With the elevation of State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli to Attorney General comes a special election to fill his Senate seat. Already the Republican side is crowded with contenders, but most prominent Democratic names have taken themselves out of the running.
The only one so far that has not yet denied a run is Delegate Dave Marsden (right), the sole surviving Democratic pickup from 2005.
Among the Republicans vying for the 37th Senate seat--former School Board member and crazy town wacko Steve Hunt. (Hopefully Hunt wins the nomination, as Marsden has a rather good track record against unabashed social conservatives like 2005 challenger Michael Golden) You might remember him having a holy meltdown about homosexuality, urging teachers to invite "ex-gay" speakers. On his old School Board campaign website was a copy of his 2005 speech to the board about Fairfax's Family Life Education program (better known as "sex ed") in which he rambled on about how he lost his virginity and the traumatic emotional drama that ensued. The cache of his full speech is still up, but here is the relevant portion (emphasis added):
My father and my church taught me that sex was something very special and that it was reserved for marriage. Unfortunately like many young people trying to justify my desires, I went for the anything but intercourse concept of abstinence, just like the definition of abstinence in the other pamphlet by this same company. That anything but concept resulted in my giving my virginity away in a BOQ room somewhere to a woman that I have not seen in almost 2 decades instead of giving it to the woman that I see almost every night. A few years ago I attended an abstinence conference. There was a young man that told of how wonderful it was to be able to turn to his new bride and tell her that he had saved himself for her. And a prior Miss America told of how special it was to be able to turn to her husband on their wedding night and tell him that she had saved herself for him. It crushed my heart, because I could not turn to my bride and tell her that. I realized that instead of purity, I had brought into our marriage all of the baggage of each on my relationships. It is hard enough for two imperfect people to learn to live together without having to overcome that kind of baggage. I realized that I had weakened the bond that sex is supposed to provide in my marriage relationship and that no matter how good my relationship is with my wife, that it will never be as good as it could have been. And I will never regain those early years of marriage that could have been so much better. I realized that I had also contributed to the weakening of that bond in the marriages of the woman with whom I had had relationships. To the best of my knowledge none of my relationships resulted in a pregnancy and I did not contract any diseases. (But at the time of my marriage I did not know that - love always protects, ... I had was supposed to provide protection for my bride and I could have brought a disease that could harm or even kill her). So the safe-sex component provided absolutely no protection from the negative ramifications of premarital sex that have permanently impacted my life.
Now, I can applaud a guy for pouring his heart out like that, but seriously, school board meetings are not the time for that.
As the lone Republican voting for health care reform on Saturday, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) is facing a firestorm of fury from the right. Republicans are making a huge mistake attempting to villify the one and only Vietnamese-American member of Congress in American history. The Vietnamese are the last and final Republican voting block within the Asian-American community, and the tone-deaf likes of Michael Steel threaten to antagonize from the Republican party one of their most loyal voting blocs.
Cao's seat was lost in 2010 regardless of how he voted on health care. He represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district, and he flaked to victory over an ethics-challenged incumbent. Republicans, keenly aware of the brownie points within an ethnic community that come with the election of one of their own, heartily embraced Cao knowing that he was a goner after one term. Had they simply let this vote slide and quietly given the seat away in 2010, the Vietnamese-American community would be far more forgiving than if the teabagger wing of the Republican Party savages one of their own.
That is not to say that ethnic communities will put their skin color over their principles. However, no minority voter can completely escape identity politics. Republicans have almost nothing to gain from savaging Cao, as they will most likely never win that seat for the rest of my lifetime.
The Vietnamese diaspora in America is far more Republican than the Chinese or Korean diaspora thanks to differences in history.
As a group, Chinese-American immigrants were driven more by economics than politics. Initially drawn nearly exclusively from Cantonese-speaking Guangdong Province, newer waves of Mandarin-speaking Fujianese and other mainland Chinese provinces have made up the bulk of the Chinese immigrant community.
The Vietnamese in America, on the other hand, are largely a product of the Vietnam War. Those who made it to the United States were either wealthy enough to escape before April 1975, or politically connected. Still others, fleeing Communism, took to boats to Hong Kong, after which over 800,000 settled in America. Many settled right here in Northern Virginia, near Washington. To this day, the Vietnamese-American community is bitterly anti-Communist, and the South Vietnamese flag flies proudly over Little Saigons around the country. Thanks to a history tinged by the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese have stayed solidly in the Republican camp as other Asians have moved away.
Now that Vietnamese-American Republicans have finally won a seat in Congress, fluke or not, Republicans antagonize them at their peril. In a party which grows increasingly whiter as shrill anti-immigrant voices beat Hispanics and Asians out of the party, the Vietnamese are one of the last non-Southern White Males left.
Black voters in Virginia are Democrats' most reliable and troublesome voting bloc. Reliable, as the black voters who do show up deliver huge margins for Democrats, and troublesome as they do not turn themselves out. With no black candidates on the statewide ticket, Democrats faced an extra challenge in turning these voters out, and while it seemed they were able to hold their own in 2005 with Gov. Tim Kaine, 2009 nominee Creigh Deeds saw a substantial turnout collapse.
Since we lack reliable exit polling data, this frightening trend for Democrats is difficult to see in county-level returns where white voters cannot be teased apart from black voters. Fortunately for this analysis, there are swaths of Virginia that are populated almost exclusively by blacks, allowing us to see what happened to black turnout on a precinct-by-precinct basis.
The 2000 census indicated 38 precincts where the percentage of black voters within the voting age population was 95% or higher, 34 of which have remained unchanged since then. Those 34 precincts in the 2001, 2005, and 2009 gubernatorial elections voted Democratic with at least 93.6% of the vote, delivering critical margins for the Democratic candidates. However, black turnout in these precincts fell sharply in 2009, mirroring the trend in the rest of the state. All 34 of these precincts were in cities rather than counties, and the results within those 34 were as follows:
2001 Turnout Falloff
In 2001, Democrats nominated then-Delegate Donald McEachin, who was black, for Attorney General. While McEachin lost handily to Republican Jerry Kilgore, his presence on the ticket drove black voters to come out for him, and that influence spilled across the rest of the ticket. 2005 saw no black Democrats on the ticket, but former Richmond mayor Tim Kaine was able to survive only a 7% dropoff in total turnout in those precincts. However, in 2009, Creigh Deeds of Bath County suffered when over one in five of the voters in those precincts that turned out in 2001 stayed home.
For Democrats, winning the black vote is never the question--it is merely a question of turnout. If 10 black voters were turned out, 9 of them would typically vote Democratic. Targeting gives way to brute force in situations like this--the challenge is merely get voters to go to the polls.
Black voters formed a substantial part of the Obama coalition that by and large stayed home on Tuesday--and Creigh Deeds refusing to embrace Barack Obama until it was too late did little to help. Having a black candidate downticket, while helpful, is not mandatory in order to drive black turnout. Black voters are not fans of conservative Democrats, especially those who seem to be running away from the first black president in history.
In these 34 precincts alone, Creigh Deeds' margin was 3,302 votes short of Mark Warner's margin--3,302 votes that must be made up by the time-consuming and expensive process of persuading moderates.
As turnout in key black precincts continues to fall in off-year elections, Democrats must find a way to stop it or perish. All the toil and tears expended in converting suburban voters into the Democratic fold will go for naught without a strong base to stand on. Democrats ignore or antagonize the black vote at their own peril--they may be the single most Democratic bloc in existence, but they cannot be taken for granted.
Before Democrats waste their time chasing conservative independents (many of whom recently left the Republican party), they should focus on bringing black turnout up so they have a base to stand on.
Full results in those 34 precincts below the fold: