Category Archives: Elections

Libertarians Need Not Apply

By Peter Galuszka

The Virginia Republican Party had a big shock Saturday.

Far-right candidate Bob Good snatched the party’s nomination in the fifth congressional district from incumbent Denver Riggleman, who was backed by President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University.

The remarkable twist could presage an arch-conservative backlash against Trump’s populism in the run up to elections this November.

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tweeted early Sunday morning that “the Virginia GOP has gone so far to the right that a congressman backed by (Trump and Falwell) isn’t conservative enough to renominate.”

The 5th District includes the cities of Lynchburg and Charlottesville and covers broad swaths of highly socially conservative rural areas. Riggleman’s problem was that he had Libertarian tendencies and had officiated at a gay wedding. Continue reading

Our Gutsy Governor

By Peter Galuszka

On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.

I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.

And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.

“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading

Beware Fake Tweets

The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia

By Peter Galuszka

Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.

They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.

The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.

A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”

Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading

Staunton’s Election Lessons

by Chris Saxman

Virginia’s most accurate statewide election locality — Staunton — just swept off City Council three Democratic incumbents in favor of three Republicans.

Democrats go from a 6-to-1 majority to a 3-to-4 minority.

This made headlines around the Commonwealth and political news sites. “Virginia is going Red this fall!” “Will Trump win in November?”

No.

There are many reasons why this happened and several lessons to be learned (again).

The main reason — the incumbents lost.

But first, here is just how accurate Staunton has been over the last EIGHT statewide elections in Virginia and why you should pay attention to the Queen City. Continue reading

Trailing Candidates Should Bail Out, Void Primary

By Steve Haner

More often than not, the suspense in an election is over long before the polls open. That is the case with the two primary contests which will require me to sit in a polling place all day on June 23. The expected losers should just drop out now and save us all the risk.

The precinct where I work has both a Republican and a Democratic contest scheduled, which will require my co-workers and me to be at the polling station from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. Based on what happened in the local elections yesterday, it will mostly be voting from cars – in a location with very little parking.  Continue reading

WTJU Podcast: COVID-19 and the Economy

By Peter Galuszka

Here’s is the twice-monthly podcast produced by WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia. With me on this podcast  are Nathan Moore, the station general manager, and Sarah Vogelsong, who covers, labor, energy and environmental issues across the state for the Virginia Mercury, a fairly new and highly regarded non-profit news outlet. Our topic is how Virginia is handling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Move 2020 Nomination Deadline To Late Summer

By Steve Haner

A week after the March 3 Democratic presidential primary I was sick, probably with a cold but I had to wonder. No fever developed and patent medicines got me through. But it could have been COVID-19 after checking in hundreds of voters in the Maple Street Firehouse.

There is no way I’m repeating that activity on June 9. Thank you, Governor Ralph Northam, for saving me from having to abandon the other nice folks who work that precinct. Even if we are on the infection down slope, holding a primary that day is a risk we don’t need to impose on those volunteers.

Republican officials exploded when the stay at home directive was advanced to June 10. A statement released by the Republican Party of Virginia whined:

“… the timeline seems all too convenient,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “We ask that Governor Northam show us the data that led to his decision. It is not our opinion that the Governor is purposefully engaging in voter suppression, but an explanation would help to mitigate any concerns.”

Did my statement mitigate your concerns, Jack? I bet thousands of poll workers feel the same way.

Let’s drop the debate over which elected official or cabinet agency is more hapless and focus on some truly clueless people – this state’s all but dead Republican Party. Yesterday the state party certified three candidates to run June 9 seeking the nomination against Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Don’t look at the story yet, can you name one of them? I cannot. And I would love to see somebody give Warner a race. People forget how close Ed Gillespie came to beating Mark-not-John six years ago.  Continue reading

How Virginia Would Fare Under President Biden, Part 1

By DJ Rippert

And then there were two. Today, Elizabeth Warren announced that she will withdraw from the presidential race. That leaves Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard (yes, she’s still running) as the remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. Given that Tulsi Gabbard has exactly one delegate (from American Samoa where she was born), the odds of her prevailing are so low that the race can safely be considered a two- man contest. Two weeks ago Joe Biden’s campaign seemed deader than disco. Then came Super Tuesday. Now he’s the front runner.

It seems worthwhile, then, to consider how Biden’s announced policies would affect Virginia if he were elected president this November. Politico keeps an updated list of the candidates’ positions on the issues which you can see here. Politico records the candidates’ positions using fifteen categories. This blog post examines the first five categories — criminal justice, economy (excluding taxes which is a separate category), education, elections and energy (including the environment and climate change). The remaining ten categories will be examined in future articles.

Continue reading

Money Can’t Buy You Love (or Elections)

Source: FiveThirtyEight. Click to view larger image.

The 2020 election season has been fascinating to behold. Two billionaires, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, attempted to purchase themselves the Democratic Party presidential nomination through massive advertising buys. Bloomberg supplemented his television and online ad buys by hiring every party operative in sight and setting up campaign offices everywhere.

“It is an open question whether Bloomberg’s investment in Virginia — unparalleled among his Democratic opponents — will translate into votes,” wrote the Washington Post last week. It’s an open question no longer. All that money bought him 127,000 votes, or about 9.7% of the total.

According to Business Insider, Bloomberg dropped $18 million on television and radio ads in Virginia, about 50 times what Biden spent — “and got demolished.”

Steyer has spent loads of money on cable TV ads in Virginia (I can’t find a specific number, but I’ve seen plenty of the ads) but snagged 1,586 votes in Virginia, or about 0.1% of the total. Continue reading

Takeaways on Biden’s Big Win

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

Joe Biden prevailed in the Virginia Democratic primary Tuesday, showing that the state’s movement to the political left can go only so far.

The former vice president got 53% of the vote with Sen. Bernie Sanders snaring 23%,and Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg far behind. Nationally, Biden’s remarkable comeback on Super Tuesday has made him the leading Democrat, although Sanders isn’t gone yet. Here are some takeaways:

  • Political analysts in the state such as Steve Farnsworth, a professor at the University of Mary Washington, have said that while changing demographics have made the state bluer, it is far from California. The analysts are right, despite what a number of conservatives claim.
  • The turnout was large. That’s significant because if it is likewise large in November, it’s bad news for Donald Trump.
  • A number of state Democrats supported Biden at the last minute, worried that Sanders would be a giveaway to Trump.
  • Democratic leaders know that they must hold on to the gains they made in 2018 and 2019. Two key bellwethers are U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger of the 7th District and Elaine Luria of the 2nd District, who defeated prominent Republicans in 2018. If either of those two loses in November, it would be a big symbolic blow to moderate Democrats.
  • Continue reading

Democrats Circled the Wagons, Propelling Biden to Big Virginia Victory

by Kerry Dougherty

Wow. What a difference 12 years makes.

During the 2008 Democratic primary in Virginia, when Sen. Barack Obama swept the commonwealth with 63.7% of the vote, Joe Biden, 65, straggled in with 0.1 percent. The senator from Delaware finished in 6th place that year, behind Hillary Clinton, John Edwards (remember him?), Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson.

Out of 986,203 votes cast in that historic primary, Biden got just 795.

It was a vastly different scenario last night when Biden roared to victory with about 53 percent of the vote, and a vote total of roughly 704,623.

Biden was the big Super Tuesday story, nationwide. The gaffe-prone 77-year-old exploded in primary after primary — including in Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren finished an embarrassing third and Biden edged out Bernie to come in first.

Bye-Bye, Bernie

Former Vice President Joe Biden led in every Virginia locality but Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, and Floyd. Map credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

If a vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote for the radical restructuring of the American economy and society, yesterday’s 2020 primary elections in Virginia were highly revealing: Democratic Party voters in the Old Dominion aren’t looking for revolutionary change. For the most part, Virginia Democrats are “establishment” Democrats who embrace identity politics and limited income redistribution but not a wholesale demolition of existing institutions.

Aside from ultra-conservative Alabama, a lower percentage of Democratic Party voters — 23.1% — cast ballots for Sanders than in any other state. I don’t believe I am engaging in editorializing when I describe Sanders, who has evinced a nostalgia for far-left regimes abroad and advocated Medicare for all, free college tuition, destruction of the fossil fuel industries, massive tax increases, and the virtual expropriation of billionaire wealth, as a far-left candidate. Two of the Virginia localities where Sanders won a majority were — surprise, surprise — Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, both college towns. A third, Floyd County, is a haven for aging hippies.

As bright, pulsating, police-siren blue as Northern Virginia is electorally speaking, it is Deep State blue, not overthrow-the-established-order blue. Biden trounced Sanders by nearly three-to-one margins in Alexandria and Arlington, and two-to-one margins in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Continue reading

Updates: Electoral College, Carbon Tax, Tax Reform

The benches along this sidewalk are still missing, having been removed for the gun rights rally. Can we have them back for next week’s February Thaw?  Please.

By Steve Haner

Catching up on several issues previously discussed, with links to the original posts:

Virginia’s 2020 Electoral Votes Still Ours to Award. Pending legislation to enact the National Popular Vote regime has now failed in both House and Senate committees, although nothing is really dead in this process until final adjournment in March.  The House bill died in House Privileges and Elections Friday, with three Democrats joining nine Republicans to reject. The Senate version was stricken at the request of the patron a few days earlier. The National Popular Vote is an interstate compact of states agreeing to grant their electoral votes to the presidential candidate with the highest national total vote, but it only kicks in once enough states to control the outcome have joined. Perhaps the idea of Virginia’s electoral votes going to Donald J. Trump, without regard to Virginia’s vote, finally occurred to some Democrats. But complaints about the Electoral College persist and so will this idea.

Secretary of Natural Resources on Transportation and Climate Initiative. Twice last week Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler faced questions from Republican legislators about the state’s plans with regard to the proposed interstate compact on fossil fuels used in cars and trucks. Continue reading

Virginia Rated Worst State for Partisan Gerrymandering

By DJ Rippert

They’ll be back (in office forever). The USC Schwarzennegger Institute released a report finding that Virginia had the highest degree of partisan gerrymandering among all U.S. states. The report analyzed the “statewide popular vote in 2017 or 2018 state legislative elections and the partisan composition of the state legislative chambers in 2019.” While other studies draw somewhat different results, Virginia is often near the top of the list of “most gerrymandered states.” In mid-2019 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lawsuit by Virginia voters challenging Virginia’s voting districts on racial grounds.

As the USC report states, “Self-interested legislators who seek reelection have long attempted to draw their own districts to protect their personal reelection chances and to improve the electoral odds of their political party.” Repeating for emphasis, Virginia is not only one of many states with extreme gerrymandering, it is rated by this study as the most extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. This is no accident. It is the result of deliberate actions by members of our General Assembly hailing from both parties.

Partisan gerrymandering is a form of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. It should not be allowed and Virginia should certainly never be the worst offender. Beyond that, the Virginia Constitution states, “Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.” A state does not become the worst example of partisan gerrymandering in the United States by using contiguous and compact districts. Once again our General Assembly’s actions show that they believe laws are for the little people and not for themselves. Continue reading

West Virginia Offers to Incorporate Disaffected Virginia Counties

By DJ Rippert

Almost heaven. West Virginia state legislator Gary Howell is spearheading an effort to allow Virginia jurisdictions frustrated by Richmond a chance to join West Virginia. While this might seem like gimmickry, Howell claims that “43 out of 100 West Virginia house members are sponsoring a resolution that would let West Virginia accept some of the largely rural Virginia counties unhappy with how things are being run in Richmond.” More specifically, West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (no relation, I don’t think) has invited Frederick County, Va., to cross over to the Mountain State. An editorial in the Roanoke Times says Sen. Trump is on “firm legal ground.” A good summary of the matter written by Hoppy Kercheval, dean of West Virginia talk radio, can be found here.

Plantation elite. Before West Virginia’s offer is pushed aside as nonsense, it makes sense to examine some of the history behind such a proposition. After all, as Kercheval points out, western Virginians getting fed up with Richmond-based rule is not exactly a new or unique thought. In my mind, Virginia has long been under the yoke of a minority of Virginians from the plantations of central and southeast Virginia. This “plantation elite” are led by families who claim to be descended from Pocahontas and who further self-define themselves as “the first families of Virginia.” Continue reading