Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brat Wins In Virginia With 8% of Registered Voters. Will Cantor Pull A Murkowski?

[Nov. 7, 2014 - results of the general election here.]

By now, anyone reading this, unless they're in South Africa, knows that Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election Tuesday June 10 to David Brat. 

I'm writing this from Alaska and I don't know much about Cantor's district.  I did drive once from DC to Richmond which would have had me driving through a good part of the population center.  But I'm just gathering internet available data as I try to figure out what happened and what it might mean for his district in November and what it might mean here in Alaska. 

Here are the official election results from the Virginia State Government page:

As you can see, there were 65,008 votes cast.  (I don't know about absentee, but this is 100% of the votes cast Tuesday, apparently.)

So, what percent of registered voters in this district is that? 

From Virginia State Board of Elections website has a February 1, 2014 report on the number of registered voters in District 7.

Virginia District 7 2/1/2014
#of Precincts in District 234
# of Active Voters: 473,032
# of Inactive Voters 31,863
# of Total Voters   504,895

I'm sure that somewhere they have this information broken down by party, but I didn't find it and it's not important enough to spend too much time on.  And it was an open primary without much happening in the other races.   I'm just trying to get some ballpark idea of what happened.

If we take the active voters (473,032) in the district, then about  14% of the registered voters in the district participated.  And about 8% of the district's registered voters, voted for David Brat. 

For Cantor, the obvious deficiency was not getting his voters out.  Given the tone of the coverage of this race - "In an enormous political upset . . " for example - Cantor's supporters figured they didn't have to go to the polls.

Nathaniel Downes at Addicting Information attributes the loss to gerrymandering:
"The cause for this major upset boils down to the GOP’s overuse of gerrymandering. By carving out safe districts for their candidates in the general elections, the Republicans engineered a situation whereby fringe candidates within their own party now can cause primary challenges which can not only force out incumbents, it can enable for candidates who would do damage to the nation through their anti-government rhetoric to win seats in government."

The district did change in 2013 - since Cantor's last race - and it seems to have acquired a leg, so to speak, but probably overlaps the old district quite a bit.  But Downes' point is that it's more Republican than it was, not that there are different constituents.  Here are what I found as the old and new district borders:

District 7 Before 2013 Redistricting
Virginia District 7 after 2013

What about the Democrat?   They really weren't expecting to be players in November it seems.   The Downes (the guy at Addicting Info) writes:
"The original Democratic candidate for the district, Mike Dickenson failed to file the paperwork necessary to be on the ballot, although there has been some push for a write-in campaign. So, it looks like the field for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District is going to be dominated by the Tea Party and Libertarian candidates this year.
*UPDATE* It turns out that the Democratic Party of Virginia has pushed forward a candidate late yesterday, Jack Trammell. Like Dave Brat, he is a professor at Randolph-Macon College, and has not yet even gotten his campaign website up and running yet. For now it redirects to ActBlue, the Democratic PAC focused on internet fundraising."
Well, there's more than Democrats. Ballotopedia says:
"Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, will face Democrat Jack Trammell, who is also a Randolph-Macon professor, Libertarian James Carr and write-in candidate Mike Dickinson, who failed to earn the Democratic endorsement."

So, if all that is correct,
  • the Republicans have a Tea-Party candidate, David Brat, who upset the House Republican Majority leader, Cantor 
  • there's a Libertarian candidate, James Carr, who presumably would eat into Brat's votes
  • a last minute Democrat, Jack Trammel, a fellow faculty member at Randolph-Macon College with David Brat which gives new meaning to "campus politics'
  • a write-in candidate who failed to file as a Democrat, Mike Dickenson

Will Cantor Pull a Murkowski?

In Alaska, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the primary in 2010 to Joe Miller, there was a little known Democrat on the ballot to oppose Miller.  Murkowski was able to rally the economic resources of the Alaska Native corporations, and sufficient Democrats voted for her on the grounds that Scott McAdams, the Democrat, couldn't win, and Murkowski was far better than Miller.  She also got lots of Republican votes though official national Republican money stuck with the primary winner.

I don't know enough about Virginia's district 7 to be able to have a clue what might happen if Cantor decided to fight for his seat back.  Given that Brat won with only 8% of the registered voters, and given the Murkowski precedent, I'm sure it will be tempting.

What Does This Mean For Alaska?

My guess is that Joe Miller is a happy man tonight and that his Tea Party supporters will be energized.  The thought that Brat was outspent by Cantor almost  50 - 1, will motivate supporters of a lot of financially marginal candidates.

But Virginia's 7th Congressional district is only about 100 miles long and not nearly as wide.  You can drive to any house in the district in a day at most.  Campaigning in Alaska is much more expensive.  We have state house districts bigger than the whole state of Virginia.   And many villages aren't on the road system.  Hell, our state capital isn't on the road system (but you can get there by ferry.)  Unless you have a pilot's license or a friend who does, getting around the state is very expensive.  

I suspect that the coalition that elected Murkowski will reelect Begich in the end, especially if Miller is the Republican candidate again.  The big national conservative money is pushing relatively recent Alaska Dan Sullivan in the US Senate race, but Begich is a tenacious and savvy campaigner. 

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