Home 2019 Elections Audio: RTD Political Reporter Says Virginia Dems “Still Energized Despite Their Governor’s...

Audio: RTD Political Reporter Says Virginia Dems “Still Energized Despite Their Governor’s Troubles”

"With Donald Trump in the White House, the political tides in Virginia are shifting so powerfully toward the Democrats"

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See below for audio of an interesting chat between RTD veteran political reporters Jeff Schapiro and Patrick Wilson about, among other things, whether “Northam’s problems and redistricting affect the upcoming elections.” Also see below the audio for highlights and comments by me.

  • What’s at stake this November, as Jeff Schapiro points out, is the potential for Democrats to take back total control of Virginia state government “for the first time since 1993.” That’s huge.
  • On the relatively large number of Republican retirements, despite all the troubles Gov. Northam, LG Fairfax and AG Herring have been having, Patrick Wilson argued – at least in the cases of Sen. Frank Wagner (R) and Sen. Dick Black (R)  -that “sometimes when you do things for a long time, you’re ready to retire.” I buy that to a point, but I also would assume that all these guys are taking the political calculus into account, and are looking at their districts move in an increasingly “blue” direction. For instance, Ralph Northam won SD7 (currently held by Frank Wagner) 54%-45% and SD13 (currently held by Dick Black) 55%-44%.
  • How badly might the problems on the Democratic side with the governor, LG and AG hurt Dems’ chances of taking back the General Assembly this November? According to Patrick Wilson, at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s central committee meetings two weekends ago, “it was a large crowd, everybody seemed pretty fired up for the fall election…and Sen. Louise Lucas from Portsmouth gave a very rousing speech and basically said, ‘the people here in the room are the ones that are going to win this election’.”
  • Wilson added, “I get the sense that Democrats are still energized despite their governor’s troubles…with Donald Trump in the White House, the political tides in Virginia are shifting so powerfully toward the Democrats, and for a lot of voters when fall is rolling around, Trump will be what they’re seeing on Facebook and hearing about…and usually what Trump is doing is very unpopular throughout much of Virginia…We don’t really know how much of a drag [Northam] will be on Democrats…We just don’t know yet what kind of effect it will have.”
  • I agree with Schapiro that historically, these “odd/off-year,” heavily local elections tend to be low turnout, particularly among Democrats. However, as Patrick Wilson argued, this could be more about Donald Trump than a local election, per se. Also, Democrats will focus on their policy differences with Republicans (I’d argue that the ERA, gun violence prevention, health care, etc. will be big, with Republicans trying to counter with abortion).
  • On the situation in SD12, where Del. Debra Rodman just announced her entrance into the Democratic primary to take on Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, Patrick Wilson said there’s “consternation within the progressive community in Henrico, because Gov. Northam’s political action committee was among entities that got involved in trying to recruit…a new candidate to go up against…Dunnavant.” Part of Rodman’s “pitch,” Wilson noted, was that an internal poll showed her doing better against Dunnavant. Of course, as Wilson points out, a lot of that was probably “name ID.” But whatever the rationale, Wilson argued that that there are activists who are not necessarily thrilled about Northam’s PAC and the state party having their “thumb on the scale” and potentially pushing “establishment” Debra Rodman over Veena Lothe (who is Indian American, by the way) and Marques Jones (who is African American).
  • On SD10, which is the “bluest” (Northam won it 57%-42%) Virginia State Senate district currently held by a Republican (Glen Sturtevant), Wilson said that this is the “most flippable” seat for Democrats. Wilson noted that Democratic candidate Eileen Bedell has been endorsed by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, which should make Bedell the favorite in a multi-candidate field (the other Dems running are Connor Wood, Ghazala Hashmi and Zachary Brown). Bottom line here: Dems need to win this seat – period, whoever the nominee ends up being.
  • On the Republican side, there’s a nasty primary battle going on in SD17 between hard-right Sen. Bryce Reeves and his Republican challenger Rich Breedon. Note that this is a district where Ralph Northam got 49% of the vote in 2017, so it’s potentially winnable for Democrats. For a taste the nastiness between Reeves and Breedon, click here.
  • In HD28, keep an eye on the Republican primary between Paul Milde and Del. Bob Thomas, with Democrat Joshua Cole hoping to beat whichever one wins the nomination in a district which Northam won 51%-49% in 2017.
  • Finally, on House of Delegates redistricting due to the “racial packing” case (Bethune-Hill), I agree with Patrick Wilson that Speaker Kirk Cox (R-HD66) and powerful House Appropriations Committee Chair Chris Jones (R-HD76) are “in entirely new districts…Democratic-leaning districts,” which definitely could make them beatable this November. The Democrat running against Cox is Sheila Bynum Coleman; not sure who’s going to take on Jones, but we definitely need a strong challenger there…