Local Commentary

Editorial: Glad This One Is Over

We congratulate and applaud the highly-coordinated effort of leading Virginia Democratic Party officials to pull off Tuesday’s takeover of the state senate. It was disciplined and thorough, involving full participation from the top by Governor Tim Kaine and former Governor Mark Warner, with a lot of support from U.S. Senator Jim Webb. Seven senate races were identified early and targeted, and it became eight when an arch-conservative defeated an incumbent moderate in a Newport News GOP primary. Winning that “gift” from the GOP marked the margin for the Democrats who will go to Richmond in January with a 21-19 senate majority, and thereby, the commanding positions on all committees and subcommittees.

Of course, there is barely time to catch a breath before the watershed 2008 election year reaches back and grabs us by the collar even before Veterans Day. We are suddenly in the middle of the on-going presidential primary foreplaying, and looming 2008 congressional and U.S. Senate elections. Notwithstanding that, and the positive outcome of Tuesday’s voting, we’re glad to be on the outshoot side of this particular election. It was not a pretty sight to see candidates from both parties assailing each other relentlessly in 30-second TV spots that choked the all-news networks, the nightly news of the local stations and more. With the exception of Gerry Connolly, every candidate produced highly negative ads with irritating, nasally voices feigning disgust over the horrible things the opponent has done and stands for.

In none of the ads did their sponsors identify their own, or their opponents’ political party, meaning they were all aimed at gaining crossover votes. The only way to tell “who was who” was to parse, or extrapolate from, some of the issues that almost always seemed overblown, exaggerated, or taken out of context. From voice-overs that routinely sounded like a nasty town gossip telephoning a friend about some heinous transgression by a neighbor, one could learn that Mr. or Ms. So-and-so’s opponent believes in “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, code language that reveals the ad’s sponsor is a Republican and the opponent a Democrat. The only real curve ball came when one candidate was accused of being pro-gun lobby, and turned out not to be the Republican, but the Democrat (that would be Chap Petersen, who won with the help of the National Rifle Association).

Although the issue would not fly in Arlington, Falls Church or eastern Fairfax County, ads for some more outlying races focused more on the stink over illegal immigration. That is ugly business and to the sensibilities of venerable civil rights activists, is without question fueled by appealing to the vilest racist impulses. Yet in hunting for crossover votes, it was hard to tell from the TV ads which party was which in some of those races.