No triple crown victory this year, just handwringing
In the end, Republicans losing control of the General Assembly was due to a poor strategy of failing to respond to Democrat hype and fear mongering over abortion, Trump, “saving democracy” and stopping book banning, and pouring millions of dollars into what they thought were close races, but had bad candidates (Juan Pablo Segura and Bill Woolf, to name two).
The Governor’s PAC (Spirit of America) and the Senate Caucus put their eggs in a few baskets and lost, same with the House of Delegates –where some 23 Dem seats had no GOP contestant only 3 Senate Dem seats had no Republicans, so the Senate caucus was clearly ahead of the game. I predicted Segura in Loudoun, Woolf in Prince William and Kevin Adams in Virginia Beach would lose, but Danny Diggs would win. I felt there was a good chance Siobhan Dunnavant would lose in Central Virginia, which happened, thus costing Republicans control of Richmond . I believe they could have put more money into other Senate races in order to force the Democrats to pull money there. And, we could have capitalized more on the Israel situation, which has divided Democrats.
Bipartisan redistricting really didn’t help Republicans, as they had hoped for — and with retirements due to incumbents being placed in districts with other incumbents, we now have lost a lot of institutional memory and clout – especially Fairfax County. No more moderates like Dick Saslaw or Chap Petersen, who lost his primary to my opponent – which is why I fielded an aggressive campaign for state Senate in District 37 (but lost badly, 68 to 31.6 percent).
Now, Youngkin he will have to work with a Democrat-controlled General Assembly, and so the next governor will have to work with a Democrat state senate. House and Senate Democrat leaders will largely be from the lower-income areas. I expect the GA to push a radical leftist agenda and block Youngkin’s proposals in anticipation of taking full control of this state in 2025 A number of hard-left progressives were elected Nov. 7 and I can foresee throwing a lot of bills at Youngkin to ban semi-automatic rifles and maybe repeal the Dillon rule and right to work. Republicans are on defense.
This bodes very bad for Virginia. A leftist Dem governor with a leftist General Assembly in 2026 will turn Virginia into another New Jersey, New York or Illinois. I grew up in New Jersey and lived 10 years in Maryland, so I have seen this show before.
We will have more and more police, fire and local government employees demanding collective bargaining and thus, high union wage and benefits. That means higher taxes. Democrats will push onerous environmental regulations and anti-business rules, perhaps attempting to get rid of right-to-work, which even many Democrats support.
Only when our schools and business climate gets worse and worse under one party Democrat rule will hopefully the voters turn to Republicans (like they did in Long Island NY the other night), but unfortunately, our brand has been tarnished not just by the anti-abortion fear, but Trump and spin about us wanting to ban books and other nonsense.
Voters, especially in Northern Va., think Republicans are ALL a bunch of anti-democratic (small d) renegades and the liberal media, academia and K-12 establishment are more than willing to perpetuate this propaganda. Despite my efforts to focus on local and state issues and ideas, all-too-many Fairfax County voters had blood in their mouths about Republicans based on the national media portrayal of GOP leaders and horror stories about book banning and us being anti-democracy. Numerous people who supported me would not put signs on their lawns for fear of angering their leftist neighbors.
I cannot tell you how many nasty people I met campaigning who would hang up on my calls and slam doors in my faces, or not even talk to me at the polls, simply because I was the GOP candidate. Even a number of Republican voters did not want to vote for me due to Trump and there was no reasoning with them with my ideas and proposals on transportation, schools, crime, and even tree preservation. I did not experience such vitriol in any of my four successful campaigns for Loudoun Supervisor and Leesburg Town Council – but that was before Trump.
Northern Viginia has indeed become North Jersey Virginia.
Social media and disinformation, along with the COVID isolation, has turned politics into tribal warfare where there is no middle, no bloc of people who can be persuaded. And, I am sure Republican voters have been nasty to Democrat candidates and “friends” too.
Where they were wrong – -especially this cookie-cutter firm Axiom, that advised Segura and Youngkin, and the folks running Spirit of Virginia PAC – was in the messaging and in not supporting school board candidates. Here’s why:
MESSAGING – ABORTION
When the Governor proposed restrictions on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision in 2022, neither he, the Republicans who patroned bills (that died) nor the media told the public one key fact – that there are 15,000 abortions in Virginia in 2021, according to CDC data, and only 349 after 15 weeks. And, there were exemptions that would probably bar fewer of these procedures after 15 weeks.
I don’t know why Youngkin and GOP leaders didn’t communicate that but my guess is they did not want to anger the pro-life forces who would like to see a “heartbeat “ bill or no abortion at all. So, the Republican party’s fear of the pro life forces doomed us – -and frankly, the various pro life groups have been no help to GOP candidates for many years. And, the media were dishonest in not reporting the raw numbers either,. like this story out of Hampton Roads
SCHOOLS – Youngkin made schools and parents rights a key issue, but in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and Prince William where they had horrible school boards, it did not help the candidates much. I personally saw no GOP TV ads on education, only crime. Plus, Youngkin’s Spirit of America PAC was pressed by a number of Republican strategists and units to put money into the school board races, but they refused. I believe had there been some help to struggling school board candidates in about 7 counties and cities where they created serious consternation among parents, the results would have been different because it would have brought more Republican voters to the polls (Turnout in Fairfax County was 39 percent, 3 points less than in the comparable election of 2019).
Example — Loudoun
The “Parents Revolution” was born in Loudoun and Fairfax during the COVID lockdowns, when parents were home with kids and were seeing the garbage the schools were teaching. Virginia Beach flipped their woke school board last year, but it did not happen in heavily Democrat NoVa.
In Loudoun, only three of the reform-minded candidates won, the other six were Democrat endorsed and I have no doubt they will continue on the pro CRT/transgenderism path in curriculum, and lower standards to allow more black and Latino kids to advance. Two races, one in Sterling and the new Litle River District, were close. Candidates lost by a tad. The Sterling candidate, Amy Riccardi, had 3 times less money than her dem opponent, and it was a three way race she could have won. The Little River candidate, Joe Smith, lost by only 147 votes. No candidates challenged the Dulles District Democrat-endorsed candidate, thus handing that seat on a silver platter.
Nowhere on these finance reports did I see any help from the various people and groups who led this “parents’ revolution,” which Fox News and Newsmax made a big deal about, with the exception of Patti Mender’s Loudoun Conservatives Cares PAC, which gave more than $25,000 to these candidates. In Fairfax County, all of our GOP-endorsed candidates for school board lost, and there were some really dedicated ones. The national 1776 Project gave no money to candidates, just lists to make calls, and few of those name were in Virginia. PACS like Middle Resolution supported some candidates, but not enough. But the governor had the millions and failed to follow the advice or else he could have trumpeted takeovers in Loudoun and elsewhere.
It seems to me the generals who led the battle in 2020-22 abandoned their troops when it came time to campaign. They focused on promoting themselves (i.e. selling books) and getting TV interviews.
By law, school board is nonpartisan – no Rs or Ds next to candidate names. But in Fairfax County, many had the brazenness to put “Democrat” on their yard signs and at least 3 from the prior woke school board were elected to the State Senate and House of Delegates — they were promoted while students have been failed miserably.
The “Parents Revolution” trumpeted on Fox News and Newsmax is dead – -at least in Northern Va. There is no “Army of Parents,” as one Loudoun schools advocate calls herself, just an “Army of Democrat voters”.
FAILURE TO CHANGE THE CONVERSATION – Besides failing to address the abortion hype, Youngkin and his advisers never devised an issue to get Republican voters and cost-conscious independents and Democrats to voter for our candidates – like Jim Gilmore’s repeal the car tax in 1997. We Fairfax County legislative candidates tried to make an issue of excessive tolls, but had no real money to make it a burning issue for voters.
RPV Chairman Rich Anderson is fond of noting that Youngkin had a three part plan in 2021 – win all three of the statewide positions and the House of Delegates, which we did; in 2022 pickup congressional seat, and we picked up one; and 2023, win full control of the senate.
Well, no triple crown victory this year. Instead, it’s another GOP dirge and tons of postmortems and handwringing.