Campaign season is upon us. Articles in newspapers and magazines abound. Partisan emails come daily. Speculation is rife.
The problem is that all of the chatter is about 2012.
Astute Virginians know that our state has elections this year, in six short weeks, on November 8th.
The Senate of Virginia. The House of Delegates. Constitutional officers: Commonwealth Attorney; Sheriff; Treasurer; Commissioner of the Revenue. Boards of Supervisors.
Naturally I think the Senate races are the most important – and for good reason.
Democrats control the Senate by a margin of 22-18. Should the Republicans gain even two seats, they would take control since a deciding vote on a 20-20 tie would be cast by the Republican Lieutenant Governor.
The Governor is a Republican. The House of Delegates has a large Republican majority.
Only the Democratic Senate provides a balance to Virginia state government. Only the Democratic Senate articulates a different vision for the Commonwealth.
The Republican House voted for a tax credit scheme that would reimburse corporations for scholarship contributions to private and parochial schools. By combining state and federal credits, the corporation’s contribution would be fully reimbursed with taxpayer funds. This version of vouchers was rejected by the Democrats on the Senate Education and Health Committee.
Multiple mean-spirited anti-immigrant bills were passed by the House of Delegates. In the Senate, a special subcommittee considered the bills and Democrats rejected those bills.
In these cases, had there been a Republican senate, you can be assured that these misguided House bills would have passed.
A clear indication of Democratic priorities came during the budget process. The Senate budget contained $100 million more than the House budget for K-12 public education. It had more funding for higher education at our colleges and universities. It had $114 million more for health and human services and included additional funding for public safety. Thanks to the skill and fortitude of our conferees, the Senate position prevailed.
So what is happening in this year’s election contests?
Well, while the Democratic senators and our caucus have raised more money than our Republican counterparts, the Governor has a war chest of major proportions, about $3 million. That money is already being thrown into senate races around the Commonwealth to benefit the Republican candidates. The Governor has made no secret of the fact that he and the Republican Party are targeting Democratic Senators.
Then this was the redistricting year. Due to population changes, especially the increase in population in Northern Virginia, districts had to change significantly so that even incumbents have to introduce themselves to many new voters.
The stakes could hardly be higher.
One-party rule in Virginia will have repercussions for the Commonwealth that are only too clear.
And a Republican takeover of the Virginia senate could be interpreted as a harbinger of things to come in 2012. So before we get to the Presidential and Congressional elections, let’s pay attention to our own election in Virginia this year!
Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org