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?