National Dems Eye Opportunities To Gain in ‘13 Virginia Elections

ANNOUNCING PLANS of the Democracy for America progressive Democratic organization to back key races in Virginia in 2013, former presidential candidate Howard Dean (right) posed at a rally Tuesday with candidates John Bell (left) and Jennifer Boysko (center). (Photo: News-Press)

Democratic Party activists nationwide – even if most of them are peering just over the Potomac from headquarters in the nation’s capital – are actively coveting gains they feel are within their grasp in the 2013 elections in right here in Virginia.

Leaders of the progressive, Washington, D.C.-based Democracy for America (DFA) announced Tuesday the launch of a so-called “Purple to Blue Project,” saying their focus in the coming year will be on Virginia and, in particular, five races for the Virginia general assembly where they intend to make a decisive difference.

No less than former presidential candidate and national party chair Howard Dean was on hand for drum up support for the effort Tuesday, introducing two promising young candidates, Jennifer Boysko and John Bell, that the DFA will weigh in to support.

In response to the News-Press Tuesday, Dean recalled fondly the mass rally he led in Falls Church’s Cherry Hill Park in August 2003, part of his “Sleepless Summer” tour when he was the darling among presidential candidates of his party’s youthful progressives. His Virginia campaign headquarters was located in the 100 block of Park Avenue, as Falls Church businessman, Chamber of Commerce president and former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer was his national finance chair.

But this Tuesday Dean turned everyone’s attention from himself to the two Virginia candidates initially selected by the DFA to back in 2013, both running in points west.

Boysko, who was an earlier campaign organizer in Virginia for President Obama during the 2008 campaign, will seek to win the 86th Delegate District from long-time incumbent and former Herndon mayor Thomas Rust.

Bell, a retired Air Force officer, will be running in the 87th District to unseat freshman Republican delegate David Ramadan.

The two are the poster children so far for the DFA effort, which intends to pour over $750,000 on what it considers five winnable targeted races in Virginia this year. The other three campaigns the organization will back will be announced later this month, organizers said.

Actually, the DFA’s five targeted races represent only a fraction of the potential for a major political upheaval in Virginia. As it stands, no less than 19 state delegate districts currently held by Republicans went for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine in his successful run last November.

Currently, the Republicans hold a whopping 68-32 edge in the House of Delegates, and if Democrats were to follow in Kaine’s footsteps and win all 19 of the districts that Kaine won in November, they could obtain a 51-49 majority.

Most Democratic leaders, pragmatists that they are, dismiss this scenario, however. Granted, it would require a gargantuan campaign effort by former Democratic National Chair Terry McAuliffe as the party’s standard-bearing gubernatorial candidate, for any chance of that to happen.

But still, swings that wide have happened in the midst of social sea changes in the past, especially when it was the Christian right’s turn to run amok a few years back. Obama’s win in 2012 could have begun the reversal of that trend, but to date Democrats are focused defensively, to make sure a GOP win in Virginia did not follow an Obama win as happened in 2009.

The DFA’s modest effort, aimed at “chipping away” at the GOP’s dominion in Virginia, could be helpful, but on condition that it does not actively detract from the efforts of other races to succeed as well. Why divert everyone’s resources into winning five campaigns when they could have won 19?

This is where party’s grass roots can run afoul of their “know it all” party bureaucrats, and in Virginia, there is the added concern among grass roots that some of the anointed Democratic candidates are barely better than their Republican counterparts on key issues.

None of that matters in Falls Church and immediate environs, since all the delegate and State Senate seats are firmly in the hands of Democrats in this immediate area. But it will not require much effort to head west into western Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties to help the DFA’s targeted efforts to elect Boysko and Bell, for anyone so motivated.