Then I realized that the weeks coincided with the run-up for the September 1st deadline the court had set for Congressional redistricting. Perhaps the General Assembly would be working on an 11th hour compromise?
Nope. Early in the special session my fears were put to rest as the Republicans tried to jam everything and forced Democrats to adjourn. Redistricting would occur in September after I was back from vacation.
Then Mark Herring announces that he will be running for reelection as the Commonwealth's Attorney General! It's a good thing I kept my phone on so I could get the texts from friends back in the Commonwealth while on vacation!
A few thoughts.
1. Announcing before this fall's elections ensures that the narrative will not be one of Herring being pushed out by concerned moderates and negative nay-sayers. Despite the all-out effort by the Democrats to win back the State Senate, they are on hostile terrain and could still fall short. Should this happen, the political talking heads could point to the election as a sign that Virginia is still a tough, purple state, and that the VMI graduate and more moderate Ralph Northam would be a better candidate for Democrats going into 2017. The pressure would be on to unite the party and avoid a primary fight.
1. On the expansion of Medicaid, the issue isn't just about what the Commonwealth will do for the least fortune among us. Thinking about a practical blank check from the federal government to do more today for struggling Virginians is a timely issue on the eve of Christmas. There is also an argument for asking why Virginia should be paying for the Affordable Care Act without receiving its full benefits.
But after the Supreme Court's ruling, Republican governors and legislatures in state after state rejected the expansion. Rejecting the Medicaid expansion, however, doesn't exempt a state from the taxes and spending cuts Obamacare uses to fund the Medicaid expansion. A September analysis from McClatchy estimated that "if the 23 states that have rejected expanding Medicaid under the 2010 health care law continue to do so for the next eight years, they'll pay $152 billion to extend the program in other states - while receiving nothing in return." That's a helluva gift from (mostly) red states to (mostly) blue ones.
In the next term, the Supreme Court will rule on the claim that the law does not allow for subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the federal exchange. Depending on the ruling, the Republican Party's opposition to participating in the health care law will mean even fewer dollars going to Virginian families.
2. I haven't seen a detailed analysis of the Medicaid eligible population by House or Senate district, but the numbers I've seen based on localities indicate that this is not just a moral issue in 2015, but a political winner in areas like Prince William County.
3. Medicaid expansion links well to redistricting reform. While usually such insider baseball is not the stuff of political campaigns, it bolsters the imagine of the Republican Party standing opposed to progress and reform.
But if that's where we are in 2015, where are we going? Virginia is changing rapidly, and I think the great Yogi Berra's observations ring true. "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
What's the vision for Virginia Democrats not just in 2015, but long term?
34th House of Delegates Special Election
Let's give a brief history of the 34th in the last few election cycles. In 2007, Republican incumbent Vince Callahan retired and the open seat was won in a good Democratic year by Margi Vanderhye. Margi had defeated Rip Sullivan in the Democratic primary (Rip is finally making his way to Richmond from the 48th District). I wonder if Rip's pleased that he didn't end up in the 34th, as in 2009 a Republican tsunami swept out Vanderhye by 422 votes.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
Keep the gold, pawn it off for cold hard cash, because on this Epiphany, the three magi would be better off bringing money, messaging, and mobilization to Virginia Democrats.
Campaigns are fought on battlefields defined by demographics, candidates, random events and other factors that may be out of our control. But once the battle has been joined, victory belongs to the side that brings the three M's: money, messaging, and mobilization.