I found an interesting article in today's Richmond Times Dispatch on the shift of politics in Northern Virginia. Think Virginia isn't shifting from "red" to "purple?" Consider this: In 1996 Senator John Warner (R) defeated Mark Warner (D) in Fairfax county by 53,000 votes. Move ahead 10 years to November 2006, and George Allen (R) was defeated by Jim Webb (D) in Fairfax by 64,000 votes. In 2000, George Allen (R) lost the city of Alexandria, and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William by a combined 42,000 votes. This past November he lost them by a combined 120,000 votes.
I found an interesting article in today's Richmond Times Dispatch on the shift of politics in Northern Virginia. Think Virginia isn't shifting from "red" to "purple?" Consider this: In 1996 Senator John Warner (R) defeated Mark Warner (D) in Fairfax county by 53,000 votes. Move ahead 10 years to November 2006, and George Allen (R) was defeated by Jim Webb (D) in Fairfax by 64,000 votes. In 2000, George Allen (R) lost the city of Alexandria, and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William by a combined 42,000 votes. This past November he lost them by a combined 120,000 votes. According to the RTD:
"Politicians attribute the turnaround to changing demographics, a Republican Party that appears to be too conservative for the region and the unpopularity of President Bush and the war in Iraq."
However, some residents of Northern Virginia had a different perspective:
"It's roads and development," said Matt McShea, a businessman who lives in Loudoun. "Before, people thought the Republicans would take care of things. Now they think the Democrats will."
Dale Eavey, who calls Harrisonburg his home but lives in Loudoun during the week to be close to his work, said many people blame the Virginia Department of Transportation. "They think all the money is going to Richmond when we need it up here."
Joan Shergalis of Ashburn added: "We have this growth up here, and nothing is being done about the roads in Northern Virginia."
Many others, myself included, believe the shift in politics in Northern Virginia is partly due to the area becoming much more urban, and partly due to a surge of voters moving down from northern states, which tend to be more Liberal anyway. Immigration, and "anti" voters also played a role in Northern Virginia:
"Carrie Smith, a businesswoman in Herndon, said the entire Town Council was voted out of office on Election Day because of a dispute over an immigration center.
She said voters were in an "anti" mood, and that's why they voted against Allen and for Democrat Jim Webb.
In addition to the urbanization of Northern Virginia, and the influx of more Liberal Northern voters, Northern Virginia also has a high minority population, which also generally tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans. In fact, of the estimated 1 million residents of Fairfax county, about 40 percent are considered minority, but according to the RTD, only about half of those are registered to vote, however, they still remain a powerful voting block:
"Republicans in Richmond and Washington engaging in immigrant-bashing haven't helped them up here," Democratic State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw added.
Shortly after he won reelection (by a more narrow margin than 2 years ago) U.S. Congressman Tom Davis (R-11th) wrote an op-ed piece to the RTD describing the influx of new voters to the region:
"A highly educated multiethnic pool of knowledge-based workers moving into Northern Virginia, mostly from out of state."
So what's attracting these highly educated workers? High tech jobs that pay well, of course. Gerald Connolly said in the RTD article that 27 percent of the adults in Fairfax have master's degrees. "Highly educated, high-tech people are more likely to vote Democratic," he went on to say.
You may remember last Tuesday when I wrote about the extreme sprawl around Richmond, where retail markets are becoming WAY over saturated, and the ridiculous amount of sprawl that is moving further and further out of the city. Well, it appears this is a big concern of some Northern Virginia voters as well, and according to the RTD, citizens of Loudoun and Prince William counties are rebelling, and one Republican consultant says the GOP has been on the WRONG side of the issue:
As for the outer suburbs, J. Kenneth Klinge, a veteran Republican political consultant, said the Republicans have been on the wrong side of the growth issue. Residents in Loudoun and Prince William are rebelling against development and traffic, he said, and the Republicans were slow to realize this.
He went on to say that Republicans now are perceived as moving too far to the right on social issues, and this has hurt them in Northern Virginia. This is important to remember because Northern Virginia voted OVERWHELMINGLY against the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages.
Not everyone is thinking clearly though, Republican state Senator Jay O'Brien of Fairfax, whom according to the article is expected to face stiff opposition in his reelection bid in November 2007, thinks the November, 2006 election may have been an "aberration." Of this year's election in Virginia he said:
"Republicans were mad because they didn't like all the spending, independents were mad because they didn't like the scandals, and Democrats were mad at President Bush because of the war."
I guess Mr. O'Brien forgot how Tim Kaine (D) handily defeated Republican Jerry Kilgore in November 2005 to become the second Democrat in a row to be the Governor of Virginia. I guess that was just an "aberration" too though. Furthermore, not just Democrats are "mad" at Bush about the war, according to polls, about 75% of Americans are upset over the situation in Iraq.
Regardless, I think this is an excellent article that is just more proof Virginia is not the hands down "red state" that it was just a couple of years ago. More proof that the politics of the Commonwealth have shifted to the left, and Virginia is INDEED, now a "purple state." Not only is there the very real potential for voters to shift control of the state G.A. to Democrats in 2007, but I also believe a potential for Virginians to vote for a Democrat for President for the first time since LBJ in 1964.