We Need Democratic Recruits in Virginia. And We Need Them Now.
If you’re a Democrat in Virginia and you’re not panicking, you should probably start.
By the end of March, all of our candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates must be filed to run for office in 2017. And in some of the most competitive districts in the Commonwealth—districts that Hillary won—we are still without candidates. Not only does that mean absolutely zero chance of taking back the Virginia House, it means there is less motivation for voters to turn out for the Governor’s race as well. We are leaving votes on the table by not even fielding candidates here.
As the good folks over at Indivisible for VA-10 have pointed out, these districts include:
- District 100 (Accomack County, Norfolk, Northampton County)
- District 10 (Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke Counties)
- District 94 (Newport News)
- District 68 (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties; Richmond City)
- District 40 (Fairfax and Prince William Counties)
- District 42 (Fairfax County)
The trouble is, I can’t really tell who in Virginia is responsible for making sure we have quality recruits in every competitive race. It’s heartening that groups like Indivisible and Run for Something are taking up the cause, and I’m sure there are groups out there like state and local party committees I’m failing to credit. But I’ve talked to a bunch of folks over the past few weeks, and without outing anyone in particular, it seems like no one is really in charge here. There’s no captain of the ship.
The Virginia House Democratic Caucus does some recruiting, but I can't tell if they’re doing much recruiting in the swing districts above. The state and local party committees seem to be doing some, but because districts can span jurisdictions, the lines of responsibility can be diffuse. The Democratic Party of Virginia seems most interested in fundraising and running the state apparatus, which is all well and good, but I can’t locate a single person there who has said, “Yes, I am responsible for candidate recruitment in Virginia.” Again, maybe I’m just bad at hunting for this information, but that’s a problem itself.
I also worry that even the most basic message, that we are in desperate need of recruits, isn’t getting out there. I get a lot of e-mails from the Democratic Party of Virginia asking for money, which again is fine, but what would really get me to donate is the party showing what donors are getting for that investment. I received a blanket e-mail from Executive Director Becca Slutzky asking me to sign a birthday card for our Governor Terry McAuliffe, when a much more productive (and lucrative) e-mail would have read “WE NEED YOUR HELP GETTING RECRUITS IN THESE DISTRICTS TO BEAT TRUMP AND TAKE BACK THE VIRGINIA HOUSE.”
And let’s clear: if we don’t have a recruit for every possible seat we can win, that’s going to be a huge black eye on the Democratic Party of Virginia, regardless of who is actually in charge. If winning competitive state elections isn’t a top priority of your state party, that’s a state party in need of serious reform. More importantly, we'll lose out on the thousands of votes that these candidates will generate. Each candidate who runs is going to have friends and can motivate voters who otherwise wouldn't turn out in 2017. This is beyond essential at a time when the Democratic coalition has become reliant on voters who mobilize less during non-Presidential elections cycles.
I hope I’m wrong about all of this, and that this work is getting done. Obviously, people are stepping up and many Clinton-won districts I didn't mention above do have Democratic challengers. Perhaps I’m just not seeing it. I will happily offer an apology and a sizable donation to any of these groups if I’m wrong. Just as good, I will fundraise and do everything I can to help out the candidates that are being recruited.
But there’s no more time. I wish I could be more diplomatic about this, but we are on the verge of losing out on what might be our only opportunity in a decade to take back an insanely gerrymandered statehouse. During this off-year election, we could ride the groundswell of popular anti-Trump sentiment and drive Democrats to the polls as if it's 2020. But if there’s a wave, we have to have candidates to catch it.
Those are the stakes. You can’t win if you don’t show up. We have until March 30th to field a full and complete team.
For those of you looking for next steps, here's what I recommend (and will be doing myself):
- If you live in Virginia, please reach out to your state House Representative and ask what he or she is doing (and what we you can do) to recruit candidates in Hillary-won districts. You can find your Representative here: http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov
- Contact our Democratic Party Chair here in Virginia, Susan Swecker (who is fantastic) at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her what the party is doing (and what you can you do) to help candidate recruitment.
- Put the word out on Facebook and other social media and try to figure out if you know anyone in these areas who might be interested in running.
- If you feel so inclined, try to find civic and business leaders in these areas and try contacting them, asking them to run. A lot of people are just waiting for someone to ask them to run.
In any case, I'm going to be doing my all to get candidates running in these seats. I can't think of anything more vital we can be doing up until the end of March to win back Virginia.