Va 37 Spec Elec Reflects Va Dem Problem

As noted in this round up the GOP in Virginia Senate 37 have three candidates (Marianne Horinko, Steve Hunt, Will Nance) who were primed at the bell to run in a special election, fired up websites and fired out mailings w/in a week of the November General election, and are out combing the landscape for votes.

On the other side of the aisle the Democrats are apparently doing polling to see who could run the strongest race in the district. Names that apparently are on the poll are Delegate Dave Marsden (narrowly reelected to the HOD earlier this month), Janet “Hoot” Oleszek, who lost to SenKen by ~100 votes in 2007, and former HOD member Chuck Caputo. Of the three, only Oleszek lives in the district. Both Marsden and Caputo represented precincts in the 37th in the HOD, but would have to parachute in and run as the carpetbagger candidate. [NOTE: After posting, I received an IM that the Dem polling was for five candidates…but I still have no idea who the other two names are…]

While rigorous to vicious post mortems are being offered by Democratic officials/volunteers/bloggers, etc., about why Creigh Deeds got whomped on election day, I suggest there is a fundamental problem the Virginia Democrats have that is stands out in this race. The problem? They care more about winning than about standing for something.  This candidate selection by polling is perhaps the inevitable result of the Democrats long standing attempt to gain “Power on the Cheap”.

Yes, I understand that one of the goals of a political party is to win elections. Ideological purity can mean an extended stay in the wilderness.  But I have long noted that for the last eight years the Democrats have chosen to rely on GOP infighting to give them political power instead of advancing policy issues that-even if defeated in the General Assembly-could serve as campaign planks in a general election.  Instead, over eight years of Democrats in the governor’s mansion and two years of absolute control of the Virginia Senate (plus many more years of coalition cooperation with John Chichester and Russ Potts) there were no issues advanced in Virginia by the Democrats that they fought for, bled for, and could say to the populace “THIS is what we stand for”.

Instead, they have relied on GOP infighting, errors, and retirements.  It is a practice that places power above policy, and seeks to buy that power with the cheap currency of what the opponent did wrong instead of being able to use what the Dems did right.

Consider the NoVA Dem delegates that were defeated in 2009:

1)   David Poisson won his seat in 2005 (Kaine win, beginning of the Bush Backlash in the wake of bad news from Iraq and mishandling Katrina relief) from Dick Black, who had become a single issue culture warrior unconcerned with state governance;
2) Chuck Caputo won his seat in 2005 after a bruising GOP primary ousted GOP incumbent Gary Reese [corrected] and sent very conservative Chris Craddock into battle;
3) Paul Nichols won his seat in 2007 when incumbent delegate Michelle McQuigg stepped down to run for Clerk of the Court in PWCo. A bitter GOP convention sent up a weak GOP candidate;
4) Marge Vanderhye won her seat in 2007 after the retirement of Vince Callahan and defeated a reasonable but not strong GOP candidate in a district with less a GOP organization than a Callahan organization.

All these pickups were against weak incumbents or open seats with a weak candidate and where the local party structure relied less on the party than on the network of the individual candidate. These were wins against weakened candidates running an increasingly GOP toxic atmosphere.

Even David Marsden’s win in 2005 (for the seat of retiring moderate GOP delegate Jim Dillard) points up this devotion to power over policy. Marsden was Dillard’s long time legislative aide. Marsden was a GOP political appointee under Jim Gilmore-and was partisan enough that he was removed from his position after Mark Warner was elected. Marsden went door to door for the Cooch in 2003. But in 2005 he switched parties because he thought it was his best chance to go to the HOD. Cathy Belter, who had lost to Cooch in the 2003 general election, wanted to run for the Delegate seat but was by many accounts bullied out of running. Marsden was embraced by his new party over those who had labored in the vineyards because the party elders thought he was their best shot at winning.

The same thing is happening now. The Democrats are shopping various candidates based solely on electability, and two of them would have to change legal residence to run. By all accounts Hoot wants another shot, and it is a reasonable assertion that her result in 2007 should give her first shot at a special election nomination. Obviously, her case is undercut by her flaws as a campaigner. Still, one would think the organic choice and not the artificial choice would be the natural choice.

One would be wrong in thinking so…

More to the point she is a longtime Democratic activist who should have better name ID across the district from her time as a candidate and as an elected member of the school board…and she is potentially being pushed aside by Team Carpetbagger.

The candidate search in Va 37, its artificiality, its focus on best chance to win as opposed to fealty to party and loyalty to policy is indicative of a real problem in the Virginia Democracy. Va Dems have by the course of time or their own bad strategy have lost their high cards. They can no longer rely on being able to bash the bogeymen Bush and Gilmore, They cannot rely on internal strife to undermine GOP candidates. Their attempt to gain “power on the cheap” via GOP strife means they party has no state program or record of achievement to take to voters in this special election.

You would think that after eight years controlling the governor’s mansion, at least four years in almost complete control of Fairfax politics the Va Dems would have built up a stronger bench…but when you go for power on the cheap and refuse to grow your own troops and your own issues, maybe this candidacy by polling is the inevitable result.

Meanwhile-In a strange development the Janet Oleszek website www.Janetforfairfax.com which only ten days ago was populated and up and running (albeit not updated since fall 2008) is now shown as being “parked”. A Whois search shows it is owned by Oleszek for Senate through Feb 13, 2010.  I have to wonder if it is being retrofitted for a special election?

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11 thoughts on “Va 37 Spec Elec Reflects Va Dem Problem

  1. I’m sure it’s just an enormous coincidence that your analysis supports Janet Oleszek as the natural candidate when Republicans crowed for months about how she was the worst candidate ever and couldn’t beat Cooch even with the enormous blue tidal wave that took out the rest of the Fairfax R Senators in ’07. Coincidence…right!

    Bwana, it’s ok to be afraid of Marsden, you should be. He’s consistently won by appealing to moderate voters while still offering base Democrats something to be excited about. Ironically, he’s probably the closest thing the D’s have to Cooch himself; someone who wins in an area that does not line up perfectly ideologically with him because he appeals to a broad spectrum of voters by being honest, working his rear end off, and providing outstanding constituent service. I mean really, who else personally calls back nearly every constituent that contacts him?

    However what’s not ok is to continue to repeat Ben Tribbett’s lies about Marsden verbatim.

    You note that Cathy Belter was “by many accounts bullied out of running.” Really, many accounts huh? Like whose? Seriously, are there ANY accounts of this made up phenomenon besides Ben Tribbett? Name two of them (since ‘many’ means at least 3, right?).

    You obviously know about his axe to grind with Marsden and you do nothing but diminish your credibility when you repeat this garbage. Same with Marsden “going door to door for Cooch.” Pure fantasy, made up by Ben because the D’s in the 41st District had the good sense to laugh at him when he wanted to run for the seat. In hindsight, it was perhaps the smartest move any two magisterial district committees ever made in the history of Virginia politics! Can you imagine that nutjob trying to govern?!? But I digress….

    You’re better than this! Partisan blinders are entirely fair, but at least be honest.

  2. Thanks for joining in, but apparently you are focusing on the trees and not the forest.

    The point is not that Oleszek is the best candidate, although I can see why partisan blinders will cause some will try that spin to avoid the real issue.

    The point is that over the last eight years the Democratic Party has not built a set of issues in Virginia to run candidates from and has not built an organization and a bench to draw candidates from. Instead they have sought power on the cheap, and it has caught up with them.

    The GOP field has three candidates-two of whom have never held elected office-who saw an opportunity might come their way and prepared to take advantage of it. That speaks to having an organization and a bench of people ready to go. The Democrats on the other hand had no one ready to go, are only now shuffling about trying to find out who to run in this special election, and they are doing it not by folks eager to run but only after taking a poll.

    I cannot imagine the Dems (or the GOP, for matter) willingly importing a candidate into a special election if they had a suitable candidate on hand waiting on the bench ready to go.

    Marsden’s strength is really neither here nor there to the point at hand. His potential carpetbagging simply is the most current manifestation of the problem. The problem is most obvious in Va 37 because it is a competitive district, but it exists elsewhere. The Democratic party had the chance to build a brand through policy initiatives, taking stands, and even if defeated in the General Assembly would have an issue to take to the public.

    Instead, they decided to do nothing but hope the GOP imploded while running against Bush and Gilmore.

    The point is not that Oleszek is the best candidate. The point is that after eight years of Dem control of the governor’s mansion (and control of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors for as long a period) they haven’t built the brand or the bench that would obviate the need for candidate selection by polling.

    Why is this polling needed? It’s a result of their power on the cheap policy.

  3. Well, you would think the performances of james Socas (dem, va-10 2004, lost), Dick Black (GOP, va-1 2007, denied the nomination), Stephens Miller (Dem, HOD candidate, 2009) would show that across the board that carpetbaggers don’t do well.

  4. Actually, I was busy thinking about Frank Ruff (R) and Tom Gear (R)….seemed to work out fairly well for them. You guys can cry carpetbagging all you want, but a) it’s not going to mean anything to voters who know that he already represents a third of the Senate district and b) who actually care about issues.

    Isn’t that what we heard over and over and over again about why the McDonnell campaign was successful: it’s the issues stupid!

    So that’s great, you guys go on and on about a non-issue (moving into the district or maybe a thesis; sound familiar?) while Marsden or whomever the Dem nominee is talks about jobs, the economy, getting the budget in good shape and protecting education dollars, while trying to find a commonsense transportation solution with the new Governor. That sounds like a winning strategy for you all for sure.

  5. Last I heard of Gear and carpetbagging was when he decided not to move within his delegate district so he could run for the Va-1 GOP Congressional nod in 2007…however, we look forward to you offering up all the details about these two.

    Carpetbagging and a Thesis are two very different things. Candidates have been defeated in nominating and general elections based on carpetbagging, while the thesis thing…well, you know how that turned out.

    As far as the issues go, I am confident that the GOP candidate will be addressing jobs, education, the economy, etc., and if Marsden runs he will be able to tell all these folks he doesn’t know because he parachuted in how it is that he will be able to more in pushing these issues with the new governor than he was able to with the incumbent governor-who is from the same party…

    …which would bring us back to my point above…that it will be difficult for Marsden to talk about what he will do as he has spent the last four years he and the Democrats have not been offering solutions. Instead, they hoped for GOP infighting to hand them power on the cheap.

    So if Brother Marsden runs, and if he wins the nomination, then it will be interesting to see why he thinks he can accomplish such great things now and why he has sat on his duff for the last four years.

    And we will still be left with the question how it is that after eight years of Democratic governors and all these other triumphs that the Democratic organization in Va-37 is so weak that they cannot come up with a candidate who lives in the district…

  6. Gear lived in HD92 as a Hampton Councilman. He moved into the district 91 to run for delegate-so yes he is a carpetbagger. Since he didnt do it again with Congress, he is not a double carpetbagger.

  7. Thanks SE VA MWC Alum! I had read it, lord knows where, and didn’t bother to track it down. That clears that up though.

    Secondly, Bwana, you argue that “he has spent the last four years he and the Democrats have not been offering solutions.” That’s nonsense. Marsden has supported tons of solutions. The House Republicans have shot them down time and again, but this whole notion that he hasn’t offered solutions is plain untrue.

    He supported Gov.-Elect McDonnell’s transportation compromise, though unlike the Gov.-Elect, he’s not a lawyer. So, he didn’t predict it would be deemed unconstitutional. He supported Gov. Kaine’s transportation plan, which the House shot down. He supported David Englin’s bill to overhaul our tax plan in order to help working people, which, you guessed it, House Republicans shot down.

    He had an excellent, excellent bill to help protect NOVA transportation dollars just this past session. It mandated that NOVA and Hampton Roads not receive any less in transportation dollars than it did as of last year, a hold-harmless provision if you will. If it had passed, at least the dollars would keep from going down up here and more of our dollars would have been kept up here in years where there aren’t as many projects for NOVA in the queue. What happened? Marsden got it passed in the Transportation Committee. House Republicans in Appropriations shot it down by not evening giving it a vote.

    He’s offered a whole host of bills to combat the gang problem in Northern Virginia….which the House Republicans shot down. Many of those were suggested by the FFX Gang Unit. Yet time and again, House Republicans shot them down.

    Seems to me that your beef is with the House Republicans who keep sticking their heads in the sand and voting down solutions and not Marsden, who keeps offering and supporting them.

    Your problem, Bwana, is that Marsden is on the record as introducing a ton of bills. The solutions are right there for the whole world to see. Moreover, Republicans have control over what gets passed and what doesn’t in the House. Marsden can offer solutions on top of solutions and unless your brethren in the House vote it out, there’s not a thing in the world he can do. This meme about him not offering solutions is ridiculous. Lack of solutions isn’t the problem, it’s lack of political will in the House Republican Caucus and that’s just a fact. I know that the ‘Dems haven’t been offering solutions’ line is convenient for Republicans, but it just doesn’t match up with the facts.

  8. Thanks SE VA MWC Alum! I had read it lord knows where and didn’t bother to track it down. That clears that up though.

    Secondly, Bwana, you argue that “he has spent the last four years he and the Democrats have not been offering solutions.” That’s nonsense. Marsden has supported tons of solutions. The House Republicans have shot them down time and again, but this whole notion that he hasn’t offered solutions is plain untrue.

    He supported Gov.-Elect McDonnell’s transportation compromise, though unlike the Gov.-Elect, he’s not a lawyer. So, he didn’t predict it would be deemed unconstitutional. He supported Gov. Kaine’s transportation plan, which the House shot down. He supported David Englin’s bill to overhaul our tax plan in order to help working people, which, you guessed it, House Republicans shot down.

    He had an excellent, excellent bill to help protect NOVA transportation dollars just this past session. It mandated that NOVA and Hampton Roads not receive any less in transportation dollars than it did as of last year, a hold-harmless provision if you will. If it had passed, at least the dollars would keep from going down up here and more of our dollars would have been kept up here in years where there aren’t as many projects for NOVA in the queue. What happened? Marsden got it passed in the Transportation Committee. House Republicans in Appropriations shot it down by not evening giving it a vote.

    He’s offered a whole host of bills to combat the gang problem in Northern Virginia….which the House Republicans shot down. Many of those were suggested by the FFX Gang Unit. Yet time and again, House Republicans shot them down.

    Seems to me that your beef is with the House Republicans who keep sticking their heads in the sand and voting down solutions and not Marsden, who keeps offering and supporting them.

    Your problem, Bwana, is that Marsden is on the record as introducing a ton of bills. The solutions are right there for the whole world to see. Moreover, Republicans have control over what gets passed and what doesn’t in the House. Marsden can offer solutions on top of solutions and unless your brethren in the House vote it out, there’s not a thing in the world he can do. This meme about him not offering solutions is ridiculous. Lack of solutions isn’t the problem, it’s a lack of political will in the House Republican Caucus that is the problem and that’s just a fact. I know that the ‘Dems haven’t been offering solutions’ line is convenient for Republicans, but it just doesn’t match up with the facts.

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