Results show uphill climb for Gillespie-Vogel-Adams slate due to Northern Virginia
The “real story” of the June 13 statewide primary was not just the close race between Ed Gillespie who prevailed for the Republican nomination and Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Board chairman challenger – but how low the turnout was for the Republican primary versus the Democrats.
Statewide, there was 47% increase in voter turnout in the Democratic primary vs. the Republican primary.
The margin of Democrat turnout in the three major vote-rich counties of Northern Virginia, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, was greater.
In Loudoun, the Democratic Primary attracted 66% more voters than the Republicans, 41% in Prince William. In Fairfax, the Democratic turnout was 150% more than the Republican turnout (see table).
Indeed, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates were spending nearly three times on media than Republicans, according to two articles, and that could have been a factor.
Northam has spent almost twice as much money on TV ads as Perriello, his Democratic rival, in recent months — $3.7 million to $2 million, according to a source tracking media spending in Virginia. And Northam entered June with nearly twice as much money to spend over the last two weeks of the race, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.
This means some $5.7 million was spent on media, alone, in the Northam-Perriello contest
According to the Virginia Pilot, Gillespie, Stewart and third place finisher Frank Wagner spent about $2.3 million. The paper reported:
Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman, spent more than $1.6 million between April and June. …State Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach spent about $250,000 in the past two months and …Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, had spent about $400,000 in April and May.
|Ralph S. Northam||303,152||55.89%|
|Tom S. Perriello||239,244||44.11%|
|Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie||159,829||43.70%|
|Corey A. Stewart||155,617||42.55%|
|Frank W. Wagner||50,267||13.75%|
|% difference Dem vs GOP Turnout||47%|
|Ralph S. Northam||54,689||60.05%|
|Tom S. Perriello||36,383||39.95%|
|Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie||17,948||47.73%|
|Corey A. Stewart||14,712||39.13%|
|Frank W. Wagner||4,940||13.14%|
|% difference Dem vs GOP Turnout||150%|
|Ralph S. Northam||10,753||51.58%|
|Tom S. Perriello||10,094||48.42%|
|Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie||5,565||44.90%|
|Corey A. Stewart||5,370||43.33%|
|Frank W. Wagner||1,458||11.76%|
|% difference Dem vs GOP Turnout||66%|
|Ralph S. Northam||12,424||50.15%|
|Tom S. Perriello||12,348||49.85%|
|Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie||5,488||31.53%|
|Corey A. Stewart||10,459||60.09%|
|Frank W. Wagner||1,459||8.38%|
|% difference Dem vs GOP Turnout||41%|
Perhaps the greater media spending contributed to the lopsided Democratic turnout. However, let’s not ignore changing demographics in this state, particularly in vote-rich Northern Virginia.
In November, I was the top-vote-getter among seven candidates running for the Leesburg Town Council. Leesburg has about 28,000 registered voters and nearly 52,000 residents, and is often a bellwether for state and national elections.
I truly believe my name recognition and record serving Leesburg since 2006 on both the Council and Board of Supervisors contributed to my win. However, in knocking about 2,000 doors in Leesburg for my campaign and the Trump/RNC effort, and speaking with more voters than that, I saw a trend whereby a number of new voters would not consider voting for me, nor Rep. Barbara Comstock, who happened to win Leesburg handily in 2014. In her 2016 race, she lost Loudoun by 165 votes to a no-name Luann Bennett, largely due to the anti-Trump sentiment I saw early on in my canvassing.
These new voters were going to vote straight Democrat because that’s what they were accustomed to doing. Many of these were not minority voters, but new white voters who had just moved to Leesburg from Northeastern states.
We also had a Republican-endorsed mayoral candidate who served two terms on the Council, facing two well-known Democrats, one running with the local party endorsement, and the other running as an independent. The theory was the two Dems would divide the vote, but that did not happen. The candidate backed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee won convincingly.
The reality is that Northeasterners are flocking to Virginia and combined with the growing non-white population, this is contributing to the Democratic base. I do not believe the Democrat advantage is all due to “illegals” voting, but growing populations of folks from the Middle East, India and other Asian nations.
The Gillespie-Stewart contest is worth noting in how name recognition and having a geographic base helps a candidate. Despite the fact Ed Gillespie was endorsed by five of Corey Stewart’s GOP supervisor colleagues, Stewart won the county handily and came within a hair of winning Loudoun – most likely due to name recognition. He is in his third term on the County Board.
Sen. Jill Vogel, who won the Lt. Governor nomination, was aided greatly in Loudoun, which is part of her political base. She garnered nearly 64% of the vote.
The election also shows how candidates on the “right side” of hot-button social issues can sway the conservative GOP base to vote for them.
While columns on this blog ridiculed Corey Stewart for cozying up to supporters of Confederate battle flags and monuments, the reality is that in a low-turnout primary, he got that vote and almost won with the nomination with it. His unabashed support for Trump, even after being fired as his state chairman in October, helped, too.
In the Lt. governor race, Bryce Reeves, who was Vogel’s main challenger, played up her votes for a gay judge in mailers. She was swamped in conservative precincts with many “values voters,” who oppose homosexuality. He came close to winning and chances are had Glenn Davis not been in the race or if we held a convention to nominate candidates, he’d be on the ticket now – perhaps with Stewart.
But the conservative base cannot make up a statewide victory for Republicans given the huge Democratic advantage in Northern Virginia. The challenge now for the Gillespie-Vogel-Adams ticket is to unite the conservative base, but present a cogent case to win those difficult Northern Virginia swing voters and maybe some Democrats.
In a 2nd part of this column, I will discuss a possible means to achieve a repeat of the 2009 “McBollinelli” sweep with Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli – that being getting more rural voters to get registered.