Dillon’s Rule, the RPV and the Marylandization of Virginia

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by Don Rippert

Doppler shift from red to blue. As recently as 1977 both of Maryland’s US Senators were Republican.   From 1993 through 2003 Maryland’s eight US House seats were evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.   Today, Maryland’s 10 person Congressional delegation consists of 9 Democrats and a lone Republican.  This shift caused Maryland to be routinely rated as one of America’s most liberal states but also one of the worst states for conservatives.

Yes, Virginia there is a trend here too. Maryland last saw a Republican US Senator in 1989, Virginia made it to 2009.  In the state legislature nothing more than pure luck kept Republicans in control of the house.  Republicans still hold the state senate but all of those seats come up in 2019.  Maryland went from light blue to royal blue about 15 years ago and Virginia is tracking 20 years behind Maryland.  Simple math says that Virginia will be fully liberal / Democratic by 2023.  Arguably, the RPV’s recent bungling could accelerate this timeline.

In the RPV hope really does spring eternal.  Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.  Hope gives Virginia’s Republicans a choice of EW Jackson (unelectable), Corey Stewart (unelectable) and Nick Freitas (a longshot, but maybe electable) in the recently held US Senate primary.  The rightwing radicals who vote in primaries insist on the futile opposition to abortion as a litmus test and voila … “unelectable” wins the Republican nomination.  When Stewart loses, those same lunatic fringe members will declare that Stewart just wasn’t conservative enough.  Fast forward to 2019, repeat the same RPV process and the Dems are in perfect position to dominate the statehouse right in time for the next round of census-driven gerrymandering.  Stick a fork in the RPV.

Judge Dillon’s revenge on Virginia’s conservatives.  Contrary to popular opinion there are some very conservative areas in Maryland.  They are too few to affect the state overall but they’re still very conservative.  Secession has been discussed frequently in Maryland’s Eastern Shore and recently in Western Maryland, the most conservative areas of the state.  Nobody thinks either plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of success but it’s “fun talk” anyway.  However, conservative Marylanders have something conservative Virginians don’t – local autonomy.  Even income taxes vary by county in Maryland.  So, a liberal county like Montgomery has a high county income tax (3.2%) and many government services while conservative Worcester County has a low income tax (1.25%) and fewer government services.  Conservative counties can stay somewhat conservative – even in the so-called Free State.  Once the libs get full control of Virginia everybody in the state will pour ever more money down the rabbit hole in Richmond.  Guns will become a dirty four letter word.  School curricula will be standardized along liberal lines and designated safe spaces will be mandatory for all government buildings (including schools).  When that happens I’ll be laughing at the addle brained Virginia conservatives who so loved our idiotic implementation of Dillon’s Rule here in the Old Dominion.  They’ll have it far worse than the conservatives in Maryland.

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28 responses to “Dillon’s Rule, the RPV and the Marylandization of Virginia”

  1. Excellent article Don.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Thank you.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    During all my years of lobbying for various businesses and business associations, protecting Dillon’s Rule as a guiding principle in VA was a bedrock issue. It was part of our daily pledge at the Chamber of Commerce. All of those arguments in favor are still there, but of course it was a very different breed of Democrat competing with the GOP for dominance through those several decades. In this new world your argument makes some sense.

    Could a coalition of localities seeking to go in one activist direction (up in occupied Virginia) and those seeking to protect themselves from a liberal GA (south and west of the James) pass the appropriate legislation? I can see a way. It would be a very interesting bill.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Of course businesses and business associations favor Virginia’s strong implementation of Dillon’s Rule. Once you find a government entity you can purchase you want to strengthen it. If I buy a bat to use to intimidate and rob people it’s going to be an aluminum hardball bat, not a plastic whiffle ball bat.

      As for how this could happen – my thoughts will be published tomorrow. The post is in the Drafts folder if you want to read it in advance. Everybody else will have to wait until tomorrow.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Yes yes it was a good article but maybe one question is when you talk about liberal and conservative voters and that is what do people want from government in Maryland and Virginia and are their elected representatives paying attention to that?

    1. CrazyJD Avatar

      I would submit that what people mostly want is to be left alone, to not have government dictating how fast water comes out of their kitchen sink faucet, or whether their toilet can stay reasonably clean when flushed, or whether the enamel on their appliances lasts longer than two minutes. Other than that, there’s the crowd that wants government to give them goodies. Mostly though, government is viewed as the problem, not the solution. And their elected representatives mostly ignore that view. It’s the nature of the beast.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        That’s what I want but attitudes toward government vary from place to place. I think the majority of residents of Arlington County want an active, invasive government to protect them from all kinds of perceived corporate trickery.

        1. Well said.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      Even in a state with substantial home rule rights like Maryland the state still calls a lot of the shots. When Martin O’Malley was governor, for example, he basically de-funded the organization that reviewed and approved handgun permits. So, even without action by the legislature, handgun sales essentially ground to a halt. When Republican governor Hogan came into office he re-staffed the approval group and handgun sales resumed. So, at the state-wide level Maryland is very liberal and that rankles the minority of conservatives in the state. Locally, it’s a different story. Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a good example of a conservative county. The people of Talbot last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964. Talbot has a county council comprised of five councilpeople elected for four year terms. One of the council members is elected president and another vice-president. This election (by the council members) is held annually.

      The councilmen and councilwomen typically are small businesspeople with long ties to the community (I mean generations, not years). They belong to a wide swath of clubs (Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, etc). Just over 37,000 people live in Talbot County including 16,550 who live in the Town of Easton (technically an incorporated town) within Talbot. Easton has a mayor and a city council.

      Do these politicians listen to the constituents and act in accordance with their wishes? Yes, far more than anything in Fairfax County. Here’s an example, in 1916 the residents of Easton erected a statue of a Confederate soldier to commemorate the men of Easton who fought for the Confederacy. That caused the usual recent ruckus so the town paid for a statue of Fredrick Douglass who was from Talbot County. Fringe groups continue to make noise on both sides of the issue but most folks think the two statues provide a balanced view of what really happened in border states like Maryland.

  4. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    Does the response have to be a swing from one extreme to the other? Why can’t we land somewhere in the middle, where most people really are?
    Right now I’m extremely frustrated that as a Virginian I have no property rights. The fact that government joins with big business to effectively take over property my family has nurtured for generations with no requirement of and no consideration of our needs/wants has made me lose a lot of faith in our country. The people who support allowing this taking of private property also claim to support a competitive market and letting everyone have a fair chance to achieve the American Dream, without government weighing in and picking winners and losers. However, what is happening to us IS selecting winners and losers and it IS destroying a business that has been contributing to our country for over 116 years. It is allowing a for profit entity that has no proven Virginia use for its product to take our net worth, our sense of safety on our own property, and the future of our business away – so its stockholders can make money.

    Folks talk a good game about equal opportunity if you work hard but the reality is that only certain folks have standing and only certain folks are allowed to succeed – and they do so by taking from innocent others who are destroyed.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I don’t doubt what you write but I don’t know the details. The taking of private property without “just compensation” is banned via the last clause of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. No level of government can violate the US Constitution. I’m sure that I’m missing some nuance of your issue but I don’t see how it’s a state vs local issue. In fairness, local governments in Virginia have often sided with developers against private homeowners and landholders. The case of Martha “Muy” Boneta is a case in point. The real answer to this, in my opinion, is to push these decisions down to the supervisor level in heavily populated counties. The typical land heist in Northern Virginia consists of a pretty anonymous and opaque board of supervisors making decisions contrary to the wishes of the people in the districts where the decision has an impact. If the supervisor of the affected district could veto those decisions everything would get a lot more accountable because that supervisor’s ass would be gone if he or she failed to serve the district.

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Let’s cut to the chase. Virginia’s voting patterns are changing because net domestic migration is negative and has been for a number of years. But for births and people moving from other nations, Fairfax County’s population would be dropping. Immigrants often tend to vote left. Irish, Italians and German immigrants tended to vote with the Democratic Party. Scandinavians were heavily involved in the Progressive Movement of the early 20th Century. But over time and as immigrants’ descendants became more successful, many moved right. Reagan Democrats anyone. Look at the Irish and Italian-American Republicans in office.

    People over time tend to get sick and tired of paying for wasteful programs, bloated bureaucracies and lately people here illegally. Hell FCPS leadership has said (off the record) if there wasn’t so much illegal immigration class sizes would be smaller and taxes lower. Who knows what parties will be here 50 years from now. But immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, South and Central America will see their children and grandchildren vote for fiscal conservatives.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I’m not buying the net domestic migration argument as the primary reason for changing voting patterns. I see it as the unfortunately natural consequence of continued urbanization.

      This pretty well sums it up -https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Growth-in-Northern-Virginia-Decline-in-South-Census-Data-477603033.html

      Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, 78 gained population over the past year – and 71 have more residents now than in 2010. Fifteen localities have grown by more than 10 percent since 2010 – including Fredericksburg (17 percent), Prince William County (15 percent), James City County (12 percent) and Charlottesville (11 percent).

      “In contrast, 62 of Virginia’s localities – mostly in the south and southwestern regions of the state – have seen a decrease in residents since 2010. The population has fallen about 9 percent in Bath and Tazewell counties and almost 11 percent in Buchanan County and the city of Emporia.”

      Bath County – 69% for Trump
      Buchanan County – 79.1% for Trump
      Tazewell County – 82% for Trump

      Prince William County – 57.4% for Clinton
      James City County – 49.8% for Trump (44.7% for Clinton)

      By and large the conservative rural areas of Virginia are shrinking while the liberal urban areas are growing.

        1. So there is net out-migration, yes; but the effect depends on who is arriving and who is leaving and what might reverse those trends. Statchatva only talks about the exodus; it says, “Since 2013, Northern Virginia in particular has been losing residents to other states. Fairfax County, which contains over a third of Northern Virginia’s population, has experienced a significant rise in residents moving to metro areas with healthier economies, such as Houston or Los Angeles.” That would appear to be an offset to the trend of increasing urbanization. But Nova is already urbanized, and a few people less isn’t going to change Nova politics much. And, if these are federal workers and/or federal contractors who are leaving, that (a) has a volatile cause, and (b) is less significant elsewhere in Virginia, at the local political level. Now then, who is arriving to replace them, and where?

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          I would interpret statchatva statistics as follows re. Fairfax –

          More than normal amounts of retirees move out of Fairfax because it lacks high quality and luxury high rise housing in high quality mixed use, and walkable, mass transit and auto served urban neighborhoods. More than normal amounts of retirees also leave because high quality residential neighborhoods are increasingly isolated from amenities by road traffic gridlock, without any viable alternative option. These retirees typically move south of Va. border by reason of lack of hospitality culture and quality towns in rural Virginia with amenities that match those found south of Virginia border. (Northern Neck and parts of Piedmont excepted)

          More than normal amounts of young talented, skilled married workers move out of Fairfax because it lacks high quality affordable residential life with convenient amenities and mixed uses given road gridlock, plus it has short supply of high quality mixed use, walkable, mass transit and auto served urban neighborhoods. Plus high quality nearby jobs continue to be in decline or stagnate in Fairfax, given shortfalls in gov. spending, and shortage of new jobs, as more companies move elsewhere or never arrive due to transportation gridlock.

          Most of the talented young workers who stay in Fairfax are single, looking for mates. Once married, they too tend to leave Fairfax for reasons stated above.

          Hence, Fairfax’s population growth is due more and more to higher birth rates of poor and disadvantaged minorities, that are dominating new births statistics and newly migrating into Northern Virginia.

          These demographic shifts need to altered to avoid the cascade affect of a spiraling decline.

        3. djrippert Avatar

          I never doubted the statistics. I do question the conclusions. The percentage of people in Fairfax County with college degrees jumped 5% between 2010 and 2016. Median household income has grown by about 12% in that same six year period. The county’s population growth is definitely being propped up by births and international in-migration but the county population is also getting more educated and richer.


      1. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

        I agree that urbanization is the key. However, I don’t buy making all in urban areas automatically liberal and all in rural areas conservative. I think most people are not on the extremes but the extremes get the attention and there is a huge opportunity for someone to bring together those who don’t claim either extreme.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          As people die or move away, they are replaced by a very different demographic. The Washington Metro Region is majority minority. It’s quite possible Fairfax County will also be majority minority by the 2020 Census. Demographics are neither good nor bad but should be understood.

          The Democratic Party looks attractive until you find out they only want you for your tax dollars. I was a campaign treasurer in two elections for a Democratic state senator in Minnesota and never voted for a Republican until 1984. I resented being viewed as a source of tax dollars. I stopped voting the way my family did for generations.

          Also, I expect Identity Politics and Affirmative Action will change many Asians’ politics over time. The Feds have uncovered overt discrimination against Asians at Harvard. And its only the tip of the iceberg. Work hard, study, master the courses and find you cannot get into the college of choice because bureaucrats feel there is a need for illegal immigrants.

        2. djrippert Avatar

          I can’t name one conservative US city. Take a look at Utah’s 2016 election results by county … https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/utah/

          Hint: The color coding is misleading. Look at the actual statistics beneth the map.

          Trump crushed Clinton in every county except 3 – one was a dead heat and the other two were Summit County and Salt Lake County (Home of Salt Lake City).

          In 2000, Salt Lake County voter 55% for Bush 35% for Gore, Summit County voted 51% for Bush, 38% for Gore. In 2004 Salt Lake County – Bush 60% Summit – Bush – 53%. 2008 Salt Lake went for Obama by 1/10 of 1% and Summit by 16%, 2012 – both went for Romney but he was something of an exception in Utah. Even with that Romney barely broke 50% in Summit.

          Salt Lake County is 78.1% non-hispanic white.
          Summit County is 91% white (with 8% hispanic of any race)

          From a population perspective Utah is growing like a weed. And you can watch the places in Utah with high population densities shift from red to blue.

          Remember – these places are still Lilly white. This is not due to the influx of immigrants from Central / South America or Asia.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            As you point out, its been very hard to get to be a Republican Governor seated in Maryland since its former Republican Spiro Agnew’s history of bribes in office surfaced while he was Richard Nixon’s first Vice President in early 1970s.

            Only two Republicans have gained the Md state house – Bob Ehrlich 2003-2007, and Larry Hogan 2014 – over the past 50 years.

            But why have two Maryland Governors won two the last four Maryland elections?

            Robert Ehrlich in 2003 was the young but politically seasoned Maryland son of working class parents raised in the working class Baltimore suburb of Arbutus, a Democratic stronghold, who acted working class as he challenged the clueless elitist Kathleen Kennedy Townsend weighted down by her reign of Lieutenant Governor to Parris Glendening who was retiring as the most disliked governor with the worst record of progressive political overreach in modern Maryland history – huge deficits, runaway regulations, collapsing infrastructure, environmental and smart growth dictats run amuk, plus marital scandals, and much else.

            To the great surprise of the political establishment, Ehrlich won 52% of the vote to Townsend’s 47%.

            Second go round, Ehrlich who governed as a moderate Republican lost in typical Maryland fashion to a highly disciplined Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, who won 53% to Ehrlich’s 46%, and he lost again to O’Malley four years later 56% to 42% in 2010.

            Then in 2014 Larry Hogan became the second Republican governor in Maryland in nearly 50 years, and the first Maryland governor from Anne Arundel County to be elected in over 100 years.


            Larry Hogan, who earlier had forged good relationships in the Democratic strongholds of Prince Georges County and around the state generally, ran a fine campaign against a lackluster Lt. Governor Anthony Brown who was weighted down by Martin O’Mally’s progressive overreach – high taxes, high fees, oppressive regulations, tight gun control, oppressive and contradictory environmental laws, aliens declared as New Americans, same sex marriage proposals, sky high tolls, you name it, all in an effort to outflank Hilary Clinton on her run for President, at Maryland’s expense.

            Maryland had had enough of Martin O’Malley and his oppressive progressive regime, just like they’d had enough of Parrish Glendening regime, so they tossed their anointed successors out.

            Now Larry Hogan is running strong for a 2nd term on a strong record in the Maryland State House of real results and real success that benefits real people of all kinds throughout his state.

            There is of course a strong message and lesson to be learned here.

  6. I don’t think urbanization alone can explain it. Exposure to the “outside world” maybe. You talk about the two conservative areas of Maryland — Eastern Shore and extreme western. Virginia looks pretty much the same to me — only less dominated by the solidly-liberal center of the state than, say, the Baltimore-Columbia-DC suburbs-corridor dominates Maryland. We recently touched on the phenomenon of Virginia’s “Marylandization” graphically with this chart here:

    I don’t know exactly what Virginia counties’ recent “support for Stewart” is mapping exactly in cultural terms, but it sure is reminiscent of the overall pattern in Maryland. Only difference: Maryland has big, bad Baltimore rather than a scattering of significant cities and towns.

    Oh, and by the way, there is no Dillon rule in Maryland.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I am not sure what is being mapped in the support for Stewart graphic. If it’s the recent Republican primary I’d argue that the sample size is too small and too non-representative of the general population to mean much of anything. Gillespie vs. Northam compared to Deeds vs. McDonnell might show some interesting changes.

      There’s Dillon’s Rule everywhere. It’s just a matter of how stringently it is applied. Dillon’s Rule says that the only way localities have any power is if the state gives it to them. Some states, like Virginia, give very little. Some states, like Iowa, give a lot. No state gives it all or the state government would have nothing to do and no reason to exist (not a bad idea in my mind perhaps). Also, I don’t contend that Dillon’s Rule causes a change in political attitudes or voting patterns. I just believe that diluting Dillon’s Rule lets different geographic aeas of the state operate somewhat differently. In a state like Maryland that is a) 80% left leaning, 20% right leaning and b) has concentrations of right leaning vs left leaning by geography diluting Dillon’s Rule promotes liberty by letting the left leaning areas lean left and the right leaning areas lean right.

  7. CrazyJD Avatar

    Bring back the Party caucus system and get away from primaries and you mostly solve this problem. You will recall that the move to primaries pretty much started in the early 70’s. McGovern, a loser if there ever was one, was the darling of the left, and through primaries he was the Democratic candidate. He lost against that wonder of wonders, Richard Nixon. Bring back the smoke filled room. They usually field a candidate sorta in the middle who they think can actually win. Nowadays, you get two candidates who occupy the extremes. Only potential side effect I see of moving from primaries: you get many more fringe parties, like in most countries.

    1. And you think caucuses/conventions have worked well for Virginia Republicans lately?

    2. djrippert Avatar

      I waiver between primaries and caucuses. In Virginia the people who vote in caucuses are several standard deviations off the mean. They come up with charming, honest, interesting but ultimately unelectable candidates like EW Jackson. The recent primary did roughly the same thing with Corey Stewart (absent the charming, honest and interesting parts … just kidding). The Republicans need a benevolent dictator who can pressure people into pushing the right candidates. It could have been Bob McDonnell but we all know where that ended up. It’s been 10 years since the Republicans elected anybody to state wide office. The adult supervision is gone. The best answer might be to find an honest blue dog democrat like Chap Petersen and try to get him elected governor.

  8. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear BR Mates,

    Do you really, truly believe that you are going to be able to put the political “toothpaste” back into the bottle after the 2016 election? Just “whistling Dixie,” as it were. The place is spinning out of control. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!



  9. Jesse Richardson Avatar
    Jesse Richardson

    Maryland uses Dillon’s Rule also, so that’s not the problem. As I have been preaching for decades, Dillon’s Rule/no Dillon’s Rule has NOTHING to do with local government autonomy. The state legislature can grant local governments whatever authority they want, and Dillon’s Rule doesn’t come into play. Blame the state legislature, not Judge Dillon.

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