By now, you’ve probably digested all the stories from the Washington Post and other stories about how hard Republicans took it on the chin in Virginia, that the Old Dominion is turning from “blue” to “red” after Democrats won a two-seat edge in the state senate, how Mark Warner is sure to pick up the U.S. Senate seat up for election next year and Hillary Clinton is destined to carry the state’s thirteen electoral votes.
And, of course, this includes the conclusion that, as the Post’s Amy Gardner put it under the heading “Analysis” today, “[w]ith a few notable exceptions, the trend benefited Democrats and not those who campaigned the loudest against illegal immigrants.”
Well, with all due respect, Amy, what “trend” were you looking at?
It is true that Democrats did make a net gain of four seats giving them a 21-to-19 seat majority and, for the first time in a dozen years, a majority in the upper House of the state legislature.
But let’s look closely and where, how, and by how much they eked their way to that point. In the most closely-watched and expensive (each candidate spent over $1 million) senate race in the state, Democrat and former state legislator James Chapman “Chap” Peterson unseated Republican Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and did so with a handsome 56% of the vote. But is this a blow to conservative Republicans? Hardly. Davis, wife of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), sought re-election to her 34th District (Northern Virginia) running to the left of Peterson: calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, slamming the Democrat for being not pro-gun control enough (one gun rights group even endorsed Peterson), and backing legal benefits for gay couples. Dubbing herself “fiscally conservative, socially moderate,” Davis even referred to herself in a speech as a RINO –“Republican In Name Only” — which is a pejorative term conservatives use for non-conservative Republicans.
In contrast, State Sen. Jay O’Brien, the Republican lawmaker in the neighboring district, ran as an unabashed conservative on social and economic issues. He did lose to Democrat George Barker but by a margin of 800 votes out of more than 37,000 cast. And in the 37th District, the third Northern Virginia senate seat in the Democratic sites, incumbent GOPer Ken Cuccinelli apparented staved off Democrat Janet Oleszek, a Fairfax County School Board member, by 69 votes out of more than 35,000 cast. Cuccinelli, a devout Roman Catholic who attends the traditional Tridentine (Latin) Mass, never retreated from his opposition to abortion except to save the life of a mother and his support for tougher measures to deal with illegal immigration.
Did the I-words (Illegal Immigration) help or hurt Republicans who embraced it? Well, in Prince William County — where the eight-member Board of Supervisors made national news by unanimously supporting tougher law enforcement measures dealing with illegal immigrants — incumbent County Board Chairman and Republican Corey Stewart won a full term with 54% of the vote against Democrat Sharon Pandak, who called the controversial resolutions (allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest and to deny eight county services to illegal immigrants) “not well thought out.” County Board Member John Stirrup, author and driving force behind the resolutions, was re-elected in a landslide (62%) of the vote. Stirrup won his first term by a tight 282 votes; in winning his second, he increased that margin by tenfold and was the top vote-getter in six of eleven precincts in his supervisorial district. Eighty-something Democratic State Sen. Charles Colgan, an institution in Prince William County, saw his margin watered down by a perennial GOP candidate who emphasized (you guessed it) illegal immigration.
And in Fairfax County, where Democrat Gerry Connolly was a shoo-in for re-election as county board chairman, he did promise not to “join the bandwagon” against illegal immigrants. But, according to the Washington Times, he “supports Virginia laws that keep illegal from receiving non-emergency, tax-funded benefits. He also supports federal immigration training for county deputies to screen suspects in custody.”
Connolly, who rolled up 59% of the vote, is considered the likely Democratic candidate for Congress if incumbent Rep. Davis steps down next year. With the defeat of his wife, pundits and pols conclude that Davis is more likely than not to retire after 14 years in Congress.
And, oh yes, Democrats did make a net gain of four seats in the House of Delegates but Republicans held onto their majority.
So, analyze this, Amy Gardner: how does this all translate into a Democratic trend and Virginia going from blue to red in ’08? And how does anyone come to the conclusion that strong opposition to illegal immigration wasn’t beneficial to candidates? I guess you have to be smart enough to be working for the Washington Post to deduce that conclusion. I’m quite grateful that I’m not that smart.