Local parties hone in on supporters ahead of midterm elections

Local parties hone in on supporters ahead of midterm elections

By Erich Wagner (Courtesy photo)

Although most pollsters, wonks and reporters long ago turned their attention toward Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, Alexandria’s political committees remain busy ensuring their candidate will succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).

In Tuesday’s midterm election, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D) will face off against Republican Micah Edmond, as well as Libertarian candidate Jeffrey Carson, Gerard Blais of the Green Party and independent Gwendolyn Beck. On the statewide ticket, Sen. Mark Warner (D) hopes to fight off a challenge from Republican Ed Gillespie.

While other races, like that between Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat John Foust to take the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) have garnered more attention, most see the heavily blue 8th district as an easy victory for Beyer. Geoff Skelley, a veteran analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said the reasoning behind this is simple.

Northern Virginia is perhaps the most reliably Democratic region in the commonwealth, he said.

“As a whole, metropolitan Northern Virginia, if you’re stretching it pretty far out, it voted 57 percent for [President Barack] Obama in 2012,” Skelley said. “The main components of the 8th District — Alexandria and Arlington — voted 71 percent and 69 percent for Obama, respectively. The district in total voted 68 percent for Obama in 2012 and it voted 68 percent in 2008, so it’s consistent.”

It would take a massive scandal to make a Democrat unelectable in this district, Skelley said. And any Republican victory would be short-lived.

“A few years ago, there was this guy named William Jefferson down in New Orleans,” he said. “He was being bribed and taking kick-backs and the FBI found $50,000 in his freezer. The district, which is extremely Democratic, actually voted Republican in ’08 because of it. But once Jefferson was out of the picture, the Republican incumbent got crushed in 2010.”

Despite the assumption of a landslide and the lack of a presidential race on the ticket, don’t expect a huge decrease in turnout.

“The thing to remember is the congressional race isn’t the top of the ticket this year,” Skelley said. “Mark Warner will want to see Northern Virginia go his way, so that will drive turnout more than anything. It’s not going to be good — it’s a midterm — but you’re not going to see the 8th District have horribly low turnout.”

And Alexandria’s local parties mobilized, both for the congressional race and to bolster statewide vote totals. Chris Marston, chairman of the Alexandria Republican City Committee, said his organization is targeting potential Edmond voters through phone banks and daily canvassing.

“At this point, we’re mainly talking to people we have already identified as supporters,” Marston said. “We don’t anticipate a big win here in Alexandria, but we hope to contribute to the statewide victory and provide a strong showing here in the 8th.”

Likewise, local Democratic committee chairman Clarence Tong said his volunteers are using the senate race to motivate voters, particularly young people, who often sit out during non-presidential election years.

“We’re visiting college campuses, making sure that young people understand the importance of this election,” Tong said, referring to Democrats’ fragile hold on a majority in the U.S. Senate. “We’re putting an emphasis on issues that young people face, like student loan debt.”

Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. For information on where and how to vote, visit the Virginia Department of Elections at elections.virginia.gov.