Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Blame Game

It's come to my attention that Rene thinks I blame her for Woodard's loss in the Northern District Board of Supervisor race. What I wrote was analysis, not accusation. We mirrored statewide mistakes at the local level. I'd like to not make those mistakes again.

There's plenty of blame to go around. We wouldn't be in this situation if Bill Rasnick hadn't moved away: maybe it's his fault. Davy is not the perfect candidate; at least some of it's his fault. Vernon cost us a few votes. Mike and Dan cost us a few votes by letting Vernon hang around. Deeds cost us votes by making the statewide races personal and going after McDonnell instead of campaigning on real issues. And the Republican State Leadership Committee in Alexandria cost us a couple of votes in the Northern District by sending little Willie Morefield $40K two weeks before the election.

It would have been nice if Childress had come around a little earlier. But he eventually did his part. I know Rene talked to David a lot. I can't help but wonder how many votes it would have gotten Woodard if he'd had one of his signs in the Steele's yard. I'd say 75 if I had to guess. There was one in my yard. But no one expected it of the Steeles, because they only show up at party meetings when it serves their personal ambitions. I could be wrong. I'll say I was wrong if either of them shows up at the next two party meeting. I'll even sit with them.

I don't blame Tom Childress or Spot & Rene. There's plenty of blame to go around. I could have made more phone calls...

Do Democrats Eat Their Young?

I've talked already about the problem with marbles - how people in the Northern District seemed to pick theirs up and go home when the primary was over. Another problem we had was simple party unity in the county. And the lack of party unity managed to eventually be personified in one Charles Vernon.

Before I go on I should say that I count Mike Hymes as a friend. I endorsed him on my blog for the Southern District Board of Supervisor’s race. I'm glad he won. I feel much the same about Dan Bowling. I supported him in a letter to the Free Press. I wish he'd won.

I made my feelings about Mr. Vernon's political involvement plain to them. At the time, it didn't matter much. I don't know if it does (matter to them) in retrospect. If I make those feelings public now and perhaps criticize them on the issue, I doubt it will hurt Mike's reelection chances in 2013 or damage our friendships much.

I think of Charles Vernon as somewhat loud and pompous. He tends to use 11 words when seven would be eloquent and four would make the point. We all have our flaws, I suppose.

Vernon originally supported Woodard's campaign - and every other Democrat in the county, even though he makes a point of saying he's an independent. On September 3rd, Vernon published a "letter of non-support" at Rene Steele's forum. It was melodramatic; he "declared war" on Woodard. It was over personalities. Playing the chivalrous knight (the image he seems to want to project) he came to the defense of a damsel in distress: Amy Flick. Amy and Woodard had disagreed on matters concerning the town of Pocahontas. Flick decided she'd support Campbell over it. Whatever.

Vernon's post got just over 100 comments and the thread got just under 2000 viewings in the 61 days leading up to the election. Only seven other people posted to Vernon's thread - including Rene, who owns the forum. Over half the comments were by Vernon himself (who doesn't live in the Northern District). While the thread got about 30 views a day on average, most of those views were problem from the eight people who contributed to the thread.

I doubt Vernon did much to decide who got Rene's vote. I think I know who two of the anonymous posters ("Just a Taxpayer" and "GOP") are, and I don't think either of them live in the Northern District. Woodard lost by 61 votes. Maybe Vernon's thread cost the Woodard Camp one or two dozen votes. I'm sure Vernon will disagree verbosely with my estimate.

The more important effect that Vernon had, in my opinion, was that he was demoralizing to the party in general at county events. Every time Mike Hymes or Dan Bowling stood around at a public event with Vernon, it sent voters and party people who were familiar with the situation a mixed message. I have to wonder whether having Vernon around didn't cost Bowling as many votes as it gained him - if for no other reason than simple lost enthusiasm among county Democrats.

Vernon commented on my post from yesterday, since it mentioned his name. I told him he had other places where he could share his opinions and that I didn't really feel any obligation to let him post here. He copied that private email I sent him and published elsewhere without so much as informing me - something that doesn't surprise me.

I thought I said it rather well in that email, and since it's now public, I may as well quote it here:
Got your comment. Spare me the formal respect crap; it leaves a taste like eating the icing off a cake... too much sugar.

Don't flatter yourself too much. I don't blame you for the defeat of Woodard. Your credibility in the Northern District political arena was largely borrowed from others - Hymes, Bowling, etc. The day you published your letter of non-support for Davy they should have kicked your ass to the curb. But instead they fed disunity by continuing to associate with you in public, to the party's detriment.
Mike Hymes and Dan Bowling are nice guys. As the last Democrat standing at the moment on the Board of Supervisors, Hymes will become even more of a leader for the party now. And Charles Vernon, on the other hand, is a cancer in the party's side. Keeping him around after this because he serves one or two individual candidates - well, we may as well eat our own young...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Democratic Primary: Who's Got the Marbles?

At the local level there were a number of mistakes we made as Democrats - mistakes that may have kept us from winning local races.

For starters, we mirrored the mistake the party made in the Governor's race. We had a three-way primary in the Northern District to see who would get the Democratic nomination. It was a bad idea. But none of the three candidates could be dissuaded. And at the end, the two losing candidates picked up their marbles and went home without offering much support to the winner.

If the Steeles ever threw their support back to the Democratic candidate, I missed it. Rene couldn't afford to because it would have alienated the handful of Republicans who follow her forum. Spot is a nice guy; and after losing in the primary we never heard from him again. Most of Spot's followers (judging from precinct returns) voted for the Republican candidate for Board of Supervisors.

Tom Childress was not much better. After dedicating decades of service to the Northern District, Childress considered leaving the party after losing the primary. It was Labor Day (three months down the road) before he came back to the table and supported the Democratic candidate for Board of Supervisor.

I've drawn the conclusion that a caucus in May would have been better than a primary in June. The fight would have been less public. Recovery time would have been shorter. The impact of people picking up their marbles and going home wouldn't have been so great...

Perhaps this weekend I'll tell you what I think of Charles Vernon and the people who consorted with him, and how that impacted the election.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creigh Deeds' Long Coattails

I've been home almost an 90 minutes after working the Virginia election today. I'm an election official, a precinct chief for the precinct where I vote in Adria, Virginia (Tazewell County). It's been a depressing evening...

In my precinct the Republicans swept all six races. It'd been clear for a couple of weeks that either a.) the science of polling had collapsed or b.) Criegh Deeds was going to lose by a large margin. The polls were right. And while there are certainly a variety of factors in play that determined the outcome, the press and the commercial campaign strategy of Deeds seems to be the largest factor.

Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell is a Pat Robertson-style culture war Conservative who toned down his image some for the governor's race. McDonnell wanted to talk about transportation, infrastructure and the economy during the campaign. His plans on those issues met with criticsm from analysist, and under a Democratic governor Virginia has become the best managed state un the union. Deeds could have won on those issues. He decided, instead, to talk about McDonnell. And we heard over and over and over again about McDonnell's views on abortion, McDonnell's views on the role of women in society, McDonnell's appearances on the 700 Club, McDonnell's views on birth control within marriage, etc. It was negative. And it left everyone talking about McDonnell, not Deeds.

Democrats need to figure out that years ago they won the battle on abortion and women's rights, and that pushing it front and center now doesn't really get them anything. I'm not sure the Democratic core is as committed to the abortion issue today as it was in the past. I'm one of the more active, loyal members of my local Democratic Party. I don't really like abortion. I'd end 95% or more of all abortion if I could. I'm a serious enough student of the Bible to doubt that it makes the absolute, definitive statements on abortion that the Religious Right claims. The fact that I might only end 95% of all abortions makes me a baby-killing liberal to the Religious Right and a compromising hypocrite to the far left. I don't think I'm that unusual. Democrats also need to learn that they can't count on all women simply buying into a women's rights agenda. Women are not a homogeneous community.

Deeds had long coattails. His failure took a lot of other candidates down with him - all the way to the local level.

There are other issues. The political demographics of America are simple. Democrats have an urban power base. Republicans have a rural power base. The Democrats in Virginia in this election fielded a candidate for governor from a rural background in a bid to carry rural areas. The bid failed, and they lost urban voters in the process.

It didn't help that many of the federal issues being addressed by a Democratic President are controversial. Health care, Cap & Trade, economic policy in general - all illicit strong emotions from the Political Right. And the bottom line is that Virginia remains a Republican state. Democrats managed to hold the governor's mansion for eight years, to regain a hold on both US Senate seats, and to carry the state once in a row for a Democratic candidate for President. But the state legislature is a GOP body.

Tomorrow (or sometime soon) I may comment on more local considerations in this election.