I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters. Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting. Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care. Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix.
As I spoke to voters I began to feel a bit better about John’s prospects. Quite a few people told me that someone had knocked on their door or they had received our mailer or a text. Those who said they’d voted for John reported that they liked Edwin Santana and Vangie Williams just fine but believed John would have a better chance to defeat Rob Wittmanin November.
An encounter with an older couple at a Prince William County polling place reinforced this thinking. I told them about John and handed them a palm card but they told me they were Republicans and would take the Red ballot. A few minutes later they came out and stopped to tell me that they just couldn’t do it – they just couldn’t vote for any of the GOP Senate candidates. They had switched and reported that they voted for “your guy.”
At a polling place in Montclair I introduced myself to an older woman sitting in a lawn chair with an Eagle Forum newsletter open on her lap. She had volunteered to staff this polling place and recruit volunteers for the Republican Party. We chatted for a few minutes and when the subject of gun violence came up she tried to tell me I don’t know what an assault weapon is. I rolled my eyes and started to respond when she interrupted me to yell her “would you like to volunteer for the Republican Party” ask at a woman who had just voted. This woman never left her lawn chair – she just yelled at people as they walked by – and I wondered about the effectiveness of her technique.
The woman responded with a polite “no, thank you” and moved on. Then a couple walked out of the building and my new GOP friend asked the same thing: “Would you like to volunteer to support the Republican Party?”
The man responded: “I don’t speak Russian.”
I laughed of course, and thought to myself that if “in bed with the Russians” has become the GOP brand among the kind of folks who vote in primary elections, perhaps a Blue Wave really is coming.
From there I began to make my way to our watch party venue to set things up. Banner up, laptop hooked to a big screen, and a beer in my hand I opened the State Board of Elections website and stared.
Vangie was ahead, by what looked like a comfortable margin. I scrolled down to see what precincts remained out and saw that neither Hanover nor Prince William had reported. We thought we would do well in Hanover so I held out hope but as the returns updated I realized pretty quickly that second would be the best John could do, and even that turned out to be overly optimistic.
So what had been a very pleasant day turned sour very quickly. Reflecting on how I’d arrived at my expectations, I realized that I’d completely missed an obvious Vangie strategy: focus on minority voters, get them out, and hope that this plus whatever votes she could capture from women would get her over the top in a low-turnout election.
Not sure what we could have done about this had this occurred to me sooner. We probably wouldn’t have been able to make many inroads with minorities (and perhaps not with women) in the current political climate. And generating high turnout as a general matter was a challenge given that all three candidates shared a Progressive vision. I can imagine a lot of voters thinking out loud to themselves, “They’re all good, so why bother?”
In any event, it’s over and Vangie won. She ran a great campaign – very savvy – and I know she’ll be an excellent candidate and a fine Congresswoman. Time to get working on the next phase.