2013 Virginia Primary: Biggest Winners and Losers
By John Fredericks / Commentary
Tuesday night’s 2013 statewide Virginia Primary election is now in the books. Along the way it produced some clear-cut winners and losers. This is my assessment.
State Senator Ralph Northam…the new Frank Sinatra of Virginia politics. Not only did he win a convincing victory over lieutenant governor Democratic nomination rival Aneesh Chopra — although being outspent by nearly three to one — he did it his way. Northam ran a positive, upbeat campaign; he was true to himself and the voters rewarded him for it. Here’s proof politics doesn’t always have to be nasty. Integrity and character still matter, and Northam’s sweeping victory defied the odds and the pundits (except me, of course). His new campaign theme song: “I’ll do it my way…”
NOVA…voters in Northern Virginia went for Northam over geographical prodigal son Chopra. The Eastern Shore native carried Fairfax County – and the city of Alexandria.
State Sen. Dick Saslaw…the sage and savvy veteran Democratic dean of his caucus came out early and often for his two candidates and Senate colleagues: Northam and State Sen. Mark Herring for Attorney General. Both won, and Saslaw put his money where his mouth is, to the tune of seventeen large. He also predicted last week on my radio show that Northam would carry Fairfax County. We chuckled then, but the wily senator had the last laugh Tuesday night when his bold forecast bore out. Saslaw cobbled together a coalition where 18 of his 20 senators backed his candidates, and he adroitly leveraged their field forces. It’s like Saslaw strolled into a Vegas casino, plunked down his stake and left the place with a boatload of Ben Franklins, courtesy of the house. He ran the table.
State Sen. Mark Herring…the silver fox held on to defeat upstart candidate Justin Fairfax. To his credit, Herring staved off the surprisingly stiff challenger without going overtly negative, and in so doing avoided a rift with Fairfax’s enthusiasts. He’ll need them on the ground in the general election to do battle against Republican AG candidate, State Senator Mark Obenshain. Herring softened his legendary take no prisoners style without altering his core principles, which will bode well for him as the long summer wears on.
Justin Fairfax…the 34-year old former federal prosecutor won by losing. Written off by me (mea culpa) a few months ago as nothing more than road kill, the youthful and vibrant self-made Columbia educated young gun caught lightening in a bottle in the closing weeks of the campaign. Outspent and outmanned with no political base, he gave the silver fox a coyote style scare in the closing days of the contest. He’ll be back…and sooner rather than later.
Republicans who voted for Northam…were just plain smart. It was the right thing to do for the sake of Virginia. There were over 3,500 more votes cast in the Democratic LG race than in the AG race. Those were likely Republicans who showed up to vote for Northam — and then left the AG race blank. And Northam got them all. Good show.
State Sen. Mark Obenshain…his positive press release congratulating Herring on his victory Tuesday night and subsequent call for a positive contest based on substantive issues and divergent political philosophies was a breath of fresh air. Obenshain is a class act. He’ll raise the spirit, tone and level of this campaign. If Herring keeps up his end of the bargain, we could have an old school series of Lincoln – Douglas style debates around Virginia depicting a dialectic vision of the office of Attorney General. As a political junkie, this race could be ideologically highbrow and epoch. I’m truly excited about it.
Pam Northam…the unbridled enthusiasm and unplugged excitement of the Doctor’s wife in our live interview at the outset of our special election night broadcast — way before the results came in — was infectious. Pam was so fired up for life it lifted our spirits so we could deal with the cold pizza and warm coke in the studio.
David LaRock…wow, who is this guy?
Dr. Mark Berg…imagine what he would have done to Del. Beverly Sherwood had he actually campaigned?
Mike Farris… Joe May was ahead. Joe May went negative on David LaRock. Mike Farris got mad. Mike Farris endorsed David LaRock. David LaRock wins. Mike Farris still has the juice.
State Sen. Tommie Norment… The GOP senate defacto majority leader is in Richmond’s catbird seat. He has a great collegial relationship with Northam, and should his geographically contiguous neighbor prevail in November, Norment will be able to keep the lines of political compromise open. In addition, the sagacious upper chamber leader will mount an aggressive campaign for Northam’s 6th district senate seat in the event it becomes available…and a win in that swing district in a low turnout special election keeps him in control. Norment’s holding a pair of picture cards at the black jack table against the dealer’s six up. He’s looking good.
General campaign consultant Brian Kirwin…he engineered Scott Taylor’s decisive come from behind victory over Tea Party favorite and long-time Virginia Beach GOP activist Gary Byler…Kirwin went nasty personal negative on Byler with a blistering direct mail barrage that knocked the race off balance and changed the game for good. Negative ads can backfire…but Kirwin’s plan worked to perfection. It’s what we call in baseball an ugly win.
Del. Scott Surovell’s mom…who was a Northam precinct captain in her son’s district. The younger Surovell endorsed Chopra. His mom kicked his butt. Note to Scott: don’t mess with momma bear.
Del. David Ramadan…’cause we are moving from Chesapeake into his district this July, plenty of time to vote for him in November. Plus, my wife Anne loves this guy. On a side note, we have to leave Randy Forbes’ CD, which is a real bummer. But I’m keeping my humongous Forbes yard sign, for when he runs for President.
Ben Tribbett…of NotLarrySabato.com, who recommended we call the LG race for Northam earlier than any other network based on his analysis of several early precinct results in Fairfax County. This from a guy who publically endorsed Chopra. Tribbett put solid analysis ahead of bias—unlike Karl Marx Rove who made a fool of himself by melting down on FOX News when they called Ohio for Obama. Hey FOX suites: I’ve got Tribbett’s number if you need it.
The JFRS radio network anchors, analysts and roving reporters…who held together our marathon six-hour live election night broadcast, braving a toxic combination of bad food and luke-warm coffee. Giving stellar and insightful commentary throughout the night were State Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax), Delegate Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Ben Tribbett of NotLarrySabato.com, and David Sherfinski, Virginia political reporter for the Washington Times. Our field team included Andy Villarraga in Norfolk, Michael Cougar in Virginia Beach, Jose Merino in Leesburg and our executive producer Matthew Schuck in Arlington.
The Washington Times…our content and broadcast partner who maintains their status as the nation’s greatest newspaper.
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Aneesh Chopra…his Internet campaign strategy fizzled, his negative ads against Northam blew up in his face and his decision to play small ball in the final days of the campaign to protect his lead imploded worse than the Redskin’s porous prevent defense on the road in a playoff game. Plus, he tried to run out the clock by refusing to come clean on his knowledge of the NSA’s Prism spy network when he was President Obama’s technology guru at the White House. Unlike Fairfax, Chopra’s political future may have peaked two weeks ago.
Del. Joe May…Uh Joe, exactly how many doors did you knock on this go around? And how many radio shows did you appear on? And what was up with that negative mail piece on poor ‘ole David LaRock? Maybe you should have hired Brian Kirwin…turn out the lights, the party’s over, there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is David LaRock and he’s taking no prisoners.
Del. Beverly Sherwood…earth to Bev?…come in Bev?…are you there Bev?…Can you hear me Bev?…Do you know you have a challenger, Bev? Now what exactly are you going to do with that $80,000 in your campaign war chest you decided not to spend on getting re-elected? Maybe give it all back, in the form of refunds…on account of you really didn’t give your donors their money’s worth in this race…
U.S. House Rep. Gerry Connolly…who blamed the media for his party’s paltry primary voter turnout Tuesday in an interview with Michael Pope on WAMU radio at Chopra headquarters. Seriously, Congressman? Pope and I covered your election every day on the radio for weeks…just tune to us in D.C. at WTNT AM 730 and 102.9 FM and ditch NPR. Perhaps a little sour grapes that your candidate Chopra lost to Dr. Ralph?
Republican voters in Virginia’s 85th…That nightmare called a primary race is finally over. You can turn your email on again, unlock the doors and open the windows, its safe to go to the mailbox again.
Retiring Del. Bob Tata…what a crummy way to end a storied political career. Sorry you had to get sucked into that mess, Bob. You’re right though: politics sure has changed in Virginia since you were first elected, hasn’t it?
CUCCINELLI IS IN THE HOUSE
Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli on Friday, June 14 at 8:10 AM. Details on Facebook.com/TheJohnFredericksShow
John Fredericks is syndicated radio talk show host in Baltimore, Washington D.C & Virginia and can be heard Monday through Friday 6-9AM. on WTNT AM730 & 102.9FM in Baltimore and Washington D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond, Virginia, WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater – Hampton Roads, Virginia and WBRG 1050AM & 104.5 FM in Lynchburg – Roanoke- Charlottesville or streaming online at: http://tunein.com/radio/WTNT-730-s1101/