Why Turning Virginia "Blue" Matters to All of Us

Bumped -- local blogs like Raising Kaine are the frontlines for the netroots.

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.


Lowell Feld
Raising Kaine
Former Webb for Senate Netroots Coordinator

Tags: 2007, actblue, Allen, General Assembly, Kaine, netroots, Raising Kaine, Senate, Virginia, Warner, webb (all tags)



Re: Why Turning Virginia "Blue" Matters

What Raising Kaine has been able to do in the past month is nothing short of amazing, and is an example to local blogs across the country. I'm very confident that this will be the first of many examples of state level action driving the national change.

by KTatActBlue 2007-03-24 02:53PM | 0 recs
Right on

Raising Kaine is probably my favorite state blog...helluva job is all I can say.

Also, I have a bit of a question for you, since you'd know as well as anyone.

It seemed to me that Mark Warner really had an aptitude for, as well as a strong love for the kind of executive work he did as Governor of Virginia. I know he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996, but do you think that Warner would really want to serve in the Senate at this stage?

I think he'd be great there, don't get me wrong, but he really seems to like being in charge and setting the agenda from the executive office. Am I off-base here?

by mihan 2007-03-24 03:19PM | 0 recs
Good question about Mark Warner

I agree with you, I see him more in the executive mode, but I'll support him whatever he decides to do - Governor or Senator.  Maybe Nate or Jerome have some more thoughts on this, since they both worked for Forward Together...

P.S. I'm glad you like Raising Kaine, and I'm glad we've been able to accomplish some things the past two years.  It's been a great group and community effort.

by lowkell 2007-03-24 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

Yeah, I would ask Jerome but I don't have that kind of juice. I be jus' a no'body.

I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking that Warner might feel underused as a legislator. He'd make an awesome VP if given the chance, and I could definitely see him doing that.

Maybe I'll bother you some more if I could ask you this: I know that Tim Kaine isn't even halfway through his term yet, but I'm wondering about some good Governor prospects for 2009. I saw that the Democratic candidates didn't win the LT Gov or the AG spots in 2005(kind of a big disappointment if you ask me), but it concerns me because those spots are great stepping stones for the top job and we're not represented there.

Just real quickly if you get a chance, what's your take on that?

by mihan 2007-03-24 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

Two top candidates for Governor in 2009 are Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds.  Brian is Congressman Jim Moran's (much) younger brother, and a great guy.  Creigh Deeds is the one who lost his race for Attorney General by 323 votes out of 1.94 million cast in November 2005 to the right wingnut affectionately known as "Sodomy Bob" McDonnell.  Yeah, don't ask! :)

by lowkell 2007-03-24 05:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

Moran looks like a real up and comer. Deeds sounds okay...I flinch a bit when I read that someone is a bit of a conservative Democrat, but it doesn't take much imagination to think he sounds an awful lot like Mark Warner, at least in this paragraph from wikipedia.

In the campaign, Deeds presented himself as a conservative Democrat, supporting gun rights, strong punishment for criminals, and the death penalty. Senator Deeds is strongly pro-choice, although he did profess opposition to partial birth abortions. In what many considered a victory omen, Deeds' stance on gun rights earned him the endorsement of the NRA. However, the McDonnell campaign outspent Deeds by almost three million dollars (McDonnell spent $5,962,067 whereas Deeds spent $3,103,040).

Thanks for the insight!

by mihan 2007-03-24 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

Deeds is somewhat moderate, but he's a passionate Democrats who has a big following amongst the netroots.

Brian Moran is just awesome. Either would be an incredible Governor.

by zt155 2007-03-24 07:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

Agreed, either would be a fine governor.

by lowkell 2007-03-25 02:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Good question about Mark Warner

The obvious candidate in 2009 for Governor is Mark Warner.

Whether he chooses to run again or not I don't know, but I don't think he wants to be Senator else he could have beaten George Allen without the help of "Macaca."


by FredFred 2007-03-25 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re:Turning Virginia "Blue"

lowkell, how come actblue isn't working to find a better candidate for Louisiana Governor than anti-social security, pro-NAFTA, bluedog John Breaux?  After Katrina, don't the people of Louisiana deserve our special attention, and a better Governor than that?

by Dameocrat 2007-03-24 04:50PM | 0 recs
I know its not me that you asked

but John Breaux is the most popular Democrat in Louisiana, and the state is very hostile territory for Democrats these days. If anyone has a snowball's chance in hell of beating the strangely popular yet terribly ineffective Bobby Jindal, its John Breaux.

Unfortunately it doesn't look like a good choice, great choice to have to make. Personally I'd rather have a fairly conservative Democrat than a wingnut Republican any day.

by mihan 2007-03-24 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I know its not me that you asked

It is hostile territory because bluedog Democrats have pissed away the economic issues that made us popular with Louisianans and other Southerners going back to the days of Hewey Long.

Because Bredesen, the Governer of Tennessee was a Democrat, he was able to kick thousands of mentally ill people off Tenncare without opposition from other Dems. The dems would have pissed and moaned if a republican had done the same.  No I don't believe a bad dem is always better than a good repuke.  Remember Lieberman?

by Dameocrat 2007-03-24 07:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I know its not me that you asked

Well, I don't think Breaux=Lieberman, but I get your point. Breaux would be the moderate who would work with Republicans to find common ground, while Lieberman is basically the anti-christ.

I think of it as a choice between not too good (Breaux), and really freakin' bad (Jindal). If the Louisiania Dems think they could do better, I'd be all for it, but it'd probably mean Governor Jindal for sure.

by mihan 2007-03-24 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: I know its not me that you asked

He is pretty much on the same level as Lieberman, only worse. He fought to keep imported prescription drugs out of the country.  He is anti-choice. He supports Nafta.  He believes in social security privatization.  Honestly in many ways he is actually worse than Lieberman.

by Dameocrat 2007-03-24 08:12PM | 0 recs
Re:Turning Virginia "Blue"

I don't know, you'd have to ask ActBlue.  I don't work for them, they're just helping us raise money in Virginia.

by lowkell 2007-03-24 05:30PM | 0 recs
Re:Turning Virginia "Blue"

Yeah, it's cool.

ActBlue isn't involved in recruiting candidates at all. So that's up to Democrats wherever they may be to draft candidates or encourage them to run or not run. We are there just to help empower everyone to get more Democrats elected through grassroots fundraising.

by KTatActBlue 2007-03-24 06:58PM | 0 recs
My blog wants to be RK when it grows up

Raising Kaine is the Godfather of Virginia blogs. If you want a story to have resonance all over Virginia, you post it at RK. Always on the cutting edge of netroots activism, it is RK that leads Virginia both on the national level and within the Commonwealth.

My blog has 5 candidates listed on our ActBlue page.  We also have the RK PAC.  The investment in RK has a rate of return benefiting all our Virginia candidates.  

Thanks, Lowell.  You are a true inspiration!

by elevandoski 2007-03-24 06:00PM | 0 recs
Hell Yeah Taking Virginia is Crucial

It's the Normandy Beach of taking back the South!

by Pitin 2007-03-24 06:10PM | 0 recs
Go Lowell!!

Raising Kaine is one of the best state blog out there!

Remember folks, Virginia only has 3 Democrats in the House of Rep. out of 11 districts. If the Dems win the General Assembly, that means re-districting. ka-ching!

Click on that ActBlue link, it's about America....not just Virginia.

by zt155 2007-03-24 07:36PM | 0 recs
Re: John Warner

Is John Warner running for re-election or not?  I keep hearing conflicting answers.

by CLLGADEM 2007-03-25 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: John Warner

I don't know for sure, nor does anyone else I've talked to recently.  

by lowkell 2007-03-25 01:47PM | 0 recs
Nick "FemiNazi" Rerras Must Go!

We also have a Norfolk/Eastern Shore Republican state Senator, Nick Rerras, who called a female attorney, or domestic violence opponents, "the FemiNazis."  Mr. Rerras believes that mental illness is caused by "demons," and that the parents of mentally ill children are being punished by God.  Nick Rerras must go!

by VAB 2007-03-25 12:21PM | 0 recs
The Blue Army of Northern Virginia

Way to go, Raising Kaine and all of the Blue Virginia Netroots Activists!!!

Arlington today, Richmond tomorrow -- winning the hearts and minds of Virginians who care more about their country than Republican hate and fear mongering.

Keep up the good work!!!

by ck 2007-03-25 03:52PM | 0 recs
Don't get hopes up w/o PR

Turning VA's congressional delegation "blue" is going to require more than creative or "fair" redistricting.

Those growing blue areas are population-concentrated. Lots of wasted Dem votes - wasted in the sense of more than what's needed to win a seat.

Maybe you'll see one or two D pickups, but more than likely, you'll just see wider victory margins in currently held D seats. The only way to translate a bigger D vote total into a bigger D representation total: proportional voting in multi-member districts that guarantee two-party representation.

by Garine 2007-03-26 08:23AM | 0 recs


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