Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Be afraid, Virginia Democrats

By Lee Hockstader

Virginia Democrats are spinning their win in a special election to fill a vacant state senate seat in Fairfax County this week as a great victory, one that will stanch the recent surge of Republican victories. They wish. In fact, their wafer-thin margin in a race that by any logic should have been blow-out is more evidence that the Democrats remain in deep trouble.

Take a look at the candidates. The Democrat, Dave Marsden, is a well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation. He ran the Fairfax County Juvenile Detention Center for 17 years and even had bipartisan chops, having served in the cabinet of Republican former Gov. Jim Gilmore as Virginia’s Secretary of Juvenile Justice. In other words, Marsden is a serious guy.

The Republican, Steve Hunt, served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office. Voters had apparently noticed that his chief distinction in office was to have been unanimously censured by his school board colleagues for a gratuitous bit of gay bashing. (He’d seen fit to lobby high school principals to recruit former gays and lesbians who’d renounced homosexuality to speak to students about what Hunt calls a “very destructive lifestyle.”) Speaking from the school board’s dais, he’d also riffed about his regrets at having lost his virginity before marriage. In other words, Mr. Hunt was an embarrassment on the school board of one of the country’s best public school systems.

Virginia’s 37th Senate district, where the two men faced off, is a swing district. Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican who has held the seat for the last eight years (and is about to become Virginia’s attorney general) barely squeaked out a win in 2005 despite a quick mind, excellent campaign skills and the advantage of incumbency -- none of which Hunt appeared to possess.

This is a no-brainer. Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked.

All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs thisnext November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

By Lee Hockstader  | January 14, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Hockstader  | Tags:  Lee Hockstader  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is Obama in trouble?
Next: Just deserts for Massachusetts Democrats?


All 40 state Senate seats are up for re-election in 2011, not this November. In a general election, Marsden won't have trouble being re-elected if his opponent is as conservative as Hunt.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | January 14, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Be afraid! Shake at the knees! That's the Bush/Rove political formula. And comes from a hack the WP should never give space to. Virginia is doing quite well, thank you. But I must admit the national Republican movement is full of p and vinegar. Great form! If only talk were votes.

Posted by: walden1 | January 14, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

As a conservative, I don't think we can spin this. We lost. We should have won. This was a setback for the conservative camp.

Posted by: dishonest_abe | January 14, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

..."Wow America...the REpublicans have RUINED YOU BUT,


..."8 Million Lost JObs, left you a record $1.5 Trillion record debt/deficit, and my favorite fact of all, left office with the lowest job approval rating in the history of the United States Presidency, these are the facts of the "Blew it Bush/Republican/Administration

..."Be sure now you RUN...and vote Republican again...


Sincerely, Tommy Birchfield, Voter/Vet USAF, Graduate Student, Masters Program,
Professional Studies,
East Tennessee State University,

Posted by: ztcb41 | January 14, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Be afraid? I would much rather be concerned and motivated.

Posted by: chamberlain_s | January 14, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

S.O.P. right out of the Republican playbook. Distort and Threaten! You just can't believe a Republican anymore. About anything. They blew it so bad that they haven't even begun to figure it out.

Posted by: larry9 | January 14, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with dishonest_abe: Republicans could have and should have won. The tough truth is the Democrats appear to have eked out a victory with a last minute get-out-the-vote push largely funded by AFCSME and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

Republicans had better take note. Unions like AFCSME are flush with cash and eager to use it to sway elections. If the Republican ground game is not first rate, the party will have a tough time in November 2010.

Posted by: junomoneta88 | January 14, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Be afraid all Virginians. Your new Governor-Elect is a radical extremist protege and disciple of the "Conservative Christian" charlatan Robertson whose only compassion for the death, pain and destruction is Haiti is that it's his Personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ's "loving" castigation for the sins of their forefathers.

Posted by: coloradodog | January 14, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Unions are dead. Their support for Obama will help send Obama packing in 2012. Over 80% of workers DO NOT want to belong to a union. 65-80% oppose EFCA. The quid pro quo voting arrangement of Democrats and Labor has been exposed.

Posted by: hz9604 | January 14, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This just proves, along with the many votes that McCain/Palin received, that the GOP followers will vote for anyone the GOP puts out there. No consideration for character or morals. The fact that the Dems didn't go out for Deeds proves that they think differently.

With the recent tea parties and fear mongering, Fox fueled hysteria from the right, it shows that the current GOP is powered by hate. That will only take you so far. Once the GOP puts back into place candidates who are real moderates, things will get dicey for Dems again. As it should be, a healthy election.

Posted by: janeway1 | January 14, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

No surprise that a Democrat won in Little Calee-fornia County. Good luck up there with your arrogant, corrupt Teamster cops. Have your cops run over and killed anybody lately? If they did, they went running to their union thugs.

Posted by: hz9604 | January 14, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

How off base is this analysis? Mr. Hockstader fails to reall that Cuccinelli's last opponent ran an incompetent camapaign and barely lost after being slammed for weeks as soft on immigration. The district is a swing district, but was once solidly Republican. The only chance either party had in this, a special election, was to fire up the base to vote. Well, the Republican base is apparently slightly smaller in this district than the Democratic base. Not a reason for either party to panic.
Please, end the spinnage.

Posted by: avagabond | January 14, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Fear is the greatest motivator of lemmings, along with the multitudes of lower creatures.

Its no wonder our elected officials treat us like loyalist children. Until we prove ourselves otherwise, why shouldn't they?

Posted by: trident420 | January 14, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

hz9604 @ January 14, 2010 1:23 PM posted "No surprise that a Democrat won in Little Calee-fornia County."

Please refresh my memory, but isn't California's governor a Republican? Wasn't he elected?

For that matter, wasn't Cuccinelli a Republican when he was elected?

Do you believe that Republicans steal the offices they hold?

Can you clarify your comment?

Posted by: AMviennaVA | January 14, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

We Virginians have been used to dumb and stupid Republican Governors, Attorney General's and yes legislators over the past fifty to seventy years. In fact we have weathered the Conservative Democrats who closed our schools to keep all but pure white children from being educated. We are willing to let a few more idiots make laughing stocks of themselves because every time they go away we make real progress that makes so much sense the imposition of a few dummies cannot reverse but a small proportion of what we have gained. So we re not afraid of any of you including the author of this article. signed The man who was illegally married to a women of the wrong race (Native American) for eight years. Shut up, Grow up, and go to work for the people of Virginia

Posted by: pathenry | January 14, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a Democrat so maybe it isn't my place to respond to this idiotic spin piece, but as a Virginian I'm afraid of the pace of devolution of state government and the marshaling of corporate power in the opportunistic hands of Republican leadership. Yes, McDonnell, Cuccinelli, et al come from backgrounds of religious extremism and delusion, but their ability to do real damage to public institutions derives from the power purchased by the Anthems, Masseys, Dominions and so forth who operate the increasingly feudalist society that is Virginia. Be afraid Virginians, the corporate giveaways are going to cost your future.

Posted by: squier13 | January 14, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow. What a poorly written article. I cant believe this guy gets paid to write his thoughts on the blog of a prestigious newspaper. The article fails to acknowledge the basic premise of a "Special Election" while at the same time bringing up data points that contradict its argument.

First - Republicans have been doing well in Special Elections in Northern VA for years. (Remember Charnelle Herring's close call to replace Brian Moran in Alexandria). They pour lots of money and resources into races that they know will not be decided by the composition of the district, but by voter turnout (read enthusiasm) on a cold Tuesday in February. This has been a smart strategic move from them for a decade or more. Not a symbol of a slipping Democratic hold on Northern VA.

Second - As the writer pointed out, Marsden is a serious candidate. He is a bipartisan problem solver and former republican (as VA dems have had success nominating at the statewide level). This doesn't exactly rally the liberal wactivists in NOVA. While Hunt, his candidate, is a Tea Party Conservative who rallies his base. In Special elections you need to rally the base. Or as I prefer to say, "you need the crazies". Crazies for both party are the ones who decide special elections.

Overall, to say that you can extrapolate out the results in one special election for one state Senate seat to the entire state in an election year nine months from now is either asinine or disingenuous.

Posted by: Wowza1 | January 14, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

The problem for Virginia is not the Senate, which has some moderate Republicans - one of whom even endorsed Mark Warner's candidacy.

The problem is the House of Delegates. There's some guy named Howell from Stafford County who is single handedly turning I-95 and I-66 into 20-mile long parking lots every morning and evening. Because he has defeated every effort by the last two governors to raise tax revenues for transit improvements- both highway and public transit. And now he wants to shut down what little remains of highway construction work in order to balance the budget by refusing to raise taxes on people who are already well-off to make up for revenue shortfalls May the Lord help us from these extremists who are ruining our state.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 14, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

One of the problems of attempting to infer fraud from election results is that by definition absentee ballots and general ballots come from different voter populations. You cannot easily jump to conclude that a candidate with 51% in the overall count and 67% in the absentees has somehow stuffed the absentee ballot box. By definition, absentees voters are a different lot. In this case, they are certainly strong Democratic voters who received a lot of intense organizing effort. That is characteristic of the candidate that the Post says Marsden is.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 14, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Nice try.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 14, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Meantime, with 15 million Americans without jobs, & Millions more working temporary & part time jobs, The invasion continues. No Liberal Politician will address the 500 pound gorilla in the room, and millions of invading, plundering, welfare loving, prolific breeding, Illegal Aliens taking millions of jobs that should be American jobs and 100,s billions of dollars in social services that should be for American citizens!

One cannot be political correct and admit that Illegal Aliens are an large part of the problems in this Nation.

Their negative impact extends to every area from Sub-par loans & defaults, Underground economy, Massive document fraud, Lower standard of living, Crime, Overflowing prisons , Bankrupted hospitals, Failing schools, Property Taxes, Insurance costs, Environment, Culture, Welfare costs, Welfare fraud, SS fraud, Voter fraud, Disrespect for our laws & country, our Constitution against invasion and even Balance of payments occurring from oil and other imports to support the 20 to 30 million illegal aliens in this country!

One has to only look at Calif. which is basically mostly an Spanish speaking, Bankrupt state that cannot afford to provide Welfare, Schooling, Medical, Prison cells etc. for millions of MS-13 Gang bangers, Drug dealers, Rapist and other assorted Criminals and uneducated, Prolific breeding, third world Parasites from South of the border!

In a very few years it will be impossible to see where Mexico ends and Calif. begins as both will be an third world cesspool!

Failure to secure our borders and reward the Invading horde for their invasion and their relatives in an never ending chain with American Citizenship is nothing less than committing National Suicide & will assure our future is an over populated Spanish speaking third world Nation that is an Cesspool of Corruption, Crime, Poverty and Misery modeled on Mexico!

Posted by: american1 | January 14, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

With few elections in 2011, the Virginia and New Jersey legislative races will really be spun as referenda on Obama. Expecting a lot of close, intense races.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 14, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

So, when a Democrat wins an election, he should have won by more, so that means Democrats are in trouble.

When a Republican wins an election, he won, and that means that the Democrats are in trouble.

It's the same logic that spins the fact that more Republicans than Democrats are retiring from Congress this year as a "mass Democrat retirement."

Your "librul media" at work for you...Heh

Posted by: js_edit | January 14, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

That's right Lee, you are a true Republican in the mold of the last administration: up is down, black is white, war is peace, and the Democrat who won the seat was really the loser, while the Republicans, who lost, were really the winners. Good job, man.

Posted by: gposner | January 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

That's right Lee, you are a true Republican in the mold of the last administration: up is down, black is white, war is peace, and the Democrat who won the seat was really the loser, while the Republicans, who lost, were really the winners. Good job, man.

Posted by: gposner | January 14, 2010 3:21 PM
The spin continues.

The author was pointing out that as an experienced, apprently effective, bi-partisan politician Marsden should have won by a landslide and not a wafer thin margin of victory.

The truth is the swing voters i.e. those not committed to either party, put the Democrats into power in the hope promises would be keep and effective change would occur.

The reality is although the names and party affiliations have changed the policies continue to be the same and promises were ignored or were broken.

In fact it has been business as usual from corrupt Democrats failing the vetting process for cabinet posts, to an escalation of the war, to inept leadership on national security.

Dirtbag Democrats from Murtha to Pelosi and so far inept leaders such as Obama and Biden have much to fear.

Posted by: krankyman | January 14, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

If Democrats want to see a real horror show, they can watch the Mass. Senate race. The Republican has come from 30 points back to a dead heat. Democrats blew it big time. The party that coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid!" forgot about the economy to chase their socialist dreams. They are toast. They have lost the independents big time. Their early record on the economy, healthcare and national security has been far left of the American mainstream. San Francisco is not Peoria.

Posted by: maxtel1910 | January 14, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

The author was pointing out that as an experienced, apprently effective, bi-partisan politician Marsden should have won by a landslide and not a wafer thin margin of victory.

Posted by: krankyman


"Should have won by a landslide?" Really? Who decides how much he "should" have won by? Talk about spinning a loss.

Posted by: js_edit | January 14, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

"There's some guy named Howell from Stafford County who is single handedly turning I-95 and I-66 into 20-mile long parking lots every morning and evening."

Yes, but he's defending your gun rights against the Obama's socialism. See the article entitled "Virginia Republicans try to thwart federal gun, health-care bills" in Wednesday's Post.

Posted by: sjpatejak | January 14, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Arnold is hardly the long term problem with California. That problem would be Pelosi, Waxman, Boxer, Feinstein, the clown that is mayor of SF, etc. etc. and the Hollywood elite.

Fairfax County is a Liberal lost cause.

Posted by: hz9604 | January 14, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Arnold made the problem worse. He campaigned with a promise to cut taxes and fix the deficit with no real plan, just some vague "I'm going to cut waste and take on the special interests..." Rather than let the auto registration tax cut expire (which would have helped), he just let the deficit balloon. But hey, we got that tax cut, so hooray for us.

Same thing happened on the national level. Bush promised everyone a tax cut, and 8 years later we owe our hides to China. Hooray for the tax cut.

Promise the impossible and you can get elected.

Posted by: leftcoaster | January 14, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Any analysis of November 2010 elections seems to be based on current economic conditions. Considering how long until the election and how fast things can change over 11 months, it seems like the analysis is based more on the speculation of lazy journalists who can't find anything more relevant to discuss than on any rational predictions for the Fall.

Posted by: AxelDC | January 14, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

What a bizarre comment. Nobody is spinning this one. This was Cuccinelli country. Hunt is exactly like Cuccinelli in his beliefs and politics--extreme right wing, which is obviously appealing to many in that district.

This was also a special election (not a fall, general election), so it should have been an absolute lock for Hunt given what happened only a few months ago here in Virginia. One reason it was not was unexpectedly high turnout. There was a projected range, and the Democrats managed to get turnout to a level above the highest point in that range, which is how they won. (Hunt jokingly said he hit the total number of votes he'd been told would win, which he did. It was the turnout.) Does extra turnout surpassing expectations for a special election really sound so terrible?

Everyone I know, both Republican and Democrat, had called this one back in December as impossible for a Democrat to win (me included). Now Marsden wins it, and celebrating that total upset victory that nobody saw coming is called "spin"? This is not a local reporter writing this piece.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | January 14, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Only republicans are furious enough to vote in significant numbers. The basis for this entire article presumes that the voter pool and enthusiasm is actually equal. It's 6 paragraphs of fallacy.
Be afraid, Virginia, of misleading columns. Opinion, indeed.

Posted by: Crucialitis | January 14, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Arnold is hardly the long term problem with California. That problem would be Pelosi, Waxman, Boxer, Feinstein, the clown that is mayor of SF, etc. etc. and the Hollywood elite.

Posted by: hz9604 |


Let me've never actually been in California, have you?

The problem here isn't any of the people you mention...although some of them have certainly contributed...especially Arnold. (BTW -- Does he count as "Hollywood elite"? Did Regan when he was governor? As far as I know, they are the only two Hollywood-types who were elected to run this state).

The real problem is a combination of government-by-ballot-initiative, which gave us such self-defeating gems as Prop 13, and byzantine budget rules that prevent the state legislature from doing anything constructive.

Posted by: js_edit | January 14, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm an independent voter, and I'm concerned (since I'm not a Democrat I refuse to be afraid) that the new McDonnell administration will pick up where Gilmore era left off (except that Gilmore couldn't even make nice with his own party in the General Assembly). However, rumblings are already in the air in Richmond to promote narrow ideological agendas in the face of the more critical issues of budget shortfalls and high unemployment.

If the Commonwealth did not legally require a one term governorship, it's a good bet that the Governor-elect would abandon his professed pre-election bi-partisonship in order to play to his true conservative base in order to gain a second term.

On the other hand, the same could be argued that, because of the one term requirement, why bother to reach across the aisle if you only get one four-year opportunity?

Now, if Pat Robertson routinely shows up at the mansion as McDonnell's unofficial advisor, then I will shed my mere concern and be truly afraid.

Posted by: MillPond2 | January 14, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Let's hear it from the Indy's!

Posted by: jahoby | January 14, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on! Marsden ran to the middle, which is a losing strategy in a special election. Hunt should have had his base out in droves.

It should have been a Hunt blowout, in spite of the fact that Marsden was clearly the superior man for the office.

The only people who were afraid were the people who voted because Hunt scared the heck out of them ~ he should not be in public office ANYWHERE at ANY LEVEL.

Posted by: MAL9000 | January 14, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Republican logic:

*Democrats win so they should be afraid.

*Republicans lose so they are making gains.

Just what type of bizarro world do you live in? Are the fundamentals of our economy still strong? Are you worried about government death panels? Will we find the WMD in Iraq real soon now?

I swear, a nuttier way of thinking I have never seen. The obvious facts are not to be trusted it seems. Next we'll hear how Obama's quick reaction to the Haiti catastrophy is to curry favor with black voters. Oh wait...

Posted by: Fate1 | January 14, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Hockstader, did you bother looking at previous election numbers before you uttered "should have been a blowout"? Oleszek lost by 92 votes in 2007 to Cuccinelli ( Cuccinelli defeated Mitchell in 2003 by 2,104 votes ( How do you figure we should have had a blowout in that Senate district? Neither 2003 nor 2007 was a blowout. Do your homework!

Posted by: robsmithiii | January 15, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

walden1's comment has been removed for lack of intellegence. Please resubmit in three minutes.

Posted by: jahoby | January 15, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

dishonest_abe's comment was removed for lack of honesty. Please resubmit in four scores.

Posted by: jahoby | January 15, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"Let me've never actually been in California, have you?"

The idiot has probably never been in Fairfax County either. Lost cause. LOL

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | January 15, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Crucialitis regarding voter turnout and the GOP base being energized. That should have helped Hunt. However, the just having the "R" next to you name won't be enuf for some Independents (like me). The GOP needs to propose solutions and not just run on a platform of "we're not them". In this time of economic dislocation and uncertainty I look for the better candidate, which I belive helped Marsden.

Posted by: VTengineer | January 15, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Obama has once again turned the word "Democrat" into a synonym for "deadly disease."

He has brought a horrible epidemic of Chicago-style corruption and incompetence to Washington that is threatening to destroy our nation.

Posted by: Jerzy | January 15, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are geniuses about projecting -- saying things that they feel and applying them to Democrats.

This column tells me that Republicans are afraid. Very afraid.

Posted by: gretchenlaskas | January 15, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Another, really - really bad day for the DEMOCRUDS.

Posted by: stephenwhelton | January 15, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company