“Every election is a dress rehearsal for the next.”
Dr. William Ferguson “Fergie” Reid, former member, VA General Assembly, and Civil Rights Activist
Along with its Confucius-like motivational quality, the quote above indicates the never-ending nature of elections, and that they are all interrelated. Quite simply, there is work to be done — always. Nowhere is that more true than in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where there is never a year without at least state-wide elections. In fact, along with the November 2019 elections for the entire General Assembly (GA), there are bonus special elections resulting from the elections of this past November. One is NEXT WEEK for the House of Delegates and another is NEXT MONTH for the State Senate. In Virginia, they don’t restart the election cycle, they reload.
Why do these elections matter? First of all, if you’re asking that question, you need to review what’s happened in the last few years. We are presently living in the next and, to this point, greatest peak of about 40-50 years of concerted Republican effort to consolidate power and to Make America a White Male Patriarchy Forever (MAWMPF). An until-recently-poorly-understood and even less acknowledged part of this ascendancy was the systematic takeovers of state houses and governorships around the country. This led to gerrymandering, filling the courts with conservatives to protect those gerrymanders, etc. These elections are another opportunity to tell the country that it’s time to fix that mess.
More specific to the instant matter, however, Virginia is so close to being a state where Democrats control the legislature, you can almost taste it. The two special elections can help make that happen. The House of Delegates is currently 50-49 Republican, with this vacancy to be filled on December 18th of obvious importance. The Democrats have not had a majority of Delegates since the turn of the millennia. In the Senate, the split is currently 21-18 Republican. A special election in Virginia’s 33rd Senate District, in Northern Virginia, will be held on January 8th. This seat is important to keep the split 21-19. Finally, come November 5th, 2019, one of most important seats to win in the Senate is the 10th district, which includes parts of Richmond and its western suburbs.
Together, victories in these seats will go a long way toward recreating Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers in Virginia at the same time, something that hasn’t happened since the mid-1990s. This may allow corrections to the illegal gerrymandering that has plagued Virginia for years, and—the cherry on top—allow Virginia to be the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment which will make it a part of the U.S. Constitution.
I. Virginia House of Delegates District 24, December 18th, 2018 Special Election — Vote Christian Worth
This seat was left vacant when Ben Cline (R) won the VA-6th Congressional seat in November. Democrat Christian Worth is running against Republican Ronnie Campbell. This district leans Republican, but here’s the thing — this is exactly the kind of election that can be stolen. First, take a look at the “firehouse” primaries that were held November 27th, a few days after Thanksgiving. For context, like all Virginia House districts, the total population in the 24th is just over 80,000.
Less than 500 votes were cast in the Democratic primary, with close to 3,000 in the Republican primary. So turnout was, to put it kindly, low for the primaries. Now, the general election is a week before Christmas. Certainly, turnout will be low again.
Then, we have something interesting from the Republican primary, where Mr. Campbell won by one vote. According to a local newspaper report, Jimmy Ayers, the runner-up, requested a recount but was rebuffed by local officials. That kind of disagreement can go a long way to chill Mr. Ayers’ supporters from bothering to show up to toe the party line and vote for Mr. Campbell.
So we have 1) a snap election 2) during the holidays 3) where the Republicans appear divided, and 4) a lot of people are suffering from election fatigue.
[Update: Per a comment, below, the Republicans are divided to the point of Mr. Ayers publicizing the idea of a write-in campaign.]
Let’s do some back of the envelope calculations. Let’s assume that the voter registration rate as a percentage of population in District 24 is the same as Virginia, overall, which is roughly 67%. So that makes 54,000 registered voters. Historically, voter turnout in state-and-local-only elections runs at about 5%-10%. Let’s take the top of that range — that’s 5,400 votes. Now, add the other factors that it’s the week before Christmas, Republicans are divided, and “another dang election? Are you kidding me?” and the possibility of any kind of real voter turnout is just the teeny-tiniest bit above zero.
In truth, this looks like the exact kind of election that Democrats should be focusing on to continue to flip state legislatures. If for no other reason than to prove that the old mantra of “don’t bother, we can’t win there,” is dead, and the new mantra of “run everywhere, all the time, and even if we lose we’re building toward something,” has truly taken hold. After all, how do you think the Republicans did it?
So what can you do to help Ms. Worth win? Well, first of all, you can appreciate that she is a mother of two, happily married, and a lawyer with a solo practice in Lexington; that she has been endorsed by Sen. Tim Kaine and various local papers; and that she’s been active with her local Democratic party. She’s the real deal.
Next, please sign up to do phone banking FROM HOME (I’ve done it for other elections—it’s actually enjoyable). Contact Evan Ryser (email@example.com) or sign up here. And/or, of course, it’s not too late to put some money in the kitty.
Remember — no time to waste, this is NEXT TUESDAY we’re talking about.
II. Virginia Senate District 33, January 8th, 2019 Special Election — Vote Jennifer Boysko
Currently a member of the House of Delegates, Jennifer Boysko (D) is running against Joe May (R). Simply put, Ms. Boysko is the right choice for Northern Virginia. Elected in 2015 to the House of Delegates 86th District, she has served the region with distinction as a progressive. Her opponent is an old boy Virginia regressive who doesn’t like gay marriage, wants to gut public schools for private (like it’s 1956 all over again) and
reinstating Jim Crow institute restrictive voter ID laws.
But don’t take my word for it — please read this Daily Kos endorsement of Ms. Boysko. Honestly, she should win...but, uh, let’s not take any election for granted anywhere, at any level, ever again, n’est-ce pas? So please help Ms. Boysko with your time and/or your treasure.
III. Virginia Senate District 10, November 5th, 2019 — Vote Eileen Bedell
Let’s get right to the point: this is a key seat that Democrats must flip to reclaim the State Senate majority in 2019, and it’s not going to be easy. The Democrat is Eileen Bedell, and if you have been paying any attention to Virginia politics in the last three years, you know that she is what Virginia needs. If you’re new to Ms. Bedell, welcome, and here’s the summary:
Ms. Bedell is a mother of two, happily married, and owns her own legal practice in Richmond. She is a lifetime Virginian, having grown up in Northern Virginia, and graduated from Va. Tech. (Phi Beta Kappa) and William & Mary Law. In 2016, Ms. Bedell ran for Congress in the VA-7th versus Dave Brat, who made a couple waves in 2014 when he shockingly defeated then-Republican majority leader Eric Cantor in a primary. Fast forward to 2016: when the Democrats in the VA-7th had trouble fielding a candidate against Mr. Brat, Ms. Bedell stepped forward. She ran an impressive grassroots campaign that earned more votes than any Democrat in the district since the early 1990s.
With the Democratic pump now well-primed, Abigail Spanberger picked up the mantle from Ms. Bedell, and won against Brat this past November, with Ms. Bedell as one of her key supporters. In recognition of the work that Ms. Bedell did setting the stage for Democratic success, Ms. Spanberger has already endorsed Ms. Bedell. This is an unprecedented step given that it’s before Ms. Spanberger has been sworn in to Congress and before the Democratic primaries for the 10th District Senate Seat. Without a doubt, Ms. Bedell is a fantastic example of the idea that a well-run campaign that falls short can lead to victories in the near future.
For the 2019 election, while Ms. Bedell and her supporters will have to keep on their toes during the primary season, her chances there are quite good. The greater challenge, however, may be in the general election. The incumbent, Glen Sturtevant (R), is trying to come off as a relative moderate. In fact, he's not anything close to a moderate, as his voting on women's health and gun issues indicate. He is, however, taking the somewhat unusual step — for a Republican, anyway — to support, publicly, the passage of the aforementioned Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia.
In truth, however, this means he, individually, and Virginia Republicans, collectively, are afraid of Ms. Bedell. The ERA has been a signature part of her platform since her beginning in politics, and that they are trying to co-opt it away from her is telling. Regardless, early indications are that this election will have the opportunity to be what has become all-to-rare: a campaign on substance and issues. In any event, there is no doubt that Ms. Bedell is worthy of your support, either by becoming a part of her campaign and/or through financial contributions.
In all three cases, the lessons of Dr. Reid can be seen playing out: all elections matter, everywhere, at all levels; none can be taken for granted; taking a pass is not an option; a loss can be as important as a win; and, sometimes, substance actually matters. For different reasons, each of these three elections — separately and together — is a chance to prove that these lessons are sinking in.
For the immediate priority of Christian Worth in rural Virginia, it is a chance to stake a claim for Democrats in new territory and build for the future, regardless of the outcome. For Jennifer Boysko, it is an opportunity to maintain, if not deepen, Democratic strength in the outskirts of Washington, DC. For Eileen Bedell, it is the possibility of showing what Democrats and progressives stand for in a battle in the heart of Virginia, for the heart of Virginia. Imagine the impact if the Old Dominion, traditionally thought of as a part of the conservative south, can be turned progressive.