Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dems Take 2005 Elections: Observations and Impacts

Guest Blogger: Mara Lee

Off-year elections are not typically seen as either momentous events, nor an indication of changing political currents. However, yesterday's competitions throughout the country are telling a story about the state of the two parties in America - one both sides were not necessarily expecting.

The outcome of the 2005 elections are significant for both what they represent, and what they do not. Democrats took the governorships of both New Jersey and Virginia. Democrats also soundly defeated ALL of Schwarzenegger's propositions in California in the special election he spent months criss-crossing the country fund-raising for.

Though Democrats didn't take all of the state-wide races up in Virginia (lost Lt. Gov and AG positions to GOPers), or all of the local races in other states (lost mayoral races in NYC and San Diego), when it's all added-up nationwide, the Democrats felt the sweet taste of victory in both blue and red states last night.

Democrats picked up governorships, state legisislative, and city council seats - but most importantly: Democrats picked up momentum.

The typical line since Democrats lost the 2004 presidential election has been that the Republicans, not just George Bush, has a political mandate in America. But Bush has been losing battles left and right (Miers, the Rove investigations, Scooter Libby just to name a few). So just as significant as Democrats succeeding in '05 is that Republicans DID NOT.

This change in political current might be just what the Democrats need: realizing their strengths through both messaging and campaign tactics.

In Virginia, first-time candidate David Englin crushed his Republican opponent (68-32%) by advancing a PROGRESSIVE agenda for Virginia. Though true the 45th House of Delegates district is in Northern Virginia and a safe Democratic seat, he won a fiercely competitive primary due to his strong convictions and commitment to progressive causes. Leslie Byrne (LG candidate) is an aggressive, progressive female candidate that received 49% of the vote statewide, with the moderate Tim Kaine winning the governorship over conservative Jerry Kilgore 51-46%. Afterall, this is a state that Bush won handily in 2004.

There is also another lesson to be learned from these impressive numbers in Virginia: it is not about MORE field, it is about SMARTER field according to campaign veteran Shayna Englin. Yesterday's victories were a signal of strength that Democrats can play on the ground in Virginia - and win.

In New Jersey, Senator Jon S. Corzine sailed to a staggering victory over fellow millionaire Doug Forrester. Here - it wasn't about access to resources - it was about messaging. Forrester came out slinging mud, and never stopped. Corzine continued to run an overall positive campaign; and when at the end of the campaign both candidates' morals were being called into question - this crushed Forrester. He didn't offer the state anything OTHER than Jon Corzine, a popular incumbent politician.

Even in the smaller contests like city council races in Tuscon, Arizona, Democrats returned the council to Democrats - ALL Democrats. In conservative San Diego, moderate, self-described 'green Republican' Kevin Faulconer picked up the District 2 seat against right-wing challengers. Democrats also picked up seats in Virginia and New Jersey state legislatures.

So what does last night mean for Democrats? I'll let the conservatives say it for themselves...

"The unexpected closeness of the Virginia race -- in a conservative state that President Bush carried by nearly 54 percent of the vote last year -- is a result in part to the GOP's eroding position in public opinion polls." -- Washington Times, 11/8/05

If nothing else, these wins give the Democrats a momentum to carry into the 2006 elections - in both blue and red states.

*Mara is writing as a guest blogger and is an active Democratic campaign staffer; temporarily taking hiatus from campaigns while studying politics abroad.