Tuesday, November 02, 2004

NPR 7pm report: Virginia too close to call

The "experts" said Virginia couldn't be won; the national campaign has never had a serious presence here; but the grassroots rose up and took democracy into their own hands and fought for an historic win in Virginia.

Virginia politics are about momentum. Virginia, like New Jersey, holds state elections in the off years, so we are in a perpetual election cycle. That means this year's momentum was kickstarted when the Democrats picked up their first new seats (3) in 25 years in the House of Delegates in the state elections last year [I had the pleasure of working as Field Director for the Steve Shannon for Delegate campaign in one of those historic wins], and even earlier, by the spectacular win of Democratic Governor Mark Warner in 2001. For Virginia, the real payoff of this year's election activity will come in next year's gubernatorial election.

Virginia is, to the best of my knowledge (and please correct me if I'm wrong), the only state that limits governors to one term. Thus, despite his success in office and outstanding popularity, Governor Mark Warner will not be running for re-election in 2005. (People in Virginia are hoping that Warner will remain in public life; while there is great speculation about what he *may* do, Warner himself has not made any public comments on his future course of action.)

Next year is a big election year for Virginia. Democratic Lt. Governor Tim Kaine is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, and will be facing down a well-funded challenge from Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (who, coincidentally, has been doing double-duty this year while also wearing the hat of Bush campaign chair for Virginia, but assured Virginians he had no conflict of interest when he flexed his AG muscles to scrap with State Board of Elections Director Jeanne Jenson to try to override the SBE and put Nader on the ballot[he failed]). In the 2003 General Assembly Session, Governor Warner battled with a Republican-controlled House (61 R's, 37 D's, 2 I's) and Senate (34 R's, 16 D's) to produce a balanced biennial budget in a fight that extended the standard 60-day session to a record 115 days. The acrimonious session also saw the passage of Virginia's infamous HB 751, which attacks civil rights for same sex partners, in addition to a host of bills attacking reproductive freedoms. The stakes in next year's election are, for Virginia, very high.

What today's neck-and-neck results mean, regardless of where the Old Dominion assigns its electoral college votes, this election is a win for Virginia Democrats. 2004 has rallied and given purpose to Virginia grassroots Democrats, who put forward a spectacular voter registration and voter mobilization campaign--and that energy and those new voters will give a tremendous advantage to Lt. Gov. Kaine in his 2005 bid for Governor, as well as the many state races where Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents. And regardless of who may try to take credit for any good news that comes out of Virginia today, I want to acknowledge publically that credit goes to the grassroots activists of Virginia.

There will be celebrations in Virginia tonight: celebrations of hard work, hard-earned progress, and a taste for Victory that we plan on indulging again with Governor Kaine this time next year. If Virginia votes for a Democratic president for the first time since LBJ in 1964, then that's just icing on the cake.

And, during the celebrations tonight, we'll be thanking the people whose hard work last year sewed the seeds of this year's momentum: Delegates Steve Shannon, Mark Sickles, and Lynwood Lewis, for their relentless and outstanding campaigning last year that picked up 3 new seats for the Dems; the incredible campaign talent like Kevin Hyde, Connie Houston, Marty Mooradian, Doug Rueff, and Nick Sukachevin, who made those election wins possible; the diehard volunteers and voters in districts 35, 43, 100, and across Virginia; the critical energy from the Virginia Young Democrats; and the dedicated, highly-skilled professionals in the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Remember: in Virginia politics, this year is the warm-up act, and the big show is Tim Kaine in 2005.

Cross posted to BOP News