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Virginia Elections 2013: Did Democrats Just Shoot Themselves in the Foot?

Virginia Democrats run the risk of losing the tied state senate and the effectiveness of a Democratic lieutenant governor, experts say.

Virginia Democrats have their ticket for the 2013 general election, but they could run the risk of losing the state senate should Sens. Ralph Northam and Mark Herring become lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Northam (D-Norfolk) and Herring (D-Loudoun) won their races in last week’s Democratic Primary Election to become the Democratic nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively. They’ll join former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe on the ticket in November.

“The good news for the democrats is that these two candidates are both experienced campaigners,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “They have won state senate races in districts that are not all that friendly to Democrats and that experience will be very helpful for the ticket.”

But Democrats rejoicing over their nomination may have to take the news with a grain of salt – if both Northam and Herring are elected, special elections must be held for their senate seats.

Why does it matter? With a state senate tied 20-20, the lieutenant governor would have the tiebreaking vote on what legislation goes to the governor’s desk.

But if the Democrats were to lose one or both of those seats, the tiebreaking vote would be rendered useless.

And those are races Republican candidates could have a decent chance of winning, Farnsworth said.

Northam took 54 percent of the vote to Republican incumbent Nick Rerras’ 46 percent during the 2007 midterm election to win Virginia’s sixth state senate district. 

Herring also defeated a Republican challenger, Patricia Phillips, during the 2007 election, winning 57 percent of the vote to her 43 percent.

But both districts are areas Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell carried during the 2009 general election.

“With a strong Republican candidate, as well as the likely small turnout for a special election the Democrats are going to have to work very hard to keep one or both of these seats if that’s what they end up having to do,” Farnsworth said.

Northam’s past experience in office could also help him against his Republican opponent, Chesapeake pastor E.W. Jackson.

Jackson has no history in public office and lost to George Allen in the 2012 primary election for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. His appeal could be further muddled by a string of controversial statements he’s made in the past, which came to light after Jackson won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor during the party’s May convention.

“There’s no question he has an enthusiastic following, but there is a serious question about how his record will translate into statewide appeal,” Farnsworth said of Jackson.

It should be noted that Herring's Republican opponent, Mark Obenshain is also a member of the state senate in Harrisonburg's 26th District. Obenshain has had wide margins of victory in elections since he won the seat in 2003. In 2009, he took 70 percent of the vote to defeat challenger Maxine Roles.

Should Northam and Herring get elected, Virginians can expect the special elections to get a great deal of attention and even more money.

“Right now, the money for a race for the House of Delegates might be competing with money going into statewide race,” Farnsworth said. “But in a special election for a vacancy, it’ll be the only game in town.”

The BSD Guy July 19, 2013 at 12:32 AM
You're living proof of everything that's wrong with the Republicans. They try to use "tricks" like propaganda from Fox News and all their other idiotic talking heads, and who do they trick and win over? Idiots, that's who. The Republican party is now not only a national disgrace, it's an international embarrassment.
Leslie Ackerman July 19, 2013 at 08:11 AM
The ironic thing is that you don’t have to be a Republican; not being one gives you even more credibility. Ideally you need and open mind, lots of world (or DC) experience, a pursuit of fairness, and your history well read & analyzed. Age merely accumulates that along. But BSD just confirmed my stance about the left in this country. What makes Fox “propaganda” and MSNBC not? MSNBC thrives in vociferating and preaching to the choir with their only objective to make Reps evil and Dems victims (because it works with lots of blinded suckers and ideologues who just need an inflammatory headline). At least Fox has liberals in the discussion, MSNBC ensures the “conservative” line (*when there) is overwhelmingly subdued, and in advance! In other parts of the world, that would be considered proto-fascism and not journalism. Still, in typical Northern Virginia liberal fashion, when some people run out of good arguments, their resource is deliver 6 lines to insult and shut the dialogue, placing the adversary in that hellish corner of their world-view to end “victorious”. Yet, I have to give BSD credit for his honesty in his name, given the amount of BS in the vitriol delivered. Good luck!
Karen Stallings July 19, 2013 at 11:38 AM
If you believe everything any station puts on the air, you are sadly mistaken. TV is a source of entertainment but evidently some folks use it as their sole source of education. Sad, but true.
Leslie Ackerman July 19, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Since I fully agree with you, I wonder what made you think I believe in everything I hear on TV? To the contrary! I pursue disenting, broad based opinions, and I read a lot on top of my my three-country lives and year of experience with different realities, in order to have my own. It is the people who watch networks that "preach to the choir" or treat others condescendently, and even insultingly, who seem to be a problem, and since i try to compare with objectivity, MSNBC is may times worse than Fox can be. By nature, history has shown that most people are suckers that believe in one-lines and soundbytes to develop their OWN ideology. That's why you have to have good educational base ... and, well, you know how that goes in this country! I remain happily in the center and pursue the reasonable. But this country is horribly divided because of rigid ideology; and that includes BOTH extremes. My problem with the left is their sanctimonious attitude, as if they are simply superior because they (think they) are "advanced" (for being 'progressive') Then you converse with them and in typical american fashion they are clueless of world history, past facts, other countriy's experiences and the knowledge to do the right thing. In my opinion, it has been demostrated time and time again, but some don't learn. For somebody that mistrusts everything I heard from an ideological perspectice (I teach Science) I find your statement rather odd. Perhaps you did not read properly?

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