State of the races in Virginia - one man's view of the Democratic contests

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this also appeared at Daily Kos

This past weekend saw the quarterly meeting of the Democratic Party of Virginia, combined with the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, keynoted by Bill Clinton. I arrived Friday afternoon and stayed until late Sunday morning. I had no official capacity as party official or as accredited blogger, although I did participate in the first meeting of the newly blessed Veterans and Military Families Caucus. I had an opportunity to talk with all of the candidates for the three statewide offices, and many of their staff members. I went to various hospitality events they hosted. I talked with and listened to a number of important Democrats, some of whom are committed and advocating for their favorites (and sometimes bashing their opponents), many of whom are undecided in at least one of the two competitive races. And I watched and listened in general.

I am myself uncommitted except for the Attorney General's slot, where Delegate Steve Shannon of Fairfax County is so far unopposed for the nomination. My observations and analysis do not represent an endorsement.

And as of now, I see a very real possibility that the Democrats will field a ticket of three men from Northern Virginia.

I invite you to keep reading.

Let me do the races in reverse order. As noted, Steve Shannon is the only candidate currently in the race for Attorney General. Originally elected in what was then a Republican leaning district in Fairfax County, he has served as a prosecutor and with his wife Abby co-founded the Amber Alert in the DC Metro area. The AG office is more shaped as the people's advocate than it is as a criminal prosecutor. Steve is committed to ensuring the safety of our children, including from on-line predators, and using the power of his office to protect the people from those who would attempt to financially rip them off. Steve is personable. My commitment to his candidacy is likewise personal, and has nothing to do with his current lack of opponent. His wife Abby served as the LA for former Rep. Nick Lampson with the brief for education, which is how I got to knew her, and through her Steve. It is stil possible that State Senator John Edwards from Roanoke may yet again make an attempt for the nomination, but at this point that would seem futile, as Steve has hundreds of thousands in his campaign fund, has been receiving endorsement from sitting Democratic AGs across the country, and is supported heavily by the party establishment in NoVa, and in a statewide Democratic primary a heavy advantage in NoVa can be hard to overcome.

On paper, the AG slot is the best shot for the Dems come November. There will be no current statewide office holder running for the office, and while the Republicans will make their decision in a convention, there are currently 8 people considering the run, and none of them has a high, positive statewide reputation.

There are five people running for the Lieutenant Governor's spot, where the winner will confront incumbent Bill Bolling. In a normal year, the favorite would probably be Jody Wagner of Virginia Beach. Jody is personable, owns a popcorn business in that resort community (the largest city in Virginia, although Fairfax County has substantially more people), and has hel high appointed office under the two most recent (Democratic) Governors: Treasurer under Mark Warner, and Finance Secretary under Tim Kaine. It is worth noting that despite the Old Dominion's current budgetary problems, the Commonwealth has been named the best managed state in the U. S. by Governing Magazine. But she has four opponents, one of whom, Pat Edmonson, is also from Virginia Beach.

Pat is currently a member of the Virginia Beach School Board. Let me disclose that Pat was a classmate in the 2008 Political Leaders Program of the Sorensen Institute, and - as I would do for any of my classmates who runs for office - I am contributing a nominal sum to her campaign: that does not represent an endorsement, as I similarly contributed to a Republican classmate. Pat is perhaps the most consistent progressive candidate in the race. She upset a Republican for her current post. She has raised a surprising amount of money since her recent entry into the race. And she chose to skip the dinner itself, with her and her staff volunteering in a homeless shelter (although they purchased tickets for residents and staff of that shelter to hear Bill Clinton and the various Virginia figures). If Pat can get labor support, especially from teachers, she could be a factor. Were Wagner not in the race, with the support of teachers and heavy local support in Tidewater, it might be possible to see her winning. As of now it looks like she and Wagner may split the vote at least in Virginia Beach, hurting them both.

Rich Savage is a football coach and sometime political consultant, originally form California, now based in Richmond. At the time he got into the race, the only declared candidates were Wagner and Jon Bowerbank, and the race appeared wide open. He is a former TV reporter, and can be fairly personable. I had only one brief conversation with him. The two issues on which he is focusing are educatio (and he has established a foundation dealing with helping secondary students achieve excellence in the arts, athletics and academics) and the environment (he opposes mountaintop removal and the latest proposed coal-fired power plant in Surry, also opposed by Brian Moran). He has no natural political base, and what buzz I heard about him was questioning why he was in the race. One observer from SW Virginia questioned whether he would even qualify for the ballot, wondering how Savage would get 400 signatures in the 9th CD. Even if he qualifies, it is hard to see him as much of a factor, unless he can demonstrate viability by raising a lot of money, and get validation through the endorsement of known political figures.

Jon Bowerbank has been in the race the longest. As he puts it, he is now 4 months into an 18 month plan. Jon was born in England. He, like Pat Edmonson, currently holds elective office, in his case as a member of the Russell County Board in the far SW. Jon runs his own business, EMATS, an energy services company. He is in a position to provide a lot of his own financing. He has also been actively supporting other Democrats around the state for a while. Three of the four who contended for the LG Governor slotin 2005, Lesley Byrne, State Sen. Chap Peterson, and State Senator Phil Puckett, have endorsed him (the fourth, Viola Baskerville works in the Kaine administration and the governor has told everyone to stay neutral). He has also been endorsed by 9th CD Congressman Rick Boucher, and a number of party chairs, including several from Northern Virginia. He will clearly be in the top tier of the race.

The latest entry is Mike Signer. Mike is a lawyer, who served as an assistant counsel for Mark Warner, has served as a Democratic strategist for a number of years, including in a senior role in Tom Perriello's recent upset victory for Congress. He is a Virginia native, a graduate of UVa Law, has lived in Charlottesville, Richmond, and now in Arlington, where he grew up and attended Washington-Lee High School. He ran the 2004 Virginia Voter Protection effort. He hwas a track record on environmental issues dating back to his founding his high school's first environmental club, and has been involved in issues of racial an economic justice. He was a very active Edwards supporter. I note this because there are several key Democratic officials who also were, such as Peter Rousselot, head of the Arlington Democrats, and Mary Anne Hovis, Treasurer of the Fairfax Dems. he has also worked for gubernatorial candidate State. Sen Creigh Deeds.

I said that I thought there was a possibility of an all NoVa ticket. That would mean Mike Signer would win the LG primary. While he has never previously run for office, that is not as unlikely as it may seem. There is no Republican primary, and Virginia is a totally open primary since we do not register by party. In Democratic primaries in general the vote tends to come heavily from NoVa, just as it is Dem votes in the Northern part of the state that provides the margin in statewide general elections, as one can ask either Jim Webb, Tim Kaine or even Barack Obama. If Mike can raise sufficient money, he will be able to remind voters in NoVa that he shares their experience of the traffic horrors, at the same time as he can point to his work with and for several important figures in other parts of the state. Mike comes across as quite articulate. It remains to be seen if he can condense his message down in a way that will connect with ordinary voters. If he can, then given the dynamics of the overall contest I would give him a slight edge to squeak out victory in a four or five way race.

Of course no one knows what the shape of the electorate will be. And that is even more confounded by the entrance of Terry McAuliffe, who has lived in McLean in Northern Virginia for several decades, into the gubernatorial race. Let me talk about Terry first. He has a huge personality, and access to an even bigger bankroll. He is already on tv in Norfolk and Richmond, things unheard of in Virginia Democratic politics. Of course, we are also not used to primaries for Governor. Working backwards, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Don Beyer, Mary Sue Terry, Doug Wilder, and Chuck Robb basically had no opposition for the nomination. Thus it is very hard to predict how this race will play out. McAuliffe has spent a lot fo time and money travelling around the state, attempting to portray himself as he wishes to be seen before his opponents can define him otherwise. A consummate fundraiser, he still might not have gotten into the race had Virginia's election laws not changed. We have had unlimited contributions from within state for quite some time. But until January 1st those outside the Commonwealth were limited to $100. Under those circumstances McAuliffe's huge fundraising list would be of little advantage. He can bring Bill Clinton in whenever he wants to, although that could be a mixed bag even in a primary, since the African American community might still have sore feelings over some of the remarks the Big Dog and his wife made about Barack Obama. It seems fairly clear that the advertising we are already seeing is likely to lead to a significant expansion of the electorate, although where the additional voters will go is not guaranteed. And because Terry is already the one national figure in the race, he gets a lot of media attention. Bob Holsworth of Virginia Commonwealth, one of the preeminent analysts of Virginia politics, has said nice things about Terry's campaign. And this past weekend Terry was being shadowed by Adam Nagourney, chief political reporter of the New York Times, for a piece that will be coming out perhaps at the end of the month. McAuliffe has also actively reached out to the Virginia bloggers, who have demonstrated some influence in Democratic politics, especially in the Kaine and Webb campaigns. I attended a dinner with a number of my NoVa compatriots, and I know several drawn in his direction by that experience.

State Senator Creigh Deeds is a decent man who lost the AG race 4 years ago by 323 votes when he was swamped by late advertising, especially in NoVa. Despite his near miss statewide, he is still not very well known. Born and raised in Bath County, he has been in public office for decades. While in the House of Delegates he served as caucus chair. He has represented either as Delegate or State Senator UVa, Va Tech, and VMI. He has very strong support across the state from his fellow state senators. He will trail in fundraising, both because he lacks the natural base, and because while the General Assembly is in session he is legally barred from fundraising. He also has a much lower burn rate than do the other two candidates. I genuinely like Creigh. My wife is supporting him, in part because he is the only native Virginian in the Governor's race. In a two-way race against Moran it would be hard to see him winning, given the normal distribution of Democratic primary voters. This is not a normal year, and should the race between the other two get nasty enough, who know? His campaign manager, Joe Abbey, has a track record of successful races run, including managing Chap Petersen's double digit victory over Jeanne Marie Devolites for the state senate - Devolites is the wife of Tom Davis, who transferred something like 600,000 of his own campaign funds to his wife, and yet still saw her swamped in what had been considered a relatively safe seat by many Republican analysts. So it would be premature to count out Creigh, but he looks to have an uphill climb.

That leaves Brian Moran, younger brother of Congressman Jim Moran. Brian recently resigned from the House of Delegates, where he was Democratic Caucus Chair. He attended Catholic U law school in DC, then became a prosecutor in Arlington County, before running for the House of Delegates. He and Creigh began preparing for this contest at least by the beginning of 2006. Brian has done a lot of traveling around the state. As Caucus chair he helped recruit candidates to cut the margin the Republicans had in the House, to the point that a net of 6 seats will return control to the Democrats. He resigned for several reason. First, he could not run for both his House seat and Governor at the same time, and thought it might be advantageous for a successor to have served in the current session (Creigh's Senate term runs through the end of 2011). Second, as noted, while the General Assembly is in session, he would be barred from raising funds, and given the potential size of McAuliffe's bankroll, that is a significant concern. But there is another issue, and I have confirmed with a ranking figure in his campaign that it was part of the calculation. The Dems control the Senate, but not the House. Thus Creigh does not have to worry about the Republicans forcing him to cast votes designed to damage him for the general election, Brian did.

In Brian's travels around the state, he has lent his name to candidates and to causes. For example, he goes to Wise County for the Remote Area Medical fair about which I have posted and on which there has been worthy coverage. He has a long track record with the Young Dems, who are strongly in his camp - rather than an evening party after the JJ dinner, for the past two years he has sponsored a brunch in their honor, and this year he was treated as a hero. He also has a track record of outreach to bloggers, arranging a blogger's day at the General Assembly in 2008 (which I did not attend). Some have criticized him for not taking forceful positions, although recently he has come out aggressively on environmental issues, including opposing offshore drilling, in favor of offshore wind, and opposing the proposed coal-fired plant in Surry.

Terry McAuliffe bought 39 tables (10 seats each) at the JJ dinner. His campaign paid for groups of college Democrats to appear. He had lots of visibility in a fashion beyond what people have experienced at previous JJs. On the one hand, he demonstrated a level of campaign organization that hs not previously been seen in Virginia, on the other he may have been somewhat over the top. He has a number of key figures, including several of those most responsible for Kaine's victory, Mo Ellethei and Mike Henry (who also had a high ranking position in Hillary's campaign). He has demonstrated that he is a quick learner, and can talk somewhat persuasively and in depth about Virginia issues. He is the only one of the three who has come out for repeal of the Dillon Rule, which severely restricts the ability of counties and cities to self-govern. On the other hand, he carries some baggage, he is perceived by some to be a carpetbagger. One wonders if his style may cause a bit of a backlash. He says he will say nothing negative about his opponents, but I wonder if that will be maintained.

I wonder that because Brian Moran and his campaign have gotten aggressive. Some perceived some of Brian's remarks at the JJ dinner as a direct in your race challenge to and attack on Terry. One person supporting Brian told me he thought it was a bit over the top. An important elected thought it was way over the top. I heard from some of Brian's staff that they felt they had defined the election, with the implication that they are going to continue to be aggressive towards Terry.

I give an advantage to Brian for several reasons. One is the strength of his support in NoVa, where the most votes are. Another is that he has similar support in the House of Delegates as Creigh does in the State Senate, which gives him access to organizations around the state. Of greater importance, he has been endorsed by all 8 Democratic mayors in the Tidewater region, and as kos has noted, it is mayors and governors who have organizations that can really deliver - those endorsements matter.

It is probably too early to make predictions for the June primary, other than that Steve Shannon will be the AG nominee. As of now, Brian Moran still has to be considered the favorite for the top spot. The LG race probably has no clear favorite, as none of them is really yet known. And no one really pays that much attention, if past primaries are any indication. I think Mike Signer may have the advantage simply by being the only one from NoVa, especially as the Tidewater regions has two local candidates.

What might it mean if all three slot were from NoVa? Normally one might say that would hurt all three in the general. And yet, things are changing in Virginia. And the national democratic party is prepared to put big resources in, especially given that Gov. Tim Kaine was selected to be party chair. Virginia will be ground zero in November.

But first is April, and the primary. If you have read this far, you have my impression and evalution. Take it for what it is worth.


Awesome rundown, Ken


Well thought out and reasoned, as usual Ken

One X factor this year is the new Farm Team. They have endorsed Jody Wagner, and have teams set up throughout the Commonwealth. I'm curious what they will be able to bring as far as fundraising and organization. It seems this race may be their litmus test- will they be a force to be reckoned with, or just another special interest group?

nice write up - but

I think you might be overestimating Signer's support from NoVa. He's only just starting seeing coming to Arlington County Democratic events and didn't see him up here helping with any of the elections last year. Bowerbank and his people have been very visible up here for a while and were involved in our campaigns.

I agree

I had never heard of Mike until now despite being active in NoVA politics for almost ten years. He sounds like a great guy though. But also, Jody Wagner, who seems to me like the best overall statewide candidate in the general, has been up here making the rounds for a while now as well. I am leaning to Jody at this point but I certainly am still undecided and eager to learn more about all the candidates. But Jody was the one candidate who I've heard of before this year.

Some additional insight on Mike Signer

Ken, Great write up as always.... but I was copied on an email from Mike Signer's mother a couple of weeks back that adds even more good information on him. No endorsement on my part implied, but I believe him to be the youngest of those running for state wide office this year.... and remember NOW usually writes checks to candidates campaigns they endorse in the general elections each year.....

Subject: My son Mike Signer
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 18:32:43 -0500
From: Marj Signer

Friends – People have been asking if I’m related to the Mike Signer who is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. I want you to know that I am – he’s my son. I have four children – Mike’s the oldest, Mira and Rebecca are the middle ones and twins, and Rachel at 24 is the youngest. All are absolutely wonderful people. This email is about Mike’s work and school history – but most important to know is that he is a thoughtful, caring person who believes in public service and has good and workable ideas for improving government.

Mike went to school in Arlington from elementary through high school and now lives in Arlington. Although only 36, he has a long history of involvement in Virginia politics and government, including as deputy counselor to Governor Warner. Most recently, Mike was Senior Policy Advisor and Director of the Homeland Security Presidential Transition Initiative, a joint project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Third Way.

In 2007-08, he was Senator John Edwards’ foreign policy adviser on his presidential campaign. In this position, he was responsible for all of the campaign’s major foreign policy and national security speeches and statements. He also appeared as a campaign surrogate at major public events in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and regularly represented Senator Edwards before print, broadcast, and online media.

In 2005, as Deputy Counselor to Governor Warner, he counseled the governor on a wide variety of criminal, civil, policy, and regulatory matters and was assigned to homeland security and National Guard and Reserve reform policy.

Mike previously was an associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, D.C., where he belonged to the Government Litigation and Government and Public Policy groups. He served as Chair of the Pro Bono Commission of the Young Lawyers Committee of the Virginia State Bar. He has held senior staff positions on a number of national, statewide, and local campaigns, including election protection director for the 2004 Democratic campaign in Virginia – where he recruited and trained about 850 lawyers to work at over 500 precincts throughout the commonwealth. After the election, he helped to found a group called the New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia (New Era). New Era also helped pass Virginia’s cutting-edge paper trail legislation, which will phase out the computerized voting machines that have given us so much trouble.

Mike’s first book – Demagogue – The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worse Enemies – is now available from It is published by Palgrave Macmillan. Mike holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley; a J.D. from the University of Virginia, where he was president of the UVA Law Democrats and co-founder and co-president of the American Constitution Society; and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Princeton University.

One of the things that I am most proud of is Mike’s commitment to justice. In the spring of 2004, a woman named Daisy Lundy (who was half African-American, half Asian-American) was running for president of the student government at UVA. Daisy was assaulted in her car by someone who used a racial epithet before slamming her head into her steering wheel. Mike, like many students, was appalled by this incident. He founded an organization called the Coalition for Progress on Race (CPR), which became the largest student movement responding to the attack. He learned during those months that you can speak truth to power, and that even the ugliest incidents can help produce progress. After a successful vigil, march, and fundraising effort, Mike and his colleagues started to focus on the disturbing fact that UVA—the leading law school of the South—had no institution dedicated to the critical topic of race and the law. CPR eventually established the Center for the Study of Race and Law at UVA, which is today a leading center for scholarship and activism.

Well, clearly I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. Mike is a good guy and, with three sisters, believe me when I say he understands women’s concerns and issues! I'm sure you'll be hearing more about the candidates as we near the June primary - there are now five candidates for lt. gov. - and I'll be happy to answer your questions as best I can.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. To me, there is nothing so wonderful as having children who are healthy, active, passionate, and committed to creating a better world. It is a great blessing.

For equality,

Marj Signer
Virginia NOW

I just want to clarify a couple of things.

First, there weren't any changes to Virginia election law regarding the amount of out-of-state contributions allowed on the first of the year.

Second, Terry's position is that he wants to change the way the Dillon rule is implemented so local authorities have much more discretion, but Terry doesn't necessarily want to abolish the Dillon rule.

[Disclaimer: I work for Friends of Terry McAuliffe]

Just a note to say...

...Thanks for the disclaimer! (And note to others posting here -- please disclose your campaign associations where relevant as well.)

Has Terry's position changed recently?

At his appearance in Fredericksburg, he was pretty clear that he wanted to abolish the Dillon Rule. At least that was my understanding based on his remarks...

Terry's position hasn't changed

He's always believed that the Dillon rule reduces government efficiency and discourages innovative, localized approaches to solving problems. However, because it's been in effect for so long and so much of the legislation that's been passed presumes the Dillon rule's existence, abolishing it outright could have a lot of unforeseen consequences.

OK, he's confused me, then

When Terry was in Charlottesville last month, I sure thought that he was advocating the repeal of the Dillon Rule. Maybe he had some way of parsing the answer that masked a subtlety that I did not catch, but that's what a number of us thought that he said. We all clearly heard the part of the answer where he talked about how the Dillon Rule was standing in the way of progress. I did not catch any hesitancy about its abolition.

I also thought it highly dubious that the very first question posed by the very first person that he called on in the town meeting portion of the event was about the Dillon Rule -- an issue that no one in Charlottesville would have thought was at the top of the list of priorities. We all figured it was a plant, which then led me to wonder why someone thought that having Terry talk about the Dillon Rule was going to be a game-changer.

But then, I'm supporting Creigh anyway.

I'm with you Cville-

He was pretty adamant about it in Fredericksburg. He went so far as to suggest that Richmond should return education and transportation dollars to the localities for them to control. After the meet and greet, I pointed out to one of McAuliffe's staffers that while it may sound like a good idea it (in my opinion) showed a lack of understanding about governance- that there were some school boards in Virginia controlled by Republicans solely for the purpose of DEFUNDING public education because its the largest line item in their budget. Plus whole sections of Virginia are not self-sustaining when it comes to transportation, some would be unable to build or maintain roads without NoVA's financial assistance.

Dillion has become one of those facile, "Cliff's Notes on Virginia" types of issues- you can pretty easily give the appearance of in-depth knowledge with just a little bit of studying. Both McAuliffe and his staffers had some trouble answering questions that were off script when in Fredericksburg. Perhaps he does better with the calls......

Bottom Line

Terry has always supported allowing local governments to find local solutions to their everyday challenges. Local governments cannot solve problems if they are beholden to the decisions of part time Richmond legislators. Bottom line: localities should not have to go to Richmond to change the color of their police cars. If a local government wants to prohibit smoking in public establishments, they should be able to do so without going to Richmond. For all practical purposes, Terry will provide localities the flexibility to implement these policies.

A few more thoughts

I should start out by saying that I'm not supporting anyone in these statewide races. I wish I were, but I don't have a candidate yet.
Brian Moran: Moran did himself the most good at this JJ. Two years ago, Barack Obama was at the VA JJ to receive Tim Kaine's endorsement, and I said at the time that he hadn't achieved his cadence. I wanted Obama to take us to the mountaintop, but instead he walked us through a wonky discussion of health care. It wasn't until the Iowa JJ that Obama found his voice, and gave his supporters the spirit of possibility that they needed to transcend campaign and become a movement. As I've been hoping he would for a very long time, Brian almost got there with his speech. He achieved the cadence, he found a voice for a larger calling. Unfortunately, that cadence was sidetracked, perhaps necessarily by broadsides against Terry McAuliffe, and unnecessarily, by a series of flat, joke-like, attacks against Bob McDonnell. I think that Brian's campaign has the most chance of becoming the truly transformational campaign for Virginia's future that progressives hope for, but a number of things need to fall into place. Brian needs to keep that voice and expand his use of it. He needs to transform his grassroots support into a conspicuous presence, and consolidate all of his positions and endorsements into a powerful, meaningful message for the future of Virginia. All of this needs to be shored up with stronger fund raising. On the whole, however, Brian took a huge step forward at the JJ. He's not there yet, and there's some time, but the clock is ticking.

Terry McAuliffe: McAuliffe's campaign is a powerful force in search of a soul. His campaign remains the only one, Democratic or Republican, which has a clear message, a clear voice, and clearly delineates a problem and solution. He was at the JJ in force, dominating the sign war and making a powerful statement. His speech was a clearly crafted statement of party unity, positivity, and strength. He drew powerful lines against the Republicans. His campaign is running like clockwork. On the down side, I don't see the momentum on the grassroots going towards Terry. This campaign for primary voters is a calculation - can Terry's money, message, and media profile defeat McDonnell? And Terry's messaging seems targeted to laying down all of the questions primary voters have that might distract them from payinig attention to Terry McAuliffe's proposed role as Virginia's own Secretary of Commerce. In many ways it's working.

Tim Kaine: Kaine's speech was an emotional farewell to the Democrats who love him. We've had our differences with this Governor, but this event wasn't about policy, it was about the party. By the numbers, Tim Kaine has left the Virginia party in a much stronger position. Kaine is going on to a national profile as head of the DNC. At the JJ Dems were very happy to get a chance to hear him and see him one last time as their very own. At this time of fond farewell, we can't turnour backs on the fact that Kaine's time in office has set us up for failure in many ways. He was a champion of the transportation monstrosity, which has left us in a bad way. He seems to have gotten federal funding for rail to Dulles, but over, not under, and without bidding. He never stood up to the power companies, and even his current environmental initiatives are highly questioned by environmentalists. A few months ago, I wrote as the Grey Havens:

From his repeal of the estate tax to his abandoned plan for universal Pre-K, to his opposition to embryonic stem cells, from his failed transportation plans to cozy relationship to Dominion Power and his reprehensible support of the Wise Coal Plant, the Kaine administration has fulfilled our every early fear and never failed to disappoint progressive Virginia.

In order to become the powerful and vital leading force for Democratic politics in the 21st century, the backbone of an enduring Democratic majority, Progressivism needs leaders who are regularly willing to take a critical, principled stand. This is why the RK community never fails to denounce the failed positions of even our most dogged champions.

As Democrats we can appreciate Tim Kaine's success, and as progressives we need to keep our eyes focused on solutions and leadership. As we look for a a Governor to support, we need to be aware that progressive positions make good governance, and a Governor who can take principled stands.

Mike Signer: More than any other Lt. Governor candidate, I found Mike Signer a real winner. This is a guy capable of giving thoughtful answers, who has a legitimate claim to the legacy of Mark Warner, and had a hand in the Perriello victory. He's got the makings of a powerhouse campaign. Of the candidates, I can see him making much more of the office than Bill Bolling and leveragin his experience there towards a strong claim at the Governorship.

John Bowerbank Full disclosure, I'm really good friends with John Bowerbank's campaign manager, Jon Paul Lupo. That doesn't change the fact that Bowerbank is likeable. He's a guy you want to hang out at bbq's with and who you'd call if you had a flat tire. He's also running a good campaign. His intro video/ad was the best of the night. It tied bio into messaging and was extremely accessible. He's doing good messaging and of the campaigns I'd say he's very well along.

Steve Shannon This is a good campaign, and the fact that Shannon has no primary challengers is a blessing which he's making the most of. Primaries are good, they get the message out and build support, Shannon seems to be overcoming that by pushing hard to turn baseline support into active involvement by the grassroots and the party.

DPVA: For the past few years, Virginia's JJ Dinners have remained well-organized, effective and outstanding examples.

Note - I personally didn't get a chance to spend any time with Jody Wagner, I want to get a better sense of her and her campaign before I say anything.

House of Delegates Candidates: Where were they? If I was running for a house seat, I'd be at the JJ glad handing and getting my message out, looking for money - looking to win friends and influence people. What the hell!?

Criegh Deeds: Creigh's performance at the JJ fell far below the quality the other candidates. His speech was earnest but unimpressive. His message didn't break through. Creigh has a lot of love in the party, people adore him and he remains a party leader. His supporters are very passionate. I didn't see anything at the JJ to convince me he could project a message, raise money, or defeat McDonnell, and I would have liked to.

Pat EdmonsonThis candidacy baffles me. She's a nice lady, but it doesn't make sense. I'm all for candidates who are in a race to interject critical issues into the discussion, but I don't see this candidacy as viable. I feel much the same way about Rich Savage, but I don't get a sense from Savage of which issues he'd like to bring into the debate. I think I need to research these campaigns a bit more, but Pat comes across as simply dotty, and Savage's "Get Savage" ad campaign was miserable.

Coming away from the JJ, I was hoping to be convinced and adamant in my support of candidates. Instead I came away only with slightly better sense of the race. I'd rather have a banner to carry, and a cause to fight for. As it is, I'm more focused on making sure that we keep the discussions focused on promoting progressive issues and making sure that we all focus our the forces on keeping Democrats in control in Richmond for these critical next four years.

Sorry to disappoint you Josh but..

I mostly agree with everything you said here. We are seeing more and more examples of the kind of disappointments you noted about Tim Kaine and they seem to be part of an old mind set which I hope is giving way. Dick Saslaw accepting an amendment from an employee of Dominion Power and preventing discussion and public comment is mind blowing. I don't care what it was about. What he did was inexcusable. I'm glad we have one gubernatorial candidate who is clear as a bell on his energy and environmental positions and is not making excuses, equivocating or distracting people with chicken manure.

let me offer an additional scenario

beyond that I posed in the main story

Imagine 2 candidates from Southwest on the ticket. Hear me out.

Remember, no one knows the shape of the electorate. What if despite Terry's advertising and Brian's effort it is not subtantially big? What if the back and forth between Brian and Terry (who last nate made a very bad joke, to the effect that there were a lot of animals in the race. Creigh has a mule named hHarry Truman and Brian has an ass named Joe Trippi) causes a few more people to turn away from both and take a closer look at Creigh who is not part of the back and forth?

And remember that the one area of the state that is locked for one candidate and motivated to turn out is SW for Bowerbank - is it not possible that most of those voters will also turn out for Creigh? Remember that Phil Puckett and Chap Peterson have endorsed both Jon and Creigh.

I was in Richmond all day. I talk with a lot of people. And here's the plain truth - no one has any idea of the shape of this race, because it has been so long since we had a contested primary for the Democratic nomination for governor, so no one really knows how to read it.

And I think I will post a variant of this as a stand-alone front page story.


One Correction

MaryAnne Hovis is not the Treasurer of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. The Tresurer is Bruce Nielsen.

MaryAnne is Vice Chair for finance.

Implementing such rules is

Implementing such rules is not that easy for a community especially if it is a new one. Notice to the public is a good start.

Very disappointing. I've seen

Very disappointing. I've seen a lot of flaws on this.
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