I just got the following in my inbox from former Del. Chris Saxman (R) of Virginia FREE. a pro-business, STRONGLY Republican-leaning group (e.g., check out Virginia FREE’s legislative rankings, which not surprisingly find basically all right wingers at the “top” and all progressives at the “bottom”). For more on Virginia FREE, see Taking the Reverse of the New “Virginia FREE” Rankings is Far More Accurate, in which among other things I noted that Project Vote Smart clearly shows how anti-labor, anti-LGBT equality, anti-choice, anti-environment, etc. Saxman was as a delegate. I also wrote that Virginia FREE’s claims to be “steadfastly non-partisan” and also that “political party identification is never considered in our deliberations” are completely laughable, as this is a group headed up by a former hard-right delegate and which almost ALWAYS rates Republicans good, Dems bad.
So keep all that in mind as you check out Virginia FREE’s rankings and analysis, below. Also keep in minds, as Virginia FREE notes, that these rankings are of what Saxman et al. believe to be “the most important nomination contests is based upon those races which will show the direction of the two major political parties ahead of the 2020 presidential cycle” and are “not based on competitiveness!” With that, see below for the Virginia FREE rankings, preceded by comments by yours truly.
First off, let me start with my area(s) of agreement with Virginia FREE’s rankings and analysis. In general, I actually *do* agree with Virginia FREE on how most of the listed races are leaning right now. For instance, I *do* think that Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is strongly favored to win her primary, as are Sen. Emmett Hanger (R), Sen. Dick Saslaw (D), Sen. Frank Ruff (R), Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D), Sen. Bryce Reeves (R), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), Del. Chris Peace (R). And I *do* think that Del. Lee Carter (Democratic Socialist) could be in for a very tough race against Mark Wolfe (R-turned-D). I’m not sure about Del. Kaye Kory (D)’s race against challenger Andres Jimenez (D), but given that she’s the incumbent, I’d give her the edge (I’d say “Leans Kory” rather than “Likely Kory,” as I definitely think that Jimenez is very impressive and has a shot here). As for Del. Bob Thomas (R) vs. Paul Milde (R), I’m not sure, as it really depends how much the anti-Medicaid-expansion, far-right, Tea Partier “base” turns out…or doesn’t.
Now, for my (many) disagreements with Virginia FREE’s analysis.
- I’m HIGHLY skeptical that these primaries on June 11 will – as Virginia FREE argues – “show the direction of the two major political parties ahead of the 2020 presidential cycle.” For one thing, most of these races will be won by incumbents, so how does that tell us much of anything about the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, for instance? Also, a lot of these races will hinge heavily on local issues and aren’t really translatable into national politics, where Trump is the #1, #2 and #3 issue these days. To me, what matters more on June 11 will be overall Democratic and Republican turnout, as that will give us an indication of enthusiasm – or lack thereof – among each party’s base.
- I’d argue that it’s utterly ludicrous – “vapid” and “stupid” were adjectives used by one of my most plugged-in, astute Virginia Democratic politico friends when I showed them this writeup – to claim that the most important primary in Virginia is Barbara Favola vs. Nicole Merlene in SD31 (note: another of my super-smart Dem politico friends messaged me, “They lost me at #1” – their SD31 analysis, that is). It’s also just flat-out, demonstrably wrong to claim that Merlene is challenging Favola “from the left.” Not only is there no evidence of that, but Merlene herself has stated that she is *not* challenging Favola from the “left.” As for the hyperbolic statement that “If Merlene gets over 35% and even 40%, the Democratic establishment will have been given final warning nationwide that its days are numbered,” that’s just…frankly, nuts. Completely absurd. In no way/shape/form would Merlene getting 35% or 40% of the vote in this race mean any of that. Did I mention that this claim by Virginia FREE is utterly ridiculous, and really shows the right-wing slant of that group to frame it this way and to make that “argument” (using the word loosely). Gack!
- If I were going to rank one Democratic State Senate or House of Delegates primary that might show the mindset of Democrats these days, it would be much more the Dick Saslaw vs. Yasmine Taeb vs. Karen Torrent in SD35 than Favola vs. Merlene. But even there, I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from whatever the results are on June 11, as Saslaw is an entrenched incumbent with tons of $$$, lots of powerful friends, etc, etc., and he has not one but two challengers from his left, which could end up splitting whatever anti-Saslaw vote there is. Plus, Saslaw hasn’t taken this race for granted and has been working hard. Finally, we’ll have to see how strong (or not) the Taeb and Torrent campaigns are. None of those variables, by the way, can be translated easily (or at all?) to the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
- The analysis of the Alfonso Lopez vs. J.D. Spain primary in HD49 seems very overstated and hyperbolic to me. I’d rate Lopez as the strong favorite for a bunch of reasons, starting with the fact that he’s a strong, well-known incumbent, endorsed by…well, basically almost everyone… with what will likely be an enormous financial edge over his challenger, plus a very progressive record. So how would a Lopez win in this race mean that “super activists are not that influential in the Democratic Party after all other than making a lot of noise?” Short answer: it won’t, at all; this is just weird, right-wing spin and nonsense. Finally, I’d note that the margin of victory here could be influenced, to a degree, by the number of Vihstadt supporters – some of whom are Dems, some of whom are true Independents, some of whom are Republicans – who turn out for Theo Stamos in the Commonwealth’s Attorney primary, and how they vote in other races (such as HD49) on the ballot. That’s a variable that won’t be in play in the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, so again, it’s silly to try and extrapolate from this to that.
- I don’t really buy the analysis of the race between Sen. Lynwood Lewis and challenger Willie Randall in SD6 either, although it’s probably true that a Randall win would require him to get big-time African-American turnout and percentages. But even if that happens, to extrapolate that to the national level and claim that it proves “identity politics” are ascendant in the Democratic Party seems like a wild overstatement to me. Plus, it’s not like “identity politics” hasn’t always been important in both the Democratic Party and also the Republican Party, where WHITE IDENTITY politics are the driving force.
- Finally, I’d argue that there are very interesting Democratic primaries not listed here that might actually tell us something about where the party’s collective psyche is at right now. For instance, I’ll be looking to see if women beat men in a bunch of the June 11 Democratic primaries (e.g., HD18, HD20, HD26, HD38, HD62, HD87, HD91, HD96, SD11, SD16, SD28, SD35). Given that 2017 and 2018 were both clearly the “year of the woman” in Democratic primaries here in Virginia and across the country, the question is whether that will continue in 2019. My guess is that yes, it will…and the June 11 primaries could tell us something about that. I’m also interested, on the Republican side, in the SD13 Republican primary between Geary Higgins (endorsed by far-right extremists/bigots like Dick Black and our old pal “Sideshow Bob” Marshall) and Ron Meyer, as this will help indicate whether the far-far-right is more energized than the merely far-right. LOL