Uh, oh, even the cardinals around here are turning blue!
Uh, oh, even the cardinals around here are turning blue!

by James A. Bacon

Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams nailed it this morning when writing about Henrico County’s election results: Once reliably Republican, the suburban county north of Richmond is turning blue — and the strong African-American voting bloc in the eastern precincts has a lot to do with it. “Most certainly, the 4 percent meals tax approved by voters Tuesday for county schools would never have won approval if eastern Henrico had not supported it en masse,” Williams wrote.

Barack Obama won the county in two presidential elections, as did Tim Kaine two gubernatorial elections ago. Republican Bob McDonnell prevailed four years ago, but Democratic Terry McAuliffe trounced Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the governor’s race by 52% to 40% (and 7% for Libertarian Robert Sarvis). The victory of Democrat Shannon Attorney in the commonwealth attorney’s race two years ago — an affront to the local Republican Party machine — was no fluke, suggested Williams.

“This race basically shows that Henrico’s at the forefront of what’s happening in Virginia,” [veteran political analyst Bob] Holsworth said. “It used to be that Republicans owned the suburbs and Democrats the inner city. But as suburbs have changed demographically, Democrats have done very well in metropolitan areas.” …

Henrico, he said, is looking more like some places in Northern Virginia, with its ethnic diversity. And he foresees a day when the county — which already has a majority-minority school district — will have a larger black population than Richmond’s.

That’s all very true. The irony, of course, is that poor African-Americans voted against their own self-interest on the meals tax. The alternative was not cutting school spending but raising the real estate property tax rate by 6 cents per dollar. That would have effected affluent, white West End voters way more than than the poor, African-American voters in eastern Henrico.

But cynical supporters of the meals tax, backed primarily by the real estate lobby, appealed to racial grievances by framing the issue as one of addressing the disparities between East End and West End schools. In truth, half the meals tax revenue will be used for operations (paying teacher pensions) and the other half for rehabbing school buildings (with no specific projects identified). I hope it’s not too much to ask that Williams follows up one day to see where that tax money ends up.

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10 responses to “Blue Henrico”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar

    Old news. Almost ancient news in political time. Yes, due to changing demographics Henrico is on the edge of becoming a blue county, and Chesterfield may be only 10 or 15 years behind. Migration out of the city and into the ‘burgs is NOT a purely white phenomenon. Nor is it the ‘po folks Jim — it’s the middle class and those who aspire to middle class. The reason the move to Henrico? Better schools than the city of Richmond. All the benefits of a better suburban life. The white folks are moving the other way because their kids are beyond school age or they can afford private schools. It’s all good.

    Again, what is perceived to be good for the schools will be a far easier sell. And the argument you make — this tax means less pressure on the real estate tax — is the other main reason it passed. You’ve made an admission against your own case there.

  2. re: “changing demographics”

    that’s an odd phrase. It sort of implies that there is all these other “knds” of folks “out there” and nothing the GOP can do about it.

    that their principles will never align with blacks.

    think about that.

    it’s not that Henrico went “Blue” no more than NoVa went “blue”. It’s that the GOP refuses to represent the interests of the “demographics” – beyond white guys and openly disses, blacks, women, gays, hispanics, immigrants…. even asians don’t like them.

    In the last 5 years, my typical 40-year pattern of voting for GOP when he/she was a fiscally conservative moderate has died.

    they’ve become a menace…to people and government – a tribe of vandals.

    1. Breckinridge Avatar

      Tribe of Vandals. I like it. I might use it.

      Some of us in the GOP used to spend a whole lot of time working on how to reach out, how to build the bigger tent. Not my job anymore. The bittersweet irony is that African American and Hispanic families are among the most pro-life, pro traditional values in their personal opinions, and in the opinions expressed by their churches. Having that in common with the GOP ain’t doing much for the GOP. The reality is that the exit polls had only 8 percent of the African American vote for Cuccinelli. I’m not going to argue why, it just is what it is.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    What a hell of a way to introduce a respected journalist. Shame on you!

    I am going to start my next blog posting:

    “Usually I don’t think much of James A. Bacon who is a fiscal conservative who lives in a bubble, has no idea of reality and is such an overweening booster of “Richmond” that he’d put a PR firm to shame, but….”

    1. You’re right. I have edited the top paragraph to eliminate the gratuitous slight. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to disagree with him.

  4. yes… I too have notice Jimbo sliding backwards on the snark scale…

    sour grapes no doubt… stiff upper lip there chap.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    . . . you know you are right it must be very hard for them this week. I imagine it was equally hard for them last November as well.

    I am trying my best not to rub it in. I mean,, I FEEL THEIR PAIN!

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      What’s the over / under for when Virginia’s conservatives start trying to unwind Dillon’s Rule so they can practice their conservatism inside all-powerful counties and cities?

      I’ll go with Summer, 2015.

  6. We have elected and appointed in Spotsylvania that are Tea Party right now.

    The Chairman of the Planning Commission launched into a tirade when county staff presented the updated stormwater code that was required by the State and EPA to meet stricter standards.

    He went on and on as to how and why the Federal govt has the authority to make Spotsylvania citizens and businesses pay to build storm water infrastructure for new construction.

    he asked why that is the business of anyone other than Spotsylvania,
    that citizens wanted to be “left alone” and that govt had to stop putting unfunded mandates on people…..

    another idiot (like minded colleague) – wanted to know why, if the original Chesapeake Bay Act was created a dozen years ago, how come the Bay is not now fully cleaned up and we need additional regulations – that it was her understanding that the original Bay Act would totally clean up the Bay.
    (this was the act that set up buffers on lands adjacent to waterways and wetlands, etc).

    The Commission voted to “table” the ordinance .. after entertaining thoughts of just voting no on the ordinance.

    there did not seem to be similar angst on FHWA dictating road standards or Va dictating law enforcement standards or other State and Federal laws.

  7. Actually, the reason the county is turning blue is not because blacks in Fairfield and Varina are voting for Democrats – that’s always been the case. Sure, a few more of them are voting these days, but it’s not a surprise that they are heavily Democratic. The real reason the county is turning blue is because its former Republican strongholds in the West End aren’t so strong any more. There aren’t enough precincts that go 80-20 Republican in the West End these days to counteract the 80-20 Democratic precincts in the East End. That’s the reality.

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