All Politics Is….PoliticsVirginia

Local. And Personal. Nothing is more local than personal.

While Virginia’s political class – new and used – tries to make sense of what happened in yesterday’s primary elections for both Republicans and Democrats, let’s just get somethings out of the way early.

This was NOT a repudiation of House Bill 2313 that raised revenue to fund transportation.

This was NOT an endorsement of House Bill 2313 that raised revenue to fund transportation.

It was, however, an object lesson in how long term incumbents lose.

To the first point on repudiation of HB2313 – the incumbent delegate, Speaker Bill Howell, carried the bill and won with 92% of the vote. Certainly, he drew an opponent for carrying the bill – but let’s be honest here – 8% of the vote is embarrassing.

Second point on the repudiation – the two Republican delegates who won – Speaker Howell and Bobby Orrock received the fewest votes of the four challenged Republicans. Orrock – 1366, Speaker 1420, Bev Sherwood – 1492, and Joe May (who lost by the greatest margin of the four) got the most votes -2200.

So while HB2313 was not THE factor, it certainly was A factor. Without it, the four House members would probably not have been challenged. Remember, many other Republican delegates voted for 2313 and were not challenged.

Why then, did Sherwood and May lose?

A combination of factors:

1) The other guy got more votes. Give them credit – they got out and worked the district and got more people to the polls on election day. It ain’t rocket science.

2) Both May and Sherwood lost BADLY in newer parts of their districts as a result of redistricting – May lost Frederick County precincts 70/30 and Sherwood lost Warren County precincts 66/34. In fact, Sherwood lost by a total of 78 votes but lost Warren by 94. Redistricting matters.

3) Other votes along the way. Delegates cast 2500 votes a session. After 20 years that’s 50,000 votes. Any opposition research firm worth its salt can find objectionable votes on issues that the base cares about.

4) Context – remember Sherwood’s opponent is a retired physician and Obamacare is prominently mentioned on his website.

5) District changes from within – over the years the people within the district and party turnover. Over time, that matters. Incumbents show up at party meetings giving the team talk from Richmond about this and that which usually has NOTHING to do with the wants, needs, and deep interests of the people in the room. They are disconnected. They have lost intensity FROM their base. Sure they “like” you but are they the same fired up people that candidate had when he or she ran the first time – 20 years ago? No. Not by a long shot.

Bev Sherwood and Joe May are two of the finest people I have ever known in politics and I would run through a wall for either of them. But I don’t live in the district. More’s the pity.

All politics is local and personal, but mainly personal. Those who know Bev and Joe supported them. The problem most incumbents have – and most businesses – families, economies, countries, anything for that matter – is ATTRITION.

The slow bleed. The gradual decline of supporters. And the rise of intensity of competing interests within the same market. Perfect storms hit.

The timing here also favored the challengers. The incumbents weren’t ready for an election so soon after the votes so intensity was not on their side.

Yesterday’s losses for the Republican delegates was a combination of factors which were not shared by the incumbent delegates who actually won – with fewer votes.

Irony noted.

Note to incumbents – ALWAYS RECRUIT PEOPLE TO YOUR ORGANIZATION. One per week will yield 50 per year. In a two year cycle that equals 100.

Always recruit. Find talented people to energize your organization.

Or someone else will.

That’s the market.

(cross posted at Chris Saxman.com)

  • Ryan Gleason

    But, the energy that pushed people out to the polls to vote for Dave LaRock, was to repudiate May on his vote for HB2313.

    • Catherine Stone McNickle

      Perhaps HB2313 was more of a catalyst for May’s challenger. There were so many problems with May’s record (n addition to his anti-2A and tax hike votes) – to include voting against the Lyme Bill that the entire Loudoun Delegation co-sponsored and supported. May is the perfect example of listening to your donors (Medical Associations that opposed the Lyme Bill and Developers that loved the transportation tax hike) over your constituents. For people that don’t think Lyme Disease is a big deal, please come to Loudoun. It is epidemic out here – Frank Wolf knows this. Everyone does.

    • steve5656546346

      For me it was May’s vote AGAINST being able to concealed carry in a restaurant. So, I’m supposed to fish my gun out in a parking lot? Hide it. Go in. And reholster? What if I have a holster that my belt goes through? I have to take my belt off. Just because a place may sell a little beer–and I’m not drinking anyway? So, do crimes never happen in restaurants? How about parking lots?

  • saxman

    Not exclusively and that is my point. It was A factor not THE factor. Many Republicans who voted for 2313 were unopposed. Plus the other reasons I mentioned – redistricting, lack of a robust campaign structure, other votes…slow bleed. Rarely is it just one vote. Bev’s last real campaign was in 1995 but Warren County precincts tipped the balance. Joe had other votes which contributed. Apparently, he had a C- from the NRA…which doesn’t help. Plus they both lost BADLY in new precincts. It all adds up.

    • Nick Bukowski

      I went door-to-door for Mark Berg to oust long time incumbent Beverly Sherwood. And I actually think that HB 2313 was the most important issue in this race. In fact, I spoke with Sherwood’s aide the day before the veto session and implored Sherwood to make up for her original vote on HB 2313 and vote against it in the veto session. She chose not to and therefore I did everything in my power to help her lose. In going door-to-door and actually talking to the voters of her district (I live in Warren County) it was apparent that most were unaware of Sherwood’s record and planned to support her until I told them about her record and they immediately became Berg supporters. I was amazed at how easy it was to flip voters in this race, just because average voters don’t actually know their delegate’s voting record. And Sherwood hoped to keep it that way. I am very happy that she lost to a much more conservative republican. I hope this will send a message to the other Republicans who voted for HB 2313 that the taxpayers of VA do not want more taxes. Republicans controlled the Governor’s Mansion, the Senate (via the LT Gov tiebreak) and the General Assembly and we voted for the biggest tax increase in the history of VA. This is not conservative. This is not even Republican and I hope there will be more primaries two years from now against the rest of the Republicans who voted for this bill.

      • saxman

        Did you read the post? 2313 was A factor, not THE factor. There are many reasons why people choose to vote for or against someone or something. You got local in precincts in which Bev was basically unknown and won more votes. That’s politics. Average voters don’t know their delegate’s records but if they actually KNOW them – which is the point of the post – they tend to be more forgiving. And in two years time 2313 will be LONG gone. 2313 will give conservatives, so called, plenty of time to come up with funding alternatives to our crumbling transportation infrastructure. 2313 might have been THE factor in Berg winnign 1500+ votes, the question is – for incumbents – do you have more that you can count on when the going gets tough. Which is now Berg’s challenge. Then he has to go to Richmond and govern. Which will include a budget briefing.

        • Nick Bukowski

          The point of your article is to downplay that these two long-time incumbents got ousted for their vote on HB 2313. Sure, in races a lot of things are factors in every individual vote cast for this or that candidate, but my point was that HB2313 was the biggest issue and biggest factor in this race. You can only have a winning grassroots campaign to motivate voters to come out and oust a sitting incumbent republican if you have ammunition against them. HB2313 was our ammunition and it worked. In your article you mention that because two of the pro -HB2313 incumbents who were challenged retained their seat proves that it wasn’t about HB 2313 is just wrong. Howell’s opponent spent less than $1000 on the race and Howell spent almost $300,000. This was not an actual race. But Howell sure was scared to spend more money on his campaign than any other incumbent. And in the other race where the incumbent won, the challenger spent $2500 versus Orrick spending $143,000. And that race was actually pretty close at 57-43. By the way noth Berg and LaRock were heavily outspent by the incumbents and still won. (Berg outspent 73K to 43K, LaRock outspent 243K-54K).

          It seems like the whole point of your post is to give cover to the Republicans who voted for this major tax increase and pretend like the pummeling they took at the polls had nothing to do with their recent votes this session. There hasn’t been a primary challenge for a sitting Republican Delegate since 2005. How can you honestly claim that HB2313 was not THE factor?

          • saxman

            My post was not to give cover to anyone for anything. How many GOP incumbents voted for 2313 and didn’t even draw an opponent? Four did. Two lost and two won. What was the difference? If you want to re-litigate 2313 – go right ahead. My point was to remind incumbents to continually recruit people to their organizations everywhere in their districts. yes, 2313 was a catalyst for opposition. No question. But the incumbent must always build his or her organization and to STAY LOCAL. Don’t get complacent. Always recruit. That would help them withstand a challenge in either the general or the nomination. Which is what Mr. Berg needs to do from here on out. You mention money as a factor. It was. Was it THE factor? No. It was A factor. The energy of the candidate is A factor not THE factor. No question 2313 was a LEADING factor but not THE factor. There is never a lone reason why someone wins or loses. There are just too many variables in an election. Remember – Mr Berg in two years time will be the sitting incumbent Republican and will have to defend his record. He should start by recruiting now. That was the point.

          • David Eggleston

            And in two years, Berg will have voted for SOMETHING that the wingnuts have decided is verboten. I’ve watched this happen in Hanover County. The TEA Party supported BoS candidates who wanted unrestricted development and minimal county planning. Now, the new BoS is pushing two apartment complexes, which are forms of housing of which the county is critically short, and the TEA Partiers are going ballistic. Chris, you’re beating your head against a brick wall in this TEA Party echo chamber. They won’t listen to reason.

          • rmj142

            Nattering on about “the factor” and “a factor” and “leading factor” is just smoke and mirrors. Either there was a catalyst that caused an incumbent to lose, or their broader record sucked. You can’t have it both ways. Your talking point that “only” four delegates who voted for HB2313 were challenged is dishonest and I think you are smart enough to know it. Taking on an incumbent in your own party is a very difficult process and most people won’t do it in most scenarios. You know you will be behind in name ID, you know you will be behind in money, you know the party apparatus will be against you, and you know you will have burned your bridges if you lose. Those are the reasons that only four challengers stepped forward not, as you would have us believe, that HB 2313 was inconsequential.

          • saxman

            Smoke and mirrors? There was A catalyst 2313. But other voters from those districts have also mentioned – bills on Lyme’s and guns. Also mentioned as contributing factors have been time in office. It’s not dishonest to point out that only four incumbents were challenged and of those half won and half lost. Those are called immutable facts. As you point out – taking on an incumbent is extremely difficult. If you actually go back and read the post I discuss how redistricting played a significant role in the elections and that incumbents must always recruit into their organization. Many delegates have written me – both for and con 2313 – saying that post was on the money. Several Dems thanked me for the advice as well. HB 2313 was VERY consequential, but it was not the only reason Bev and Joe lost or more to the point why Dave and Mark won. And there’s a difference.

          • rmj142

            Facts are not dishonest but the talking points built on them often are. Every election turns on multiple points and I’d think virtually everyone who reads this site understands that elementary point. I read your post very carefully and in it you make a number of unassailable points. If your motivation was purely to reemphasize the importance of the nuts and bolts of campaigning and the primary goal was not to cast the losses of May and Sherwood as something other than a repudiation of the party establishment by the grassroots, then I apologize for my misreading of your comments.

          • saxman

            that was nothing but Campaign 101.

      • http://www.brianschoeneman.org/ Brian W. Schoeneman

        The taxpayers of Virginia are tired of sitting in traffic, and they are willing to accept higher taxes if it improves transportation.

        Our elected officials did their jobs – their jobs aren’t to sit around while our revenue for transportation continues to drop and our roads and bridges continue to crumble, while the average worker sees their commute lengthen and lengthen. The Governor and the General Assembly did the right thing, even if the bill itself had serious flaws.

        • Phil Tran

          I have met numerous ***non-activist*** Republicans in Fairfax County who support raising taxes to fund transportation and education. These are the Republicans who are not members of their local RPV committee, don’t get involved in primaries, and live otherwise “normal” lives far removed from the activist bubble. There is a reason why Bob McDonnell’s poll numbers keep going up as he becomes persona non grata within the RPV. I am not saying whether this fact is good or bad. This is just the reality. It is what it is.

  • steve5656546346

    For me, the controlling issue was Joe May’s vote to continue the ban on legal concealed carry in restaurants.

    I appreciate his past work for the State and the district though!

    • saxman

      Which validates my post. There are many reasons why people win or lose.