President Biden’s been sworn in, Cheeto Mussolini is gone, so it’s now time to start focusing in more on the 2021 Virginia statewide races – for governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. We’ll start with the following rankings, courtesy of former Del. Chris Saxman (R) – you can subscribe to his Substack here – along with a few thoughts of my own.
- First off, it’s truly amazing that there are 29 candidates for statewide office at this point. For comparison purposes, in 2017, there were only 12 candidates (or 13, if you count Republican Chuck Smith, who failed to qualify for the ballot). The question is why there are so many candidates this year. On the Democratic side, clearly folks see Virginia’s statewide races as highly winnable, given that Republicans haven’t won one since 2009. And on the Republican side, maybe they figure with Biden in the White House, Virginia Democratic voters will go back to sleep, while Republican voters will be energized in November, so that there’s a chance for Republicans to break their decade-plus-long losing streak? Let’s make damn sure THAT doesn’t happen! Also on the Republican side, it’s worth noting that there’s a lot of uncertainty, both in terms of the direction the party might be heading post-Trump (although I’d argue you can never go wrong betting on the GOP going further and further off the far-right deep end), and also regarding what method of nomination the VA GOP finally adopts – see here for more on that subject.
- See below for former Del. Saxman’s rankings. I generally agree with these on the Democratic side for governor and Attorney General, but I think Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s ranked too low for LG, and I might move Andria McClellan up a slot as well. Other than that, they mostly look about right to me, and also what the general consensus seems to be at this point (e.g., for governor, most Virginia politicos seem to feel that McAuliffe is the strong, but not runaway, favorite).
- On the Republican side, I’d argue it’s a much more muddled picture, given the disarray in that party regarding their method of nomination, and also their post-Trump identity issues. My gut tells me that a seemingly more moderate businessman like Glenn Youngkin isn’t a good fit – at all – for the Trumpian Virginia GOP, but we’ll see whether all his $$$ can move him up the rankings, whether he adopts a hard-right message, and whether such a message would be at all credible to VA GOP voters…
- Finally, re: Saxman’s point about the Republicans not knowing where they are going I’d argue that it’s very clear where the Republican Party’s going right now – to the far right, QAnon, Marjorie Taylor Greene direction. As for Democrats, they are running progressive campaigns to varying degrees, ranging from more in the “center” (e.g., Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, Andria McClellan) to more “left”-leaning (e.g., Jennifer Carroll Foy, Elizabeth Guzman), all the way to “socialist left” (e.g., Lee Carter). How this plays out in a primary, though – particularly given that there’s no ranked-choice voting (so it’s “first past the post”) – is hard to say. But yeah, I do agree with Saxman that it’s a tough call which is more painful – “Republicans having a policy conversation” vs. “What do you want for dinner?” vs. “drilling a live tooth.” LOL