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The campaigns and candidates of November 8’s midterm state elections were put in the spotlight November 15 at George Mason University’s Merten Hall in Fairfax, Virginia, as two panels of political insiders analyzed what went right—and not so right—at the ballot box.
The occasion was the annual After Virginia Votes, a partnership between the Schar School of Policy and Government and the Richmond-based Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), a nonpartisan nonprofit that provides deep information about the state’s campaign finance system.
Two conversations among panelists were moderated by NBC4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey; the event took place in front of an invited audience and was livestreamed on VPAP’s YouTube channel. (Links will be at this site.)
Kéren Charles Dongo, state director of the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), presented the highlights of how Virginia’s Democratic candidates performed and explained what they did to win, or not. Danny Laub, a Republican strategist at advertising agency Poolhouse, illuminated what that party was thinking in campaigns across the commonwealth. Both pointed to obstacles and challenges not of their own candidates’ doing that complicated what turned voters off or on, including major wedge issues that dominated news cycles.
In a segment of political analysis, Bob Holsworth, managing partner at Richmond consultancy DecideSmart, and Mark J. Rozell, Schar School dean, further explored those complications that brought national issues to local campaigns. Virginia Governor and perhaps-presidential-aspirant Glenn Youngkin, Rozell said, expended considerable political capital when he journeyed out of state to campaign for election deniers instead of focusing on domestic issues. Holsworth recalled a similar situation with a previous governor, Doug Wilder, who was a de facto presidential candidate shortly after winning the governorship. He ended up with a mocking new slogan by adversaries, Holsworth recalled: “Wilder for Resident.”
For her part, Dongo was not familiar with another forum such as After Virginia Votes. “I think this is unique for Virginia,” she said after the event, adding that conversations such as these are necessary if for no other reason to “be an example for the nation. We’re able to fight it out as parties but then come together and be cordial, be nice, and talk about the issues without making it personal.”
Make nice while you can: November 2023 sees all 140 Virginia House seats go up for grabs.