Accomack County & Northampton County Democratic Committees
The next ACDC Meeting will be at 6 pm on October 2nd at the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce Building, 19056 Parkway Road, Melfa, VA 23410. Click here for map to meeting address. The committee normally meets on the First Wednesday of each Month @ 6 pm. Check out the ACDC website and the Facebook Page.
Minutes of the Accomack County Democratic Committee Meeting on August 7, 2019.
In Attendance. Maureen Dooley, Parker Dooley, Laurie Chamberlain, Ricky Wharton, Marvin Giddens, Al McKegg, Diane Minor, Miriam Riggs, Deborah Kollman, Donelda Carson, Margaret Andrews, Debra Wharton, Sue Mastyl, Davis Sargeant, Charles Kelly, Kathy Boyd, Sara Hayet, Larry Breech, Carrie Jones Crippens, Charlie Crippens, Shirley Burton.
Call to Order. Chairman Parker Dooley called the meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Guests and committee members introduced themselves. Parker asked for a vote to approve the minutes of the July 2019 minutes.
Treasurer's Report. Al McKegg reported $3,108.96 as of June 30 in the Committee bank account, with deposits and expenditures giving a new balance of $2,725.38 as of August 6.
Outreach Activities. Margaret Andrews reported. and there was an extensive discussion about fundraising goals, sharing some costs with Northampton County Democratic Committee; with suggestions for email letters to members, advertising on WESR, holding rallies, ordering yard and 4x8 signs for Phil Hernandez and Lynwood Lewis.
Campaign Office Opening at Historic Onancock School. Sara Hayet, field organizer for Phil Hernandez and Lynwood Lewis, introduced herself and announced the campaign office official opening on Saturday, August 10 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Everyone is invited, bring a dish. She announced fundraising has been excellent, 200-1 over Bloxom through June, and many endorsements for Phil. The new campaign organizer at HOS is Hannah Hampton. More details on the Belle Haven office opening are coming soon.
Miriam Riggs introduced herself as candidate for Accomack Board of Supervisors, District 7. She has a degree from ODU and has lived in Accomack County for 40 years, working as news director for WESR and as a designer. She spoke about her goals and priorities: ground water use, climate change and sea level rise (work with VDOT and County on issue of 30 miles of roads in Accomack County subject to flooding), protecting most vulnerable citizens, education (engage school board in raising teacher salaries to discourage teacher loss to Maryland) and talking to constituents about their needs. There was an exhaustive discussion on educational goals, strategy and tactics. The Eastern Shore/Hampton Roads has now become a front line district in the effort to turn Virginia Blue.
Davis Sargeant introduced himself as a field manager for the DCCC who conducts workshops in Williamsburg on digital campaign management and strategies, empowering communities such as VA Beach to organize and vote. Debra asked him if he had met with the Northampton Democratic Committee, what were their issues? Getting out the vote, empowering the community, training activists, and improving VAN access The Eastern Shore's unique strength is that people know each other.
Saturday, August 10, 5:00-7:00 pm. Accomack campaign office opening at HOS.
Saturday, August 17, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Eggs Indivisible at the Island House, with Phil Hernandez and Lynwood Lewis.
Saturday, August 24, BBQ in Cheriton, with Elaine Luria, Phil, Lynwood.
Wednesday, September 4, 6:00 pm. Chamber of Commerce, Accomack County Democratic Committee meeting.
Sunday, September 8. Chincoteague picnic.
Wednesday, September 11. Voter registration drive at Tyson. 2 shifts. Contact Debra Wharton.
90 days until Election Day!
Adjournment. Parker asked for a motion to adjourn. Maureen so moved, Debra seconded, and the meeting was adjourned at 7:25 pm.
Thanks to Laurie Chamberlain, Secretary for providing the minutes
The Accomack County Democratic Committee's 2019 Coordinated Campaign Office at the Historic Onancock School, 6 College Ave., Onancock, VA 23417. The office will be staffed daily (give them a call for availibility as they are often out in the county canvassing, making phone calls and handing out campaign literature.. Volunteers wanted and much appreciated. The office will have yard signs available for you to pick up and take home until the supply runs out.
Stop by to meet Coordinated Campaign Staffer Hannah Hampton ( 757-710-3969.) and to help us turn Virginia Blue this year! Volunteers are always needed and much apreciated. Call or stop by the office to meet Hannah and signup. We are canvassing every single day.
Mon-Sat, we canvass 9AM-12PM, 12PM-3PM, 3PM-6PM.
Sundays, we canvass 1PM-4PM, 3PM-6PM, 6PM-8PM.
We also offer phone banking every day from 12-3, 3-6, and 6-9.
Saturday, Sept. 14, Sept. 21, Sept. 28 -- Click image to signup
Sat., Sept. 28 & Sun., Sept. 29 -- Click image to signup
The next NCDC meeting will be held at 7 pm on October 1st at the Northampton Social Services Building, 5265 The Hornes, Eastville, VA 23347. Click here for map to meeting address. Normally the NCDC meets on the First Tuesday of each Month @ 7 pm. Check out the NCDC website and the Facebook Page.
Minutes of the Northampton County Democratic Committee
Meeting on August 6, 2019.
In Attendance. Sandra Beerends, Betty Bibbins, Ruth Boettcher, L’Tanya Byrd, JoAnn Clark, Joanne Fitchett, Paul Gammell, Ginger Olson, Bill Payne, Metty Pellicer, Linda Schulz, Susan Stinson, Odessa Sullivan, Bob Toner, Lynda Whitehead, Guests: David Furr, Sara Hayet, Betty L. Hawks, Etienne Mauge, Marie Mauge, Elana Schrager
Chairperson Linda Schulz called the meeting to order.
David Furr, Campaign Manager for Lynwood Lewis. David stressed that the work the committee does—knocking on doors and making phone calls—is critical to the campaign. Health care, jobs, education, and sea level rise are some of the top issues for voters and Lynwood’s record is strong on all counts.
Phil Hernandez, Candidate for Delegate. Phil reported that fundraising for his campaign is going quite well. He stated that he has already received a number of important endorsements and will be meeting with Terry McAuliffe on August 27. He told us that he has also been visiting many local churches.
Sara Hayet, Field Director for Phil Hernandez. Sara announced her new title as “Pod Director” and explained a different approach to contacting voters. She distributed lists of voters and had each committee member indicate which people he knew personally and could contact.
Elana Schrager, Campaign Manager for Phil Hernandez. Elana announced that she is in the process of ordering yard and highway signs.
Minutes and Treasurer’s Report: Motion to approve the minutes from the July 2 meeting was made by Odessa Sullivan, seconded by Joanne Fitchett, and unanimously approved. Treasurer Arlene Joynes was absent; Linda Schulz presented the current Treasurer’s Report.
7/1/19 Bank Balance was $5,880.32. Deposits for $100.00 Juneteenth Festival Celebration Ad and July 4 Drawing Ticket Sales $86.00 plus Dividend Earned .24 result in a 7/31/19 Bank Balance of $5,866.56. There are No Outstanding Checks. The Actual Bank and Checkbook Balance as of 7/31/19 is $5,866.56.
Linda added that so far in August, we have deposited $700 from Betty Bibbins for barbecue meet-and-greet expenses and issued a check for rent in the amount of $425 bringing our actual account balance on this date to $6,141.56. We also have $385 in contributions thanks to the appeal made for donations to help in the upcoming campaigns. Motion to accept the Treasurer’s Report as presented was made by Bill Payne, seconded by Bob Toner, and passed unanimously.
NCDC Barbecue and Meet and Greet: Flyers were distributed detailing the Meet and Greet to be held on August 24 at the home of Joanne Fitchett in Cheriton. Linda thanked Joanne and Betty for what they are doing to ensure the success of this event.
Outreach/Voter Registration/Absentee Voting. Bob Toner reported that he and his committee registered four new voters during July at various events. He thanked all the volunteers who assisted on the 4th of July in the parade and at the booth.
Electoral Board. JoAnn Clark reported that the Registrar’s Office has already changed the office arrangement in preparation and trial for 2020 early voting.
Chair’s Report. Linda reported that Senator Mark Warner’s campaign is ahead in its fundraising in comparison with 2014. She emphasized that Virginia is critical to the 2020 election.
With no further business to discuss, motion was made and seconded and unanimously passed to adjourn. Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 3, at 7 p.m.
Thanks to JoAnn Clark, Secretary for providing the minutes.
The Northampton Coordinated Campaign office is now open at 1504 Merry Cat Lane, Colonial Square, Suite 17 B, just off Lankford Highway in Belle Haven. The office will serve both the Lyn Lewis and Phil Hernandez campaigns. The office will have yard signs available for you to pick up and take home until the supply runs out. Yard signs can also be picked up at Linda Schulz's house @ 616 Tazewell Ave., Cape Charles, VA.
Stop by the Belle Haven office to meet our new Coordinated Campaign Staffer Haig Manjikian (757-513-5290) and sign up to help canvass and make phone calls. Give Haig a call anytime. He is generally in the office between 12-4 and often at other times during the day. Call or stop by the office to meet Haig and signup. We are canvassing every single day.
Mon-Sat, we canvass 9AM-12PM, 12PM-3PM, 3PM-6PM.
Sundays, we canvass 1PM-4PM, 3PM-6PM, 6PM-8PM.
We also offer phone banking every day from 12-3, 3-6, and 6-9.
Tuesday, September 24 @ 6 pm - 8 pm -- Click image to RSVP
Sat., Sept. 28 & Sun., Sept. 29 -- Click image to signup
Tuesday, Oct. 1 @ 6 pm - 8 pm -- Click image to signup
In-Person Absentee Voring is open from September 23rd until November 2nd at your local Registrar's Office. At the registrar's office, fill out an Absentee Application. You must show an acceptable form of photo ID. There is a complete list of acceptable IDs below. Please visit the Virginia Department of Elections Absentee Voting Page for further information.
Before visiting your local registrar’s office, check your registration status or call your registrar’s office (Accomack - 757-787-2935 or Northampton - 757-678-0480). Also review the application to insure you have all of the information necessary to complete the process. If you are not already registered, you will have to wait five days after registration before you can be issued an absentee ballot (exception for military and overseas voters only). If you have a Virginia DMV license or ID card, you can register online using our OAB application.
1. Within 45 days prior to the election in which you wish to vote, visit your local registrar’s office to vote absentee in-person. 2019 In-Person Absentee Voting is open from September 23rd until Novenber 2nd at your local Registrar's Office.
2. At the registrar’s office, fill out an Absentee Application. You must show an acceptable form of photo ID. To view a complete list of acceptable IDs, please visit our Voting In-Person page.
3. After completing the application, you will be allowed to vote absentee in-person using a voting machine in the registrar’s office. Accessible equipment and/or curbside voting is available upon request.
Accomack County Registrar's Office
23312 Courthouse Ave, Accomac, VA 23301
Phone: (757) 787-2935
Northampton County Registrar's Office
16404 Courthouse Rd, Eastville, VA 23347
Phone: (757) 678-0480
Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of photo identification (photo ID) at the polls. Voters arriving at the polls without photo ID will be required to vote a provisional ballot and will have until noon on the Friday following the election to deliver a copy of identification to their locality’s electoral board in order for their provisional ballot to be counted. Please see the Provisional Ballot Process for Voters Who Arrive Without Identification for more information on how the provisional ballot process will work for those arriving to the polls without ID.
Virginia’s photo ID requirements also apply to absentee voters who vote in-person in all elections. Please see the absentee voting page for additional instructions and requirements when voting absentee in-person.
Acceptable forms of identification for in-person voting include the following:
1. Valid Virginia Driver’s License or Identification Card
2. Valid Virginia DMV issued Veteran’s ID card
3. Valid United States Passport
4. Other government-issued photo identification cards (must be issued by US Government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or a political subdivision of the Commonwealth)
5. Tribal enrollment or other tribal ID issued by one of 11 tribes recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia
6. Valid college or university student photo identification card (must be from an institution of higher education located in Virginia)
7. Valid student ID issued by a public school or private school in Virginia displaying a photo
8. Employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business
9. For a more detailed list of acceptable IDs >>>
A voter who does not bring an acceptable photo ID to the polls will be offered a provisional ballot.
Don’t have one of these forms of ID?
Any registered voter who does not possess one of the above mentioned forms of photo ID, may apply for a free Virginia Voter Photo Identification from any general registrar’s office in the Commonwealth. Voters applying for the Virginia Voter Photo ID Card will have to complete the Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card Application, have their picture taken, and sign the digital signature pad. Once the application is processed, the card will be mailed directly to the voter.
An application completed in person can be made up to three days before the election in which the applicant wishes to vote and completed in the office of the local registrar. The applicant signs the application in the presence of a registrar or the secretary of the electoral board. Some large localities offer satellite locations for in-person absentee voting. Check with your local registrar for locations and times.
An applicant generally cannot both register to vote in person and vote absentee in person at the same time. If you register to vote in person, your absentee ballot cannot be issued until five days after you are registered. The only exception is absent military and overseas voters eligible under a federal law.
Registered voters who vote absentee in person are subject to the same rules that apply to voting at the polls. If acceptable identification is not provided, a provisional ballot will be offered and the voter is allowed until the following Friday by noon after the election to provide a copy of acceptable identification to the electoral board. Provisional voters receive a notice to remind them of the deadline and right to attend the electoral board meeting.
We will have a group of volunteers to assist you in getting to your local Registrar's Office to cast your In-Person Absentee Ballot. Please call your county Coordinated Campaign Office and a volunteer will help you make those arrangements.
For rides in Accomack County, please email or call Hannah Hampton on 757-710-3969. or Debra Wharton on 757-824-5141.
For rides in Northampton County, please email Haig Manjikian.
For voters with ambulatory challenges, ask about arranging for "Curbside Voting."
If you signed up to be an Inside Poll Observer you qualify and are encouraged to vote absentee either in-person or via mail. If you have any questions, the Virginia Department of Elections' Absentee Voting Page has the answers.
There is hard evidence of the importance of driving voter turnout in 2019. Both Shore districts are very competitive. Be sure to encourage all your family, friends and neighbors to vote in Nov. Let’s return Lynwood Lewis to the Senate and help Phil Hernandez win the HD-100 seat.
Voter turnout in the 2015 November election was nearly 30% in Virginia. But looking at a single statewide number hides the wide range of turnout across districts. Turnout ranged from under 10% to over 40% in different legislative races, with many uncontested races having the lowest turnout.
Our Virginia State Senator, Lynwood Lewis represented us in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2004 until he was elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2014. He is a native son and has worked hard to improve the lives of Eastern Shore residents…including better education, better pay for teachers, protecting our coastline, improving health care including the Medicaid Expansion and he was a co-sponsor on The Equal Rights Amendment and will continue to fight for it. Learn more at lynwoodlewis.com
After crisscrossing Coastal Virginia during an active District Work Period, Congresswoman Elaine Luria is marking eight months in office by highlighting prolific outreach in the Hampton Roads region, significant legislative action, and her team’s outstanding constituent service to Virginians.
In eight months, Congresswoman Luria and her staff have hosted or attended 883 meetings with Virginians, recovered $617,339 for constituents, and sent 17,796 response letters to Virginians on legislative issues.
Congresswoman Luria’s new “Constituent Testimonials” webpage highlights examples of her team helping Coastal Virginians with federal issues such as expediting passports, recovering paperwork, and helping with medical benefits.
On Sunday, Sept. 8th, Paul Brzozowski and Louisa Flaningam hosted the Annual KITD Picnic at their lovely home on Chincoteague Island. The event featured Sen. Lynwood Lewis, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, HD-100 Candidate Phil Hernandez and a full house of our favorite Chincoteague and Accomack County Democrats.
We would like to recognize Nancy Payne and the other dedicated organizers and hard working volunteers who made this picnic possible. And we must give special recognition to those wonderful folks whose support and generosity raised a quite sizeable amount of financial assistance for the candidates and the ACDC. Mere words cannot express how much we value your friendship and gracious donations
Who are the Keep In Touch Democrats (KITD)? They are a group of Democrats that get together occasionally to feel free in political conversations, have some fun and exchange relevant political information. They try to keep each other informed on both local and national political activity.
The idea was born Election Day 2015 at the Democratic table outside the polls. Late in the day several of the people were talking about how they heard many people say they were surprised that there were a lot of Dems on Chincoteague Island. So they said, "Why not get people together for a party!?!?" And the first gathering was Dec. 4th, 2015 at the Refuge Inn with about 20 people.
Since then they have grown to about 190 members ranging from local islanders, to part time islanders, to property owners who live in other places, to elected officials. Some vote on Chincoteague but some do not. KITD has no dues, no officers and, they meet when they feel it’s a good idea. They acknowledge that in their area, the “official” Democratic Committee is the Accomack County Democratic Committee, affectionately known as the ACDC. Many KitDem members are also ACDC members. Since their beginnings they have worked with and contributed to ACDC and we look forward to that continuing.
Coastal Resiliency -- Why It Is So Important To The Eastern Shore
On Virginia’s Eastern Shore—a narrow peninsula that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean—lies the longest coastal wilderness remaining on the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard. Some 60 miles of undeveloped barrier islands are a refuge for hundreds of species of plant and animal life and a mecca for migratory songbirds, raptors, and shorebirds. This iconic wilderness has come to define the local culture and economy. Visitors are greeted with signs proclaiming: “You’ll Love Our Nature.”
It follows that the natural riches of the Virginia’s Eastern Shore make it an important economic engine for the Mid-Atlantic region. Fishermen, duck hunters, birders, kayakers, and beachcombers flock to its idyllic shores. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge located on Assateague Island is visited by 1.2-1.4 million tourists annually, making it one of the most heavily visited refuges in the US, generating millions of US dollars in spending and creates thousands of jobs for residents living in the Town of Chincoteague and surrounding villages. Because of the clean water in the tidal creeks and bays, the Virginia Eastern Shore is home to the U.S’s largest clam aquaculture industry with an average annual economic impact of $60 million USD. The rural coastal landscape is the ideal location for one of NASA’s premier rocket launch facilities, Wallops Flight Facility, with over $1 billion of mission-critical infrastructure located on Wallops Island, the only developed barrier island on the Virginia coast.
Moreover, the Eastern Shore hosts one of the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program sites, the Virginia Coast Reserve, operated by the University of Virginia, which has transformed the region into a center for world-class coastal science research for nearly 30 years.
The region’s way of life and economy relies on the peoples’ dependence on nature as a defense in the face of rising seas and extreme storms. The Eastern Shore lies within one of the U.S’s most vulnerable coastal regions. Sea levels are rising at three to four times the global average and storms are intensifying. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent in the past on piecemeal, reactive approaches to these mounting hazards. Often, engineered infrastructure solutions such as sea walls, groins and jetties have only exacerbated the area’s vulnerability.
Climate change within this vast expanse of local communities living within this naturally functioning barrier island ecosystem is expected to drive a combination of extreme weather and sea-level rise that will increase the risk of coastal erosion, flooding, and the permanent inundation of what is now normally dry land. Current projections from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Center for Coastal Resource Management regarding relative sea-level rise rates on Virginia’s Eastern Shore show a mean sea level rise of between 4.5 to 7 feet by 2100 which is three to four times the global average.
On the Eastern Shore, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on traditional “gray” infrastructure approaches, such as sea walls, groins, jetties, bulkheads and revetments, as defenses against mounting coastal hazards. Often, the gray infrastructure has only exacerbated the area’s vulnerability and undermined the region’s abundant natural resilience by interrupting critical environmental processes.
The impulse to harden shorelines to halt coastal erosion is driven, in part, by the lack of a public understanding and subsequent appreciation for the capacity of nature to mitigate the impacts of rising seas and extreme storms. The widespread use of gray infrastructure is also perpetuated by consultants, contractors, and government agencies whose expertise is often limited to traditional shoreline armoring for the single purpose of protecting property, buildings, homes, roads, and critical facilities. Without understanding the effectiveness of natural systems to provide equal protection with multiple benefits, coastal communities end up with hardened shorelines that eventually degrade the ecosystem and increase risk.
The goal of our coastal resilience work is to make the case to local governments, contractors, and citizens that coastal ecosystems are nature’s first line of defense against shoreline erosion, flooding, and inundation. We also want to promote the recognition that these ecosystems provide other essential services, filtering water, sequestering carbon, ensuring the productivity of fish and shellfish, and increasing biodiversity—that are diminished or lost with traditional gray infrastructure solutions.
Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore (CBES) Forums will be held for all contested seats in the November 5 Election, as follows:
Accomack County Forum: Oct. 8, 2019, 7:00-9:00 PM, Nandua High School -- Treasurer, District 4 & 7 School Board, and District 5 & 7 Supervisor
State Legislators Forum: Oct. 9, 2019, 7:00-9:00 PM, Nandua High School -- Member, House of Delegates, and State Senator
Northampton County Forum: Oct. 17, 2019, 7:00-8:30 PM, Occohannock Elementary School -- District 4 Supervisor
A "Meet the Candidates" informal discussion with candidates for uncontested seats will be held at 6:30 prior to the Accomack & Northampton Forums.
Jessica Post is stuck in traffic 63 miles south of Washington, D.C., when she pulls an iPhone to her ear. “How’s everything going with your family?” she asks a contender for Virginia’s state legislature this fall. “We are all in for your run. I was reading about your opponent the other day. He sounds like a real piece of …” Here, she remembers that TIME is tagging along. “Work,” she finishes.
Calls like this consume a lot of Post’s time these days. The 39-year-old president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is leading an unheralded but critically important campaign to win back state offices for the party after eight years of deep losses during Barack Obama’s presidency. The consequences go far beyond which states may be prevented from joining lawsuits trying to dismantle Obamacare or restrict abortion rights. The candidates who win state legislative races later this year and in 2020 will decide who wields power in Washington for a decade.
Every 10 years, politics rewrites itself, starting with the decennial Census. Legislatures in 31 states use the findings to draw the borders of federal congressional districts. In some, nonpartisan commissions draw the lines clinically. In others, it comes down to who has the Sharpie and the least amount of shame. The map is due to be reset before the 2022 midterm elections, which means lawmakers elected as soon as this year may determine where the congressional battlegrounds will be into the 2030s. “State legislatures are the building blocks of our democracy,” Post tells TIME during a break from candidate calls in the DLCC office five blocks from the White House. “It’s a level of the ballot that’s been forgotten. But state legislators draw the lines, so control of Congress in many ways is decided by rules put together in state legislatures.”
For decades, Democrats have largely overlooked these local offices to their detriment. Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, remembers arriving at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters to start his job as party chairman in February 2001 and making a troubling discovery: lawmakers in the states were starting to draw new district maps, and no one at the DNC was paying attention.
“Not a thing had been done on redistricting,” McAuliffe recalls. “In the past, I don’t think our party understood the importance of legislative chambers.”
They soon learned. In 2010, the Tea Party wave washed 681 Democrats out of legislative seats right before new battle lines could be drawn, according to data tracked by the National Conference of State Legislatures, giving the GOP the opportunity to cement its advantage in competitive congressional districts. In all, Democrats lost 958 state legislative seats during Obama’s presidency.
Post, a meticulous Missouri native who previously held top roles at Emily’s List and the DLCC, rejoined the group in 2016 with a mandate to reverse the slide. Since then, Democrats have flipped 283 state legislature seats, with a net gain of six chambers. Post has tripled the organization’s staff and quintupled its fundraising target from $10 million to an estimated $50 million for the 2020 cycle.
Other Democratic groups have begun investing in down-ballot contests too. In August, Emily’s List announced a $20 million effort to help flip legislatures. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, with the backing of Obama and the help of McAuliffe, has started a group called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is dedicated to the process of drawing new borders. Flippable, a grassroots Democratic group focused on winning statehouse races, has already funneled $125,000 into Virginia and is eyeing eight other states in 2020.
But Democrats are aware they’re still playing catch-up in a space the party has long neglected. “Republicans have been doing this for decades,” says Amanda Litman, the executive director of Run for Something, a group that recruits young progressives to stand in down-ballot elections. “If we don’t have Democratic control of state legislatures ahead of redistricting in 2021, Republicans will take back Congress in 2022, and that’s the end of functioning government in Washington.”
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Post huddled with Virginia’s Democratic brain trust on the 20th floor of an office building in downtown Richmond, Va. The group gathered around a conference table, clicking through a slideshow of district maps, media budgets and historical vote tallies. Post spends a lot of time on the state these days. Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi and Louisiana hold the only statewide legislative elections in 2019, and Post is using the commonwealth to test her assumptions, technology, vendors and data, shelling out $1 million and counting in the process. The conference room looks down on the capitol, where the DLCC needs to flip two seats for Democrats to claim the majority in the state’s house of delegates and two more to do the same in the senate. Doing both would give the party the trifecta–control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion.
Post asks for a briefing on what house strategists have gleaned from the first six focus groups they’ve organized in Virginia. She wants to know how many Republican-held districts they’re targeting where Democrat Ralph Northam won his race for governor in 2017, and how many Tim Kaine won when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2018. (The answer is nine and 12.) How many districts, she asks, are Democrats leaving uncontested?
The answer is not many. Democrats have built a machine in Virginia, seeded in part with cash Post started sending southward as early as December 2018. There are 91 Democratic candidates for the commonwealth’s 100 house races on Nov. 5, and 35 senate hopefuls for the chamber’s 40 spots, which include three senate districts that voted for Hillary Clinton for President in 2016 but are currently represented by Republicans. “They are running to build the party,” house caucus executive director Trevor Southerland says.
The DLCC’s play has indirect effects too. For instance, the group has featured one of its favorite candidates, activist Sheila Bynum-Coleman, in national fundraising messages; 21% of her donations have come from out-of-state donors as a result. “I don’t think I would have gotten the attention if it weren’t for the DLCC,” says Bynum-Coleman, who is challenging the current speaker of the house of delegates in a Richmond-area district.
At the conference table, Post keeps asking questions about the blend of TV and digital advertising in specific races. “That’s an expensive district,” says Kristina Hagen, executive director of the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, of one seat in the Washington media market. “There is a world in which we can get away with digital and cable.”
Post still urges them to book TV early. “Reserve aggressively,” she says.”We have to win this.”
The Democrats can afford pricey TV ads because they’ve been chipping away at the GOP’s longtime financial advantage in the states. The three major Democratic committees in Virginia have already spent $2 million, compared with just a quarter of that invested by their GOP counterparts. (Virginia’s GOP house speaker Kirk Cox, Bynum-Coleman’s opponent, has added about $500,000 through his PAC to help his Republican colleagues.) “I’d think Democrats should be disappointed if they don’t flip both chambers,” says Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “At the same time, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that they will in fact flip them both.”
It’s easy to see how Post convinces donors that these low-profile races are worthy investments in the Trump era. Republicans “won and rigged the maps,” Post says. “They re-engineered everything and put in place durable majorities.” Now she wants Democrats to have control when it comes time to define the next 10 years.
Post’s counterpart at the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), Austin Chambers, is working hard to prevent that. Chambers says his group will raise more money than ever, and plans to top the $40 million it spent in the 2015–2016 election cycle. In August, the RSLC announced that former Republican National Committee finance chairman Ron Weiser, a fundraising legend, was joining the group. “They should be optimistic. Because when you’re at rock bottom, the only place you have to go is up,” Chambers says of the Democrats. “We’re glad they finally discovered this thing called state legislators.”
But Chambers has been warning donors that Post’s efforts cannot be written off, lest Republicans suffer the way their opponents have at the state level. “What happens in a few state legislative races over the next year and a half will determine the balance of Congress for at least the next decade or longer,” Chambers says. “The importance of this cannot be overstated. It’s as serious as anything we’ve ever faced.”
The path toward Republican dominance at the state level began more than three decades ago, when Democrats, in the wake of Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980, focused their energy on presidential politics in the 1984 cycle. The current dynamic dates back to 2010, when Karl Rove wrote a Wall Street Journal column laying the groundwork for what came to be called the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP). The RSLC’s REDMAP program recruited and funded state-level candidates aggressively. REDMAP spent $30 million to the DLCC’s $8 million that year. The effort netted GOP total control of 11 legislatures and a trifecta in nine additional states. In turn, the party started drawing congressional districts it liked.
Republicans still start with a leg up in the battle for the states in 2020. The GOP controls 52% of seats in all state legislatures, with majorities in 62% of state legislative chambers and total control of state government in 22 states, to Democrats’ 14. But many of the chambers have narrow GOP edges. Democrats stand to pick up majorities in seven chambers–including those in Minnesota, Arizona and Virginia–if they can win 19 specific races.
Meanwhile, the gains Democrats have made in recent years may be difficult to defend. President Donald Trump was a liability for Republicans in 2018, when he wasn’t on the ballot and his approval sat at 40% in Gallup’s final pre-election survey. But Trump could wind up helping GOP candidates in 2020, when the party hopes his massive political machine will boost fortunes of candidates all the way down the ballot.
It’s also possible that existing Democratic-led statehouses overstep their mandates and provoke a backlash. In typically blue Illinois, for example, lawmakers declared abortion a fundamental right, no matter what the Supreme Court may say. When Republicans in the Colorado statehouse objected to the pace of change under Democratic control, they raised procedural hurdles and demanded the measures be read aloud. Democrats responded by having five computers read a 2,023-page bill simultaneously–so quickly the text was unintelligible. The issue went to court, where the Republicans won.
The party that wins control of Richmond in November and other state capitals in 2020 has decisions to make. Republicans may want to cluster African-American voters into one district to make the rest of the area easier to win. Democrats may want to spread those voters out more evenly. In Northern Virginia, both parties may want to minimize the number of seats that have to buy ad time in the expensive D.C. market. Armed with enough data, it’s possible to draw lines that enhance the odds of winning again and again. “We were so pleased as Democrats that we won this Congress,” Post says of the 2018 elections. “But the truth is, it’s just a rental.”
All this is on Post’s mind as the car inches through the traffic toward the Washington suburbs. She’s back on the phone, checking in with a different Virginia candidate. “Thank you for putting your name on the ballot,” she says. “It’s the bravest thing you can do.”
As the start of the school year approaches, thousands of Virginia teachers have turned to crowdfunding sites to buy necessary school supplies not covered by state and local budgets. In 2019, Virginia’s funding per student was less than it was before the Great Recession, leaving many teachers struggling to pay for necessary supplies. The average amount spent on each student in Virginia is $10,530, well below the $12,756 national average.
Teachers spend their own money to buy supplies for first day of school. Lauren Moskowitz's shopping list was the stuff of every kindergartner's dreams. The special-education teacher would need finger puppets, jumbo crayons and sidewalk chalk for her 5- and 6-year-olds. About an hour and nearly $140 later, she exited a Target in suburban Washington, bags overflowing with school supplies. She had paid for it all herself.