The lost art of politics in Virginia

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by Brandon Jarvis

Bernard Baruch once said “Vote for the man who promises least; he’ll be the least disappointing”. I’ll be damned if that doesn’t explain exactly how most Virginians feel in 2019.

Both parties have disappointed their base.

Republicans continue to lose ground in the state and retirement announcements are filing in after the end of the legislative session. Most notably, a powerful member of the house of delegates, Del. Steve Landes announced on Tuesday that he would not be seeking re-election. Political operatives across the state speculate that the retiring legislators sense that they might soon be in the minority, and they would rather stay home than be involved with that.

Speaker Cox seemed optimistic on Tuesday that they will keep Landes’ seat, saying “Whoever succeeds Steve will have big shoes to fill, but we are confident that we will retain this seat in November.”

Democrats are still facing an uphill battle after losing all momentum when the Executive branch became engrossed in racism and sexual assault scandals. With the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General all working to repair their own public relations optics, General Assembly candidates won’t be able to call on any of the 3 statewide-elected Democrats to help them fundraise and stump.

Locally, Democrats are starting to slip into a new debacle with reports that Del. Debra Rodman (D-Henrico) is eyeing the 12th senate district race against Siobhan Dunnavant (R). Dunnavant won in Henrico and Hanover handily in 2015, but her district has chosen Democrats since 2016. This brought more attention and focus on the race in the 12th district from the party.

Party insiders have been speculating that the two Democratic candidates already campaigning in the district, Veena Lothe and Marques Jones – both minorities, could not beat Dunnavant. Several people have told me in recent months that Northam’s people have been scouring the district to find a candidate that can win like Abigail Spanberger did in 2018. Patrick Wilson also heard this exact same comparison in his reporting for the RTD.

Mark Bergman, the director of Northam’s PAC was quoted by Wilson on why he is encouraging Rodman’s senate run. “People had expressed concerns about some of the candidates,” Bergman said. “We’ve talked to a bunch of people about the candidates in the district, getting their thoughts and opinions.”

Wilson reported that the Governor’s PAC asked the DPVA to poll the district on a potential Rodman candidacy back in early February.

Rodman has not stated what her intentions are for November, but she will have to decide soon with the filing deadline on March 28th for all elections. Jones and Lothe have yet to comment on the potential of a new primary challenger.

Veena Lothe is an immigrant from India. Her father worked in underserved communities in West Virginia as a doctor in order to keep his family in the United States. “We got several deportation orders along the way.” said Lothe. “It was quite a struggle to be able to stay here.” Veena has been working as an immigration lawyer, bringing what she calls some of the best people in the world to the United States.

Marques Jones, a black man that also grew up in rural West Virginia is the child of teachers. Jones gave up his corporate position with Capitol One and started his own business helping people with chronic diseases and disabilities, he also resigned his seat as Chairman of the Henrico Democratic Committee in order to run for this seat.

Several activists on the ground have expressed frustration with Rodman and the party after the RTD article was posted. Contributors to Rodman in the past stated on social media that they planned to stop giving money to Rodman if she runs for senate.

The racist undertones have also been spreading behind the scenes with frustration that the party believes that an Indian woman, or African-American man cannot win the race. The Democrats need to flip one seat in the senate in order to have the the majority. Several Democratic operatives and activists were hopeful that this could be at least 1 of 3-5 possible pickups, but people fear that the mindset to win-no-matter-what tramples on the party’s beliefs. Those same people are now not nearly as positive in the predicting a flip in the district.

To be fair, there has not been one public statement from Rodman with any type of hint that she intends to run. I also do not believe that she is racist, or is doing this with any racists intentions whatsoever. I think she is looking at a senate seat that would provide her with more influence, while only having to run a re-election campaign every 4 years, compared to every 2 years in the house. The senate is the more appealing seat.

The party and Northam’s PAC is working behind the scenes to find what they believe will be the best candidate. This is not a new concept. they want to win the majority and they don’t care about hurting feelings. But could it backfire on them? Could this piss off the base to the point that they have to write off this district as a chance? I guess we will see – campaign season is upon us in Virginia – enjoy the ride.

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