper, Goochland, Louisa, Nottoway, Amelia, Powhatan, Chesterfield and Henrico).
Barbara Comstock: From a Virginia Dem politico I respect – “Obviously Comstock is a loser. Her party is divided and Dems nominated the strongest challenger who will beat her in Loudoun.” I’d add that Comstock didn’t win overwhelmingly either, with the underfunded, far-right Shak Hill getting almost 40% of the vote (does that make Shak a winner? LOL) against the incumbent Congresswoman with the endorsement of VP Mike Pence, gobs of money, etc. Also, I’d point out that with neo-Confederate Corey at the top of the ticket, Comstock is in a very tough situation. I mean, will she actually campaign with the white supremacist/demagogue? If not, how will that play with everyone who voted for Corey in the GOP primary yesterday? Note that Corey won big swaths of VA-10, including Loudoun County (51%-39%), Fairfax County (49%-37%), Winchester (61%-23%), Frederick County (61%-23%), Clarke County (63%-24%), Manassas Park (67%-22%), and Manassas (59%-30%). I definitely would NOT want to be in Comstock’s position right now…almost (but not quite) feel sorry for her. LOL
Alexandria Mayor Alison Silberberg: It’s a rare thing these days for a male Democratic candidate to defeat a female Democratic candidate – let alone an incumbent – in a primary, but that’s exactly what happened last night in Alexandria, where Vice Mayor Justin Wilson defeated Mayor Alison Silberberg.
Alexandria City Council Incumbents: Rough night for Alexandria City Council incumbents Paul Smedberg and Willie Bailey, both of whom lost. On the other hand, Del Pepper held on and John Chapman won easily, so it wasn’t all bad for incumbents. Still, this Council will look a lot different starting next January…
Dan Ward: I mean, it’s one thing to lose, but to have the kind of money VA-07 Democratic candidate Dan Ward had, and then to lose by a 73%-27% margin (to Abigail Spanberger) is just…ouch!
Dan Helmer: It’s not a good day for people named “Dan” on the winners and loser list, as VA-10 Democratic candidate Dan Helmer spent a lot of money, had tons of endorsements (albeit most not from the district), and finished…fourth, with just 12.6% of the vote. On the other hand, Helmer had two of the most memorable videos of the 2018 campaign cycle – the “Worst/Best Political Campaign Ad of All Time” (uh, have we forgotten “Demon Sheep” by Carly Fiorina? LOL) and also “Buying an Assault Rifle with No Background Check”). Unfortunately for Helmer, creativity, viral videos and name ID don’t necessarily translate into votes.
Broadcast TV ads in VA-10: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, even if Democratic candidates don’t want to listen – that broadcast TV ads in the expensive D.C. metro media market are a huge waste of money. In VA-10, as I wrote back in 2014, only around “1/7th (14%) or so of market reached by a broadcast TV ad in the DC Metro market reaches the 10th CD. That means 86% of a DC Metro market broadcast TV ad buy is essentially ‘bleed’ — not reaching the targeted audience at all, ergo wasted.” Yet several VA-10 Democratic candidates poured money into those highly expensive broadcast TV ads…to no avail, as far as I can tell, as the final results weren’t much different than many of us expected all along – an easy win for Jennifer Wexton.
“Every DC lobbyist and McLean cocktail party attendee who thought any of the Mclean candidates had a chance against the State Senator from Loudoun. Apparently there are real live voters in Loudoun, not just wineries?” (note: this one was submitted by a Dem politico; I’d just add that I never understood how all these candidates from McLean wouldn’t just split the “not Jennifer Wexton” vote, and that’s kinda what happened…)
Corporate media coverage of the House races: With a few exceptions, it was the usual shallowness – mostly “horse race” coverage, very little substance, repeating the conventional wisdom, “both sides” false equivalency, fluffy “personality” pieces, gossip, etc. Blech.
Endorsements by people with no obvious ties to the district a candidate is running in: I mean, check out Dan Helmer’s endorsements, for instance, and explain what the connection is to VA-10. Or Alison Friedman’s endorsements? Got me. Do these endorsements help in any way? Also, got me…but no sign of it from what I’ve seen over the years, unless it’s like Barack Obama, or someone of that stature.