Connolly Consultant: Immigration Issue Headed South
The pollster for Fairfax County Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) says his re-election campaign provides an example of how illegal immigration can be turned into "a second-tier issue" by candidates who emphasize problem-solving and leadership.
Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, told a conference call of reporters Tuesday that attacks on immigration were less successful than those dealing with transportation and taxes because Connolly "leaned into the issue" with an early and firm stance. Connolly, running against Republican Gary H. Baise, has said the county would focus on illegal behavior, not immigration status, and that he would not support withholding government services.
Baise has pledged to cooperate with Prince William County Chairman Corey A. Stewart, (R) who has made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and criticized Connolly for not taking a harder line. Baise said if elected he would follow Prince William's lead and push to enroll Fairfax police in a program run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency that gives selected officers instant access to federal immigration data.
Lake said Connolly deflected the issue by strongly stating that Fairfax will be "one community."
"He has refused to move on his position, which is very much progressive...This has not been the most successful attack, despite their efforts they have been unable to make this stick."
Her comments came in a telephone briefing by a panel of pollsters sponsored by Immigration2007.org, a group formed by Democratic political consultants to to track how the issue is playing in races across the country.
Peter Brodnitz, a principal at Benenson Strategy Group, said candidates in Virginia's General Assembly contests would be unwise to ignore the issue but "once you engage in the debate there is no partisan advantage on this.
"If there is going to be any electoral impact in Virginia this year because of immigration maybe we would see it in Prince William. That is the one part of the state where there may be a local impact, but a lot of that has to do with the way individual campaigns have played out, who has more money, and who is more entrenched. And the fact that Prince William is, notwithstanding the last couple of elections where it went Democratic, a Republican county naturally."
His advice to Democrats: "Don't try to outflank Republicans on the right by being draconian. [Instead talk about] trying some real solutions...the need for real progress, some practical things. Once that happens, the issue goes away and campaigns focus on other issues. Who's going to deal with education? Transportation? Taxes?"
November 1, 2007; 2:41 PM ET
Categories: Bill Turque , Fairfax County Chairman's Race 2007 , Immigration , Polls
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