Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Look At What Last Night's Election Results Actually Mean

Although we are heading to a recount in the 41st, I’m hearing that things are looking good for Eileen Filler-Corn and she will likely hold on after winning yesterday’s special election. While you never know what could happen, this is still very good news as the Democrats have pulled off another victory in a swing district. When you combine that with the fact that Sandy Evans had a solid victory in the special election for the Mason District school board seat, I think this goes to show that pundits were wrong to claim the Democratic Party of Virginia was dead. Nonetheless, there are a few things about last night’s results that I want to highlight.

Firstly, special elections in Virginia generally favor Republicans as turnout is usually light and the Republicans have a base that consistently turns out to the polls no matter what office is on the ballot. When you combine that with the fact that it was EXTREMELY cold on the day Dave Marsden won the special election in the 37th Senate District and it was raining during the afternoon and evening hours (two developments which could potentially decrease turnout), traditional thinking would suggest that these special elections would have lower turnout than usual -- a bad sign for Democrats. The actual turnout in both elections, however, was relatively high for a special election and can be at least partially attributed to the field work that was done by the campaigns and their volunteers. Both campaigns, for instance, had snowstorms of at least 10 inches to deal with and were still out there contacting voters and making sure their message was heard. This is an important concept for the statewide Democratic Party and future candidates to take note of because it helps to illustrate how grassroots campaigns really do thrive here in Virginia.

It’s also important to note that Eileen Filler-Corn was very effective when it came to communicating her message. Anyone who heard her speak, saw her campaign literature and ads, or talked to members of her campaign staff knew that she was running because she wanted to protect funding for our public schools. In a time when we see too many candidates fail to communicate what their core values are, it was great to see someone who was consistently on message. When you contrast Filler-Corn’s consistency with the fact that Bolognese would change around his answer depending on who he was talking to, last night’s results seem to suggest that people prefer the candidate who stands up for his/her beliefs.

Looking forward to future elections, last night’s results were yet another blow to Pat Herrity who is depending upon the strength of the Republicans in Fairfax in his attempt to secure the Republican nomination for Congress in the 11th. The fact that the Republicans lost a race right in the heart of the area he currently represents on the Board of Supervisors damages the image his supporters have tried to portray as the rightful heir to the Republican nomination. To top in off, Herrity tried to time his announcement to take advantage of the Republican momentum from 2009 -- a move which didn’t go unnoticed and has been ridiculed by people on both sides of the aisle after the results of the last two special elections in the heart of his district. I guess that’s what happens though when you time your campaign on political opportunism isn’t of a strong desire to serve in the office you’re running for.

At the same time, the results of the last two special elections have definitely given some energy back to the local Democratic Party. After a devastating election season in 2009, the victories of Dave Marsden, Eileen Filler-Corn, and Sandy Evans have helped to reinvigorate some activists on the local level. What will be interesting to see is if Congressional candidates are able to tap into that energy. Now these special elections covered precincts in both the 10th and 11th CD, so Gerry Connolly and whomever wins the Democratic nomination in the 10th will likely benefit from the localized energy. The major challenge will be to see if candidates in other portions of the Commonwealth will benefit as well. Based upon the discussions that took place on twitter as the numbers were coming in, there were people from all over Virginia who were paying attention to the results. It’ll be interesting to see if the activists who were talking about the race online are able to spread that excitement offline and into their community.

All in all, Democrats in Virginia definitely have a lot to celebrate after yesterday’s election but the fight’s not over as it’s time to build upon the results of the special elections this year. We absolutely must work hard make sure that Democrats keep control of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation and, just as importantly, remind the Democrats we did elect why we voted for them in the first place.

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