Primary Reading: Themes on the Partisan Blogs


How different will Virginia’s politics and political future be at close of business tomorrow? This time the big shift may come in tomorrow’s primaries rather than with the November general election that actually chooses 140 General Assembly members. 

A lead weekend story on a major conservative political blog, The Bull Elephant, was an attack on incumbent State Senator Emmett Hanger (here). It was only a temporary interruption in its otherwise microscopic coverage of the circular Republican firing squad still underway in the 97th House District, where incumbent Chris Peace (always wrong on Bull Elephant) claims victory in a firehouse primary and challenger Scott Wyatt (always right on Bull Elephant) does the same based on a convention.


Over at Blue Virginia, bright beacon of the Left, one finds (here) the latest in a series of attacks on incumbent State Senator and potential Majority Leader Richard Saslaw. Here’s another typical one. The push against Saslaw on that outlet has been relentless, but it has reached into other areas of the state to punish Democrats seen as insufficiently liberal.

In the case of Hampton Democrat Martha Mugler, seeking a red House seat that is likely turning blue because of the recent court-drawn district map, she is actually accused of being a conservative (gasp), because (here) she is not enthusiastic about late term abortions as a social good, holds the once-traditional Democratic views on the Second Amendment, might not repeal Right-to-Work and failed to lead a charge against schools named for Confederate generals.

So many factors in these many races are at play that a clear trend may not appear Tuesday night. It matters who has better local connections, better turnout organizations, and it is hard to imagine powerful incumbents like Hanger and Saslaw going down. But it is not impossible to imagine.

The broad candidate field itself has perhaps a record numbers of women (all five candidates in the open Virginia Beach Senate seat, both parties) and immigrant or first-generation candidates (check out the four Democrats in this district.)  Good Old Boy Virginia could not be more dead.

Which brings us back to those two senior incumbents: Hanger and Saslaw’s careers in Richmond both pre-date and parallel mine. Their loss would immeasurably weaken the centrist elements who have run Virginia (and infuriated the ideologues on both ends) for the past few decades. Saslaw has played the money and power game to the hilt, but Hanger usually has to be dragged to practical politics by his friends.

That explains a late surge of lobbyist funding for Hanger (here), including a massive in-kind effort (here) funded by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. That is the best story that no mainstream medium has even sought to tell. The hospitals don’t want to lose the Republican who was crucial to Medicaid expansion, which also explains late in-kind donations to incumbent Delegate Robert Thomas (here). The impact of that hospital money will be explored ex post facto.

So, I’ve mentioned four races at least to watch – Hanger and Saslaw in the Senate, Thomas and Mugler in the House. On individual races, no predictions.  On the general trends, further deep polarization seems inevitable.  Republican losses in November, perhaps involving loss of control of both chambers, also seem possible.

With November already in sight, the Democrats are broadcasting the themes they intend to highlight with this unflattering portrait of the reigning Republicans. Republicans are left with trying to reignite the anger that enveloped their opponents in February following the Northam-Herring blackface confessions and Fairfax date rape allegations.

For example there’s this at The Republican Standard, the main pre-primary story all weekend. Yes, by all means, spread the message of Democratic reunification. Very helpful.  Stories about the Republican races and the divisions on display are totally absent on that platform. And finally, there is this cheerful missive at the top of another Republican organ. There’s one for the GOTV hall of fame.

With that messaging, if tomorrow were the final vote the Republican disaster would likely be total. The only question now is whether the Republicans field a list of candidates with a chance to hold on, and for that they have to be pulling for every progressive, free-stuff promising, tax-raising, gun-grabbing, corporation-hating and Green New Deal-loving Democrat in every district.

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8 responses to “Primary Reading: Themes on the Partisan Blogs”

  1. So… moderates in both parties are facing primary challengers from the extremes. Thus does Virginia become as polarized as the nation. Who can out-crazy the other?

    1. Less divided maybe. Virginia bifurcates between rural Va, and NoVA, and then party lines. So you have rural Repubs and rural Dems wanting to see tax burdens shift to NoVA, and NoVA dems agreeing to accept that fate. NoVA repubs/independents are essentially disenfranchised, or do not exist, not sure which.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        “NoVA repubs/independents are essentially disenfranchised, or do not exist, not sure which.”

        Nor am I sure which. If they can’t win in 2020 after all this scandal and dysfunction, I fear the latter, that the GOP and Independents are extinct as a species in No. Va. Thus No. Va politics will have collapsed into arguments among ever more radical democrats. Thus we now got Soros’s $million bet.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I was gonna ask – what do Virginians want and are they represented? Is Virginia REALLY purple (yes) and does Purple mean essentially gridlock in the legislative process?

    Are we saying that the two parties, well lubricated by “free speech” money are NOT in control that the extremists are?

    Here’s the thing – if either party REALLY wants to turn over a seat in much of Virginia just replace your moderate guy/gal with an extremist and they’ll lose big. e.g. Corey Stewart and his ilk…

    I’d actually like to see more right wing extremists run… and lose… 😉

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      This morning I see mainly bright blue….not much purple any more.

  3. djrippert Avatar

    Saslaw has been an embarrassment to Virginia for decades. The politician for life is the chief bundler and legal launderer of Dominion money. His corollary in the Republican Party is Tommy Norment. The difference between the Democrats in Virginia and the Republicans in Virginia is that some of the Democrats are willing to take out their own trash. The Republicans sit on the veranda of their antebellum homes in the shade of Robert E Lee’s statue sipping their bourbon and branch water while making excuses for RPV idiots.

    Chap Petersen is a moderate Democrat. I don’t see Blue Virginia pillorying Chap. They get after Saslaw because he deserves it.

  4. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    While these blogs are absolutely amazing, read the opinion page of the Richmond Free Press website. That is truly and unbelievably fascinating.

  5. […] The following was written for the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s Jefferson Policy Journal and distributed earlier today.  Some themes repeat an earlier post.  […]

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