Today, Virginia State Senate Republicans are having their big fundraiser for the Lt. Governor nominee to keep the 20-20 Senate in GOP hands. One surprise though- E.W. Jackson won the GOP nomination last weekend! All of the sudden it appears that Democrats will control the Virginia Senate next year. Panic time!
Majority Leader Tommy Norment immediately closed this event to the media after E.W. was nominated. For a guy who walks around with a baseball bat, it appears that Norment has some fear in his eyes.
If Virginia elections were more based on local and state issues as well as the quality of candidates, Democrats would win more often. But many state elections are decided by the national environment or sleeper issues that end up consuming public attention. Whether it be the heath care backlash of 2009, Katrina in 2005, or 9/11 in 2001, you can't escape national news and narratives.
While trying to guess on the surprise is probably a futile effort, I have one scenario that could be the sleeper issue of 2013. Gay Marriage. Specifically, in the same way abortion became a major issue in 1989 because of a Supreme Court ruling, I believe gay marriage will become a major issue in 2013.
No one knows what the Supreme Court will do, although many assume it will be positive for the gay marriage side of this debate with Anthony Kennedy joining the four liberals on the court. Here's my take. I don't know that the court will go as far as to force states to begin allowing gay marriages, but they need to address one big issue- which is what happens to gay couples married in one state who move into a non gay marriage state. If someone is married in Maryland, does their move to Virginia mean they are no longer married? If they move back are they married again? These types of issues lead me to believe that at a minimum the Supreme Court might require states to recognize gay marriages from other states- even if they don't conduct them. That would basically mean that gay marriage was legal nationwide, but you'd have to travel to certain states to conduct it.
If that (or any other scenario leading to gays being married in Virginia) took place, there would likely be a big conservative backlash, especially in rural areas. The side that feels like it is politically losing is almost always more energized, which is one reason why Virginia has such a strong streak of voting for a Governor of the opposite party of the President. So even with the gains made among all voters, this may not yet be a politically good issue for Democrats in an off year Virginia election- although by 2017 or 2021 it likely will be.
So remember- if this election is like most others in recent Virginia history it will be strongly influenced by an national issue or surprise. Gay marriage is just a guess, but with the Supreme Court ruling pending it seems like a good one.
Virginia Republicans made national news this weekend by nominating E.W. Jackson for Lt. Governor. Here's how it happened by the numbers.
The GOP convention vote is weighted by county to their Republican vote in recent elections. This favors more rural GOP counties, especially ones further away from Richmond where only a few Delegates will show up to cast their localities votes.
1st ballot weighted vote Jackson 31% Stimpson 15%* Stewart 15%* Snyder 15%* Lingamfelter 12% Davis 7% Martin 5%
* The candidates ranged from 15.3% to 14.5% of the weighted vote in that order.
Under the convention rules on the 1st and 2nd ballot the bottom two candidates would be dropped from the ballot. That meant Jeannemarie Davis and Steve Martin were both eliminated on the first ballot. But it was obvious a train wreck was coming on the second ballot- assuming Lingamfelter didn't make a move, one of the three candidates with 15% on the first ballot would have to be eliminated.
At this point in the convention I was on the John Fredericks show and predicted Susan Stimpson would be the candidate eliminated with Scott Lingamfelter despite the fact she was in 2nd place at that point. The reason was this- Delegates there like Dave Albo that had been supporting Jeannemarie Davis told me they were flipping to Pete Snyder when Jeannemarie was eliminated. To try to stop that momentum to Pete (and maybe to give a middle finger to the party for voting her down), Jeannemarie endorsed E.W. Jackson- but her voters mostly split between E.W. and Pete. Even with only a few percent, that gave Snyder the margin he needed to get into the top 3. From there it was going to be a battle between Stewart and Stimpson to avoid that elimination in the next round, one where Stewart had a slight leg up on Stimpson because of some Davis voters that didn't like Snyder but couldn't stomach Jackson either.
2nd ballot weighted vote Jackson 38% Snyder 17%** Stewart 17%** Stimpson 16%** Lingamfelter 12%
** Worth again noting this is a weighted vote by county. In raw votes Stewart was in 2nd place, Stimpson in 3rd and Snyder in 4th on this ballot
At this point the convention was basically already over although Stewart and Snyder didn't seem to know it. Not only had EW taken his margin over 2nd place to 21% (from 16% on the first ballot) but Stimpson being eliminated was a disaster for other candidates left. Most of Stimpson's support came from the Ron Paul "liberty" movement- and that anti-establishment block was the least likely to move in one direction- favoring whoever was in the lead at that point. Meanwhile, Lingamfelter endorsed Snyder, giving him a big leg up on Stewart in the next round.
3rd ballot weighted vote Jackson 50% (49.7%) Snyder 31% Stewart 19%
At this point Jackson was so close to winning that one more vote for him cast in a few of the weighted rural units where some were down to one or two voters left could have taken him over 50% and clinched the nomination. Snyder won just over half of the remaining vote as Jackson was able to prevail by a 58%-42% margin on the final ballot.
The numbers indicate to me that the only candidate who could have defeated Jackson on the final ballot was Susan Stimpson- and only if Pete Snyder and Corey Stewart had strongly endorsed her immediately after the second ballot. But that wasn't possible since Stimpson was eliminated on that ballot- plus Snyder and Stewart would have never done that anyway.
Jackson won this convention because he understood the rules and brought the most Delegates to support him on the 1st ballot. Candidates who hoped to be "2nd choices" later in the voting were never close enough to Jackson to make a serious threat to him because they didn't have enough 1st ballot support. Politicians like Ken Cuccinelli were not going to intervene against Jackson for candidates that didn't have the backing to defeat him.
So while the convention lasted 12 hours, the results were really decided from the time it began.