Home 2019 Elections Audio: “After Virginia Votes” Reviews 2019 Virginia Elections

Audio: “After Virginia Votes” Reviews 2019 Virginia Elections

Speaker Cox's Chief of Staff points to "elephant in the room" as the "national environment" and "the way that stems from the president" (and impeachment)

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Check out the audio, below, of last night’s “After Virginia Votes” even at GMU in Arlington, with Kristina Hagen, Executive Director, Senate Democratic Caucus and Matt Moran, Chief of Staff, House Speaker, Kirk Cox. A few highlights include:

  • What was the “smartest thing the other side did?” According to Moran, it was that Democrats “raise[d] and spent a lot of money.” According to Hagen, it was that Republicans had some very strong candidates on the Senate side – specifically, Siobhan Dunnavant and Jennifer Kiggans – who were able to run “on bio rather than running on issuestwo medical professionals who were really able to emphasize their roles within the communities” and were “very disciplined on their message.”
  • On technology, Hagen praised the “Democratic volunteer recruitment tool” called “Mobilize,” as well as “an unprecedented digital program…differentiating…between a persuasion…and a mobilization audience.” Moran pointed to Facebook’s “ad library…where you can go in and search for a page or any candidate and you can see all the ads that page is running.” Moran said he didn’t think text messaging “panned out quite the way we thought” and was not the “new ‘it technology’ in campaigns…people are already tuning that stuff out.”
  • On why people were “so wrong” on Democrats easily winning back the Senate, but the House of Delegates was too close to predict, Moran said redistricting on the House of Delegates side “opened things up a lot more than people realized,” while Senate map was “narrower.” Hagen said she was pleased that Democrats held every single House of Delegates incumbent.
  • What was different this year? Hagen pointed to turnout being “very high,” reaching “gubernatorial levels” in some “key localities.” Democrats were “excited,” “energized,” “fired up,” both for legislative and down-ballot races. Moran said the “elephant in the room” is the “national environment” and “the way that stems from the president.” Moran added, “When you have an unpopular president, the effect is felt all the way down the races…the demographic changes that we’re seeing in Virginia have now been accelerated and exacerbated by the national environment…it limited our options on messaging…gave our Democratic colleagues ample fodder as far as messaging goes.”
  • Moran said that Republicans wanted to “isolate” the races as their candidate vs. the Democratic candidate, and while that strategy didn’t work on the House side, it *did* work on the Senate side – with Senator Dunnavant and Jennifer Kiggans. In other words, Senate Dems needed to nationalize the races more and make them about Trump, Trump, Trump.
  • Moran said that, “when you’re on the losing side, there’s a lot of things you can second guess…”
  • Moran said he thought that VP Mike Pence’s pre-election rally helped Republicans with turnout in Hampton Roads. Hagen said Pence coming in “may have had an impact” on mobilizing the Republican base. I’d add that Professor Rachel Bitecofer was urging, prior to the election, that Democrats do everything they could to boost their base turnout in Hampton Roads, ideally by bringing in former President Obama. The reason was that Bitecofer was concerned Democrats could lose SD7 and SD8 in Hampton Roads if Democrats didn’t jack base turnout…and she was right, unfortunately.
  • How much did impeachment matter? According to Moran, impeachment angered the Republican “base” and might have boosted their turnout.
  • On the “blackface” scandal, Moran said it was not an issue with voters – they “flat didn’t care.” According to Moran, voters cared a lot more about LG Fairfax’s issues, but that it still didn’t “move swing voters.”
  • Moran said the “Kathy Tran” late-term abortion bill issue definitely motivated the Republican base. Hagen said that wasn’t necessarily effective as a “stand-alone message.” Moran said that bill “reset the debate in some ways.” I’d argue that Democrats should have pushed back a lot harder than they did, rather than allow Republicans to push out their distorted narrative about this…
  • On Speaker Cox ending up holding on to his seat, Moran pointed to having a lot of money, also to Cox’s messaging as being “one of us” (note: I’d put it a different way, that Cox almost completely hid the fact that he’s a Republican, not mentioning that word almost anywhere in his communications). Moran claimed, in my view risibly, that Cox had “credibility,” even though of course he should have absolutely none, on issue after issue. I do agree with Moran on the “goodwill” Cox has in the district as a “30-year retired public school teacher,” and that there isn’t “anyone else in the Commonwealth of Virginia that can hold that seat but Kirk Cox.”
  • Hagen said the ERA is a “huge base motivator” and almost certainly had an impact on House of Delegates races.
  • Hagen emphasized the importance of reaching out to “the rising electorate…communities of color…communities that maybe haven’t necessarily turned out in as large proportions in past off-year elections.”
  • Who’s going to be the next House of Delegates minority leader? Moran said he knows but wouldn’t say, other than that we’ll “find out on Sunday.”
  • Hagen said she thought we’d see some “good environmental initiatives coming up in the 2020 legislative session.”
  • Moran predicted that “low-hanging fruit” for the Democratic majority will be “some of the social issues; anti-discrimination, the 2nd amendment…the ERA…they’ll pretty quickly check those boxes off,” while “on the more difficult end of the spectrum will be some of the business issues and business climate, where maybe the older establishment wing of the party has a little bit different philosophy than some of the newer members…and then right in the middle will be environmental issues… that’s a very important issue to the base.”
  • Hagen said that Senate Democrats used the Northam and Kaine maps, and were really “trying to expand the map” to get to “a little bit more than 21” seats in the Senate by putting 5-7 seats in play.
  • Moran claimed that “Republicans in the House tried very hard…I mean they maintained proportional representation on committees over a two decade span” and that “the minority got the opportunity to provide input on committee assignments.” I have a feeling there are Democrats who would beg to differ with some of that…
  • Moran said he’s seen “nothing out of the newly elected House leadership that makes me think they’re gonna go on some sort of you know partisan rampage.”
  • Moran pointed to several possible Republican candidates for 2021 – Rep. Denver Riggleman, Rep. Rob Wittman, State Sen. Dunnavant…Del. Jason Miyares “would be a great candidate for Attorney General…his upward mobility is real.”