Well, that isn’t entirely true. But in the larger story Gov. Terry McAuliffe failed to get “my Senate” back and Virginia will chug along for another four years with a Republican Senate barring losing a member. Every seat was a hold, not one single seat flipped. I don’t think I have ever seen an election quite like this. Certainly some things fell Republicans way, specifically Gary McCollum’s failure in Virginia Beach against Frank Wagner. Glen Sturtevant and Jeremy McPike won very close races against very good challengers to hold their retired seats. Incumbents Wagner, John Edwards, and Dick Black also held. It looks like Democrats may snag a couple of swing seats in Northern Virginia but effectively nothing has changed in Richmond.
I’m not sure what to make of this election. The major push on guns didn’t help Democrats, but it’s clear the blitz on $17 tolls didn’t help Republicans in Northern Virginia either. The outside money from Michael Bloomberg and aggressive activism of Andy Parker appears to have done nothing, if anything it may have hurt Dan Gecker in Powatan County … but maybe it helped McPike. I just don’t know.
In NOVA, it was a sad story for Republicans. Districts fell basically by sample ballot. There are almost no more crossover officials anymore, with Tom Rust’s seat finally going Democratic. In fact, I could argue that while the Democrats in Virginia did not win the Senate, they might have in the end had the better night. Their bench, particularly in Northern Virginia, has been restocked. Now Sen-elect McPike and, most importantly, Loudoun County Chairman-elect Phyllis Randall give the party two new stars. Democrats additionally took two other board seats in Loudoun. I’ve always argued that Loudoun County is the key to winning statewide in Virginia and now Democrats have elected the first black female chair of any BOS in the history of the state. Perhaps Loudoun was just regressing to the mean, a 9-0 Board of Supervisors was unrealistic to maintain. I think Republicans would rather deal with an honest Democrat like Randall than a snake like Scott York.
In Fairfax County, Democrats obliterated the GOP. The only survivors appear to be Clerk of the Court John Frey and John Cook, Braddock supervisor. Conservative darling John Guevara lost his race for Sully supervisor. And before establishment Republicans celebrate that too much, they have to swallow Jennifer Chronis’s defeat as well as incumbent School Board member Patricia Reed’s defeat (thanks, Elizabeth Shultz). Pat Herrity’s dream of adding to his team went down in flames, and the Republican Party has never been more unimportant in Fairfax than right now. The only shining light was electing Jeannette Hough to an at-large seat on the school board, knocking off Ted Velkoff in the process. Fairfax was a bloodbath.
Prince William County also offered more of the same. Corey Stewart and the entire GOP slate of incumbents were re-elected, Paul Ebert survived a strong challenge and every incumbent was re-elected. Obviously McPike’s victory is a feather in the Democrat’s cap, but that was an Obama district and we weren’t going to find a better candidate for this district than Hal Parrish. The real fun appears to be on the School Board where it will get much more partisan. But again, nothing much has changed.
Each party appears to have gotten stronger in their established corners of the state. Virginia has become very divided, there are almost no more moderates on either side and almost no more local Republicans representing Democratic districts and vice versa. Republicans can feel good about retaining the State Senate, but in critical Northern Virginia we took on some water. The headlines will have Republicans fist-pumping because we retained the Senate, but looking deeper in Northern Virginia and there is cause for concern. Democrats in Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William had good nights and this is the largest part of the state, we cannot continue to fall behind. Once again Republicans let their hearts get ahead of their heads, we started talking about 23 or maybe 24 seats, people up here were thinking about a potential 5-4 Farifax BOS. Democrats poured money into gun control and abortion ads while the Republicans hammered home that fear of $17 tolls, but it all appears to be wasted money. The only thing that appears to have changed is Republicans got more Republican and Democrats got more Democratic. Old dogs like Colgan and Watkins and Stosch are gone for good.
Another lesson: this is still a Democratic-leaning state. The days of Virginia being a red state are over and we need to understand that winning for us right now is what we see tonight … barely hanging on. We need to collectively, as a party, figure out a new message and find new candidates that can speak to this state that understand it’s not 1998 anymore. We must continue to adjust accordingly. We must go into 2016 not with the attitude that we are a red state waiting to be woken up, but are at best a purple state with a shade of blue and our message must be calibrated to this reality. In some ways, we are still the party of the 90s and early 2000s (ie George Allen) and we are waiting for someone from the 2010s to step up and take this party over. Is it Ed Gillespie? He’s certainly a child of the 90s (so to speak) but he seems to understand the change that is needed. Is it Tom Garrett? Rob Wittman? Corey Stewart? Someone we haven’t thought of yet? A clue may lie in Kentucky, where outsider/conservative Matt Bevin swamped Democrat Jack Conway and grabbed three other statewide races on his coattails when it was a near consensus among insiders in both parties that he was about to choke away a winnable race. While Kentucky is certainly more Republican than Virginia, Bevin wasn’t afraid to paint with bold and almost reckless colors. Do we look for the careful insider or the swashbuckling outsider? I honestly have no idea, but we are about to find out with the upcoming presidential primary in March and the inevitable jockeying for 2017 that will begin … probably tomorrow.
And before I forget, BIG congrats to the next generation of Virginia Republicans – both Willie Deutsch and Ron Meyer won their elections today to the PWC school board and Loudoun BOS respectively. New names, new face … we need more of this.