By Stephen Spitz, PDA Virginia State Co-Coordinator
Jim Webb will be the next U.S. senator from Virginia and so the Democratic Party will take control of the Senate with a 51-49 majority. Webb won by 7,236 and we in PDA in Virginia can certainly take credit for that critical margin:
1. In early 2005, we made "Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq" our top issue priority for 2005 and 2006. At a time when practically no one else in Virginia thought that this issue would help Democratic candidates in the 2006 elections in Virginia, we did.
We marched in demonstrations in DC and sponsored vigils in Virginia. In May 2005, we introduced successful withdraw-the-troops resolutions in several congressional districts in Democratic conventions - including two where powerful Republican incumbents held sway, the 11th and the 5th.
In early 2006, we persuaded Rep. Jim Moran in the 8th CD to introduce a successful resolution requiring the Defense Department to report to the Congress what it was doing in Iraq. In May 2006, we held a well-attended forum on the war in Iraq between the two Democratic candidates in the 11th CD, which propelled the issue of the war front and center in the campaign.
2. We endorsed the 11th CD Democratic candidate Andrew Hurst and the 5th CD Democratic candidate Al Weed, as well as PDA Virginia founding member Shawn O'Donnell in the 1st CD. All of these progressives won contested primary races. Our three excellent PDA-endorsed congressional candidates all talked early and often about the war in Iraq, both before and after the primaries.
That was the main reason each became the Democratic nominee and is probably the main reason why each garnered more support in this general election against entrenched Republican opponents than Democratic candidates have in those districts in many years. We registered voters, held major fundraisers, and canvassed for all three candidates.
Jo Anne Davis in the 1st was unopposed in 2004 and the Democratic Committee did not want to run anyone again in 2006. With very little money, however, O'Donnell garnered 35% of the vote in this rock-ribbed Republican district in 2006. Without any money from the national Party, with no network television advertising, despite a fiercely negative campaign against him, and despite being outspent 10-1, Hurst gained 44% of the vote against Rep. Tom Davis in the 11th CD, a five-point gain over the 2004 Democratic candidate! As a result, it is widely believed that this will be Davis' last term in Congress and that he will either try to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 or cash out with some of the fat cats who bankroll him.
Weed won an incredible 40% of the vote against Rep. Virgil Goode in the rural conservative Republican 5th CD, a six-point improvement over his 2004 showing against Goode. By increasing the blue vote in these red districts, we clearly energized an emerging Democratic electorate to come out to vote for Webb and the Democratic congressional candidates.
3. We persuaded members of peace groups such as Northern Virginians for Peace and Justice to support our endorsed anti-Iraq war candidates and strong prospective Green party candidates not to run against our endorsed Democratic candidates.
4. We won the respect of the Democratic Party structure in the state. PDA member jointly co-sponsored fundraisers with the vice chair for finance of the state party for Weed, O'Donnell, and Hurst. This money really meant something to these under-funded challengers.
Hurst trumpeted his endorsement by PDA as the lead item on his website and as his lead comment in his appearance before hundreds of Democratic Party committee members in the state's largest jurisdiction by far, Fairfax County. We set up tables at the party's State Central Committee meeting where we discussed PDA objectives with members.
5. Numerous PDA members worked hard to elect our three endorsed congressional candidates and to elect Webb to the Senate. We spread the word after meeting with Webb and his Democratic primary opponent that Webb would be a much better candidate in large part because of his opposition to the Iraq war. We got activists energized in the campaign, especially in the 11th, 1st, and 5th CDs where the Democratic Party has become to use to losing congressional races.
Although we did not win any of their races, the strong showings of Weed, Hurst and O'Donnell in their respective districts propelled Webb to his narrow statewide victory and thus the Democrats to control of the Senate.
And so, while we celebrate Tuesday's election results, and thank particularly the large numbers of you who worked for Andrew Hurst, Al Weed, Shawn O'Donnell and who have signed the STOP FUNDING WAR online petition: http://pdamerica.org/petition/mcgovern-petition.php, we must begin to compel Congress to take action to cut off funding of the war - NOW!
Stephen Spitz is the PDA Virginia State Co-Coordinator