Why Turning Virginia "Blue" Matters to All of Us
by lowkell, Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:38:05 PM EDT
This year is an "off year" for elections in the United States. Still, there are important elections out there, several of which have potential national implications. Basically, we've got three states (Kentucky, Lousiana, and Mississippi) holding gubernatorial elections, and four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia) electing state legislatures. Of these, I want to spend a few minutes focusing on my state, Virginia. Specifically, I want to discuss why I believe Virginia is important, both in its own right as well as in the context of national politics for 2008 and beyond. I also want to highlight our netroots success in raising over $11,000 for Virginia Democratic candidates - with the fantastic help of the great people at ActBlue - in just under 4 weeks.
Please join me after the "jump."
Last year, as we all know, Virginia did what almost nobody thought could be done, tossing out George Allen and electing a Democrat - Jim Webb - to the United States Senate. The election of the anti-Iraq War and economic populist Jim Webb not only was a great thing in its own right, it also derailed George Allen's White House ambitions and provided the crucial seat we needed to take back the U.S. Senate. Today, Jim Webb is a powerful voice in the Senate for economic fariness, for social justice, for checks and balances on the Bush out-of-control Presidency, and for Congressional oversight of this Administration's foreign policy, specifically with regard to Iraq and Iran. How many people thought this was possible even 8 or 9 months ago?
Maybe it shouldn't have such a surprise after all. People who follow Virginia politics know that in 2005, Virginians went to the polls to select a successor to Mark Warner as governor. The candidates were Warner's Lt. Governor Tim Kaine (D), and Dubya clone Jerry Kilgore (R). Despite trailing in the polls almost the entire way, in the end the voters of a rapidly changing Virginia elected Tim Kaine. In part, this was due to strong netroots support on blogs like my own, Raising Kaine.. Today, Kaine is working as hard as he can to continue Virginia's forward progress against a major obstacle - a state legislature that is controlled by Republicans, including several that fall into the "heinous right wing" category.
Fortunately, Viriginians this year have a chance to vote for every single member of the Virginia General Assembly - 40 in the State Senate and 100 in the House of Delegates. Currently, Republicans control both chambers, 23-17 in the Senate and 57-40-3 in the House of Delegates. Given that Virginia has been trending "purple" in recent years, and given the fact that Virginia's GOP-controlled General Assembly has floundered on numerous issues of concern to Virginians (e.g., transportation), we definitely have a shot at winning back the State Senate this year and picking up seats in the House. Why does this matter?
1. It matters because Governor Kaine needs allies. Currently, he's got a state legislature that is primarily concerned with making it harder for kids to join gay-straight clubs, for women to have abortions, for scientists to perform stem cell research, for the state to preserve land and clean up the Chesapeake Bay, for action on Renewable Portfolio Standards and other important energy-related environmental matters, for minimum wage workers to get a raise, etc., etc. If we want to turn this around, we need to send Tim Kaine more Democratic and progressive allies this November.
2. It matters because in 2011, Virginia will go through the next round of Congressional redistricting. As the state's population booms in the "blue" areas and shrinks, relatively speaking, in the "red" areas, the number of Congressional seats controlled by Democrats in this state SHOULD increase. However, if Democrats have no voice in the process come 2011, we will be at the mercy of Republican gerrymandering and incumbent protection efforts. On the other hand, if we take back the State Senate this year, we are guaranteed of a voice in redistricting come 2011.
3. It matters because Virginia, with the election of Tim Kaine and Jim Webb, plus gains in the General Assembly, has moved from "solid red" to "purple," and because we need to keep moving the state in the "blue" direction politically. Needless to say, the implications of Virginia, with its 13 electoral votes, becoming competitive once again in national politics (Virginia last went for a Democrat in 1964) would be enormous. Don't think this is possible? Well, I'd refer once again to the fact that the last two governors - Mark Warner and Tim Kaine - have been Democrats, and the last Senate election saw Jim Webb replace George Allen. Also, I would point out that increasingly, Northern Virginia is becoming an extension of the solidly "blue" Northeast corridor. And Northern Virginia is becoming increasingly more politically powerful within Virginia as a whole. Frankly, it's only a matter of time until the growth in NOVA turns Virginia "blue." Our job, if we choose to accept it, is to ensure that this change occurs as rapidly as possible.
4. It matters because right now, we've got some great Democratic candidates taking on Republicans, far-right-wing and otherwise. For instance, we've got a dramatic race shaping up in Fairfax between former Delegate Chap Petersen (D) and Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, wife of Rep. Tom "DeLay" Davis (R). To add even more interest to this race, Tom Davis hopes to succeed John Warner in the U.S. Senate in 2008 in a race that could feature Mark Warner on the Democratic side. Defeating Devolites-Davis would almost certainly weaken Tom Davis, which could help Mark Warner become Virginia's second Democrat in the U.S. Senate in 2008.
5. It matters because this is a test case for netroots activism. In 2006, the Webb campaign had 18,000 volunteers and an energized "blue" blogosphree helping propel him to victory (e.g., $4.2 million raised on the internet out of $8 million total). This year, ActBlue and Raising Kaine have teamed up to help raise money for Virginia Democrats. In just under 4 weeks, we've already raised over $11,000 - not bad at all this early in an off-off-off year state election year - blowing past our original goal of $1,000 in 15 days in just 3 days. The goal is to keep that going and to give our Democratic candidates the resources they need to defeat vulnerable Republicans across the Commonwealth. Please donate if you can.
6. Finally, it matters because Virginia is an important state linking the Northeast with the South. If Democrats can continue to gain in Virginia, and eventually turn the state "blue," we can start pushing into North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. And if we do that, we will help realize Howard Dean's vision of a Democratic Party that is competitive in all 50 states.
So, this is why Virginia matters in 2007. What we need now is the help of Democrats everywhere, just as we asked for and received that help for Jim Webb last year. To date, as I mentioned, we have raised $11,000 in just under 4 weeks for selected, Democratic "netroots" candidates in Virginia. Now, we want to continue this success and raise $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 to make sure we take back the State Senate this year, make gains in the House of Delegates, ensure that we have a strong place at the table for 2011 Congressional redistricting, and continuing moving this key state in the "blue" direction for 2008 and beyond. Thanks for your contributions and for your support in general.
Former Webb for Senate Netroots Coordinator