after their recent legislative victory, state
Democrats are savoring the next election. A wealth
of talent could mean a strong ticket in '05.
There is Republican blood in the water and Virginia Democrats smell it.
The astounding legislative victory Gov. Mark R. Warner won during the last legislative session by adroitly cobbling together a coalition of disaffected centrist House and Senate Republicans has opened a fresh new vein.
What once seemed a certainty — that Republicans had settled in for a couple of decades of unfettered rule
here — now seems much less so. Even John Kerry is sensing Virginia opportunity, directing a stream of advertising dollars into a state that has not voted Democratic in a presidential election in 40 years.
Politically speaking, nobody had more at stake in Warner’s performance than
Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ for-sure-and-certain nominee for governor next year. And if Warner got a bounce out of the
thing — and he did, legitimately, all the way up to the national stage (read VP Short
List) — the next best bounce went to Kaine, who had the good sense to be riding the right horse, in the right place, at the right time.
In political coinage, ‘bounce’ means ‘votes.’
Says the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato: “My guess is that NOVA will vote Democratic come what may, in part due to Mark Warner. They’ll give him a second term by voting Democratic, whoever is on the ticket.”
If you’re still reading this at this point, it now becomes necessary for you to hold two opposing views in your mind simultaneously: (1) geographic representation doesn’t matter, where a state-wide ticket is concerned; and (2) of course it does. (Hey, there is empirical data that suggests both are true!)
If Sabato is right, if Northern Virginia hides are already nailed to the side of the Democratic barn
-- about 25 percent of the vote, thank you, Mark
Warner -- how do you get the rest of them?
Says he: “Ideally, the Kaine ticket would have a member from Tidewater and a member from rural Virginia, to pump up Democratic votes where of late, they have been sagging.”
But, of course, he adds: “Having said all this, twice in modern history we’ve had tickets elected (one on each side) with two out of three members from Richmond.”
If you subscribe to number ‘2’ above, the ‘geography does matter’ theory, there is, at the moment, only one glaring lack of possible coverage for Democrats, and that is Tidewater.
Central Virginia is ably represented by wannabes. Kaine himself is from Richmond, as is
Del. Viola Baskerville, a classy product of Richmond City’s bare-knuckled brand of local politics, who’s taste-testing
lieutenant governor recipes. And in Fredericksburg
Sen. Ed Houck is said, too, to have that itch. He’s got all the bonafides.
In the great Southwest, Sen. Phillip Puckett is interested in the number two slot on the ticket. Two other state senators, Creigh Deeds of Hot Springs and Roanoker John Edwards are raising money. Though there are differences in them as candidates, either would make a fine attorney general.
And just in case, the Democratic bench in Northern Virginia is deeper than it has been in years.
Brian Moran, the astute, articulate floor leader of the House democrats may contest Deeds and Edwards for the attorney general’s job. And three
individuals — Sen. Leslie Byrne, Del. Chapman Petersen, and James Dyke, a McGuire Woods partner and former
secretary of education, like at least the idea of being lieutenant governor and are making candidate moves.
Byrne has brass and moxie — and a contributor list of some
8,500 individuals. Peterson beat GOP heavyweight Jack
Rust — twice. And Dyke, on paper, is the perfect candidate.
Which still leaves that blank page in Tidewater.
Ah, but there is, in every regard, the perfect candidate there, too. For real. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. Problem is, Fraim appears to be the only one who doesn’t know it. He has had his ticket punched at all the right places, I mean all of them, starting back when he was co-captain of the VMI football
team — a network connection that, alone, would give you a leg up in most political contests here in Virginia.
Sabato, famous for his forecasts, won’t venture beyond Kaine in suggesting what the Democratic ticket might look like next year. His UVA colleague, Bill Wood, director of the Sorensen Institute, likes
Sen. Janet Howell in the number two spot, with Deeds on the ballot for AG.
Howell isn’t in yet, but there is still plenty of time. The Democratic Party of Virginia won’t decide whether the statewide slate will be chosen by primary or convention until probably sometime in September.
And sure, there are only two down-ticket slots, with six or eight folks already expressing an interest in them, and other names are sure to surface.
But there is a miracle to politics, too. Somewhere along the way, any number of these good folks will, miraculously, find some reason to spend more time with their families.
And somewhere along the way, Virginia Democrats will find that ‘dream team’
June 7, 2004