There are still 20 days to go until election day (11/6), and while VA 10th CD Democratic nominee Jennifer Wexton is in the lead in all the polls and looking like she’s in a strong position, this one is absolutely NOT a done deal until the polls close at 7 pm on Election Day. So, between now and then, if you have any time or treasure to give to Wexton’s campaign, please do so! And absolutely, let’s NOT take this one for granted, even if Republican hack and lying liar Barbara Comstock’s days in Congress voting 98% of the time with Trump are increasingly looking numbered.
Now, assuming Jennifer Wexton DOES win on 11/6 and we finally get rid of the Trump puppet, that would obviously create a vacancy in SD33, the district that Wexton represents in the Virginia State Senate. Note, by the way, that this 73% Loudoun County/27% Fairfax County district is STRONGLY “blue,” having seen Ralph Northam win it in 2017 by 35 points (wow!) and Hillary Clinton by 30 points (also wow!). So I’m definitely not worried that Democrats will hold SD33. What I *am* somewhat worried about is how the special election for this seat might play out. A few concerns:
- First off, I was forwarded an email from Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chair Alfonso Nevarez stating that the Democratic nominee for this special election will be determined VERY quickly, only 11 days after the midterm elections, from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, November 17 in a “firehouse primary” (polling locations will be in Herndon, Sterling, Leesburg and Brambleton). This concerns me for at least three main reasons: 1) that it is so soon after the midterms that it might not give potential candidates any time to even realize it’s happening, let alone to consider whether or not they might want to run, let alone get their act together to file/campaign/etc.; 2) that it could provide an advantage over other candidates to the only elected official – Del. Jennifer Boysko – likely to be in the race (note: currently, two other Democrats have filed – environmental activist and strong progressive Charlotte McConnell of Sterling and business development executive Sharafat Hussain of Leesburg). Why do I say that? Because, as an elected official, Boysko already would have access to financial resources, the VAN and to other important tools/information/support crucial to being a successful candidate. What I want to see is a free and fair process that allows potential candidates to compete on the merits. That includes having a process that’s given sufficient time to play out, so that voters can hear from the candidates, so that candidates can get out and campaign, so that voters can make plans to vote in the “firehouse,” etc.
- Second, this process should be advertised widely and as soon as possible, so as many potential voters can participate as possible. Given that it’s likely going to be a “firehouse primary” on a Saturday 11 days after the midterms – when people are distracted and not focused on a special election for 2019 here in Virginia – the number of voters could be very low. And that would be VERY unfortunate, given that whoever wins this “Firehouse” is HIGHLY likely to be the next State Senator from SD33, potentially for many many years to come. Seems to me like such a weighty, important decision should be made by as many SD33 Democratic voters as possible.
- Third, if there are multiple candidates running, I’d definitely want to see the “Firehouse” use Instant Runoff Voting, as this will require that the nominee receive a MAJORITY of the votes cast, as opposed to one of the candidates potentially winning the nomination with only a plurality (35%? 30%?) of an already-small number of voters.
- Fourth, I’m concerned about the games that Senate Republicans – particularly Majority Leader Tommy Norment – might play here. Note that there appears to be nothing specific in the Virginia Code regarding when a special election for a General Assembly vacancy has to be held. That means this decision will largely be up to Norment and his merry band of Senate Republicans. Comforting, eh? Not. So let’s think pure politics here; is there any incentive or advantage for Norment, who holds a slim 21-19 advantage in the State Senate, to move quickly to set a special election date in SD33, given that it’s HIGHLY likely Democrats will retain the seat? Or does it make more sense for Norment to take his sweeeeeet time, maybe even stall so he can get through the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session with Dems down three (21-18) instead of two (21-19)? What would stop Norment from doing that? Public pressure and political blowback, including in the media and from Gov. Northam’s “bully pulpit,” I suppose. Still, I don’t trust Norment as far as I can throw him.
- Fifth, I’m not sure what the rush is, necessarily, for Dems to select our nominee super quickly (e.g., on 11/17), given that we don’t even know when Norment will set the special election date. Heck, for all we know, he might drag this out for months, in which case we’ll have plenty of time to select our nominee and run a campaign. But yeah, I “get” that it’s possible Norment could set the special election date for early January 2019 or whatever, in which case Dems WOULD need to move quickly to select our nominee. But again, we don’t know that yet. So it’s kind of a weird situation to be in, and I empathize with those trying to figure it out. There’s also the question of when Sen. Wexton would officially announce that she’s resigning from here State Senate seat, assuming she is victorious on 11/6 (and again, let’s NOT assume that’s a done deal!) – that could be as late as when she takes off in the U.S. House in January 2019.
- Another thing to keep in mind here, by the way, is that *if* Del. Boysko is the nominee and goes on to win the State Senate special election, then we’ll have a vacancy in THAT district (HD86) as well, potentially putting Democrats down 51-48 in the House of Delegates instead of 51-49 for part or all of the 2019 session. That’s not cool either, but I’m not sure what we can do about it, other than…I guess not nominate Del. Boysko for this.
- Finally, in talking to folks who are involved in this process, I’ve heard the concern that this district be represented by someone from Loudoun County, since that makes up nearly three-quarters of the district. I tend to agree, although I certainly don’t think that a candidate from Fairfax County should NOT be considered for this nomination.
Those are a few main issues I’ve heard raised about this process. There might be others I’ve missed. Please share your thoughts on this in the comments section. Thanks.
P.S. The only reason I wrote about this now, as opposed to waiting until after 11/6, is that the super-quick time frame being discussed means that people need to know about this NOW, not on 11/7 or whenever, for a likely 11/17 nomination vote.