As I watched the returns roll in for the VA Republican House of Delegate primaries, I was astonished. I did not expect the returns I saw, and I doubt many others did as well.
The weekend before I had lunch with a number of conservative bloggers and mentioned that I thought Dave LaRock was the race to watch and that I thought there was a solid shot of him winning. I got a range of responses from incredulous to confidence that May had it wrapped up. Even conservative friends in Loudoun were nervous about LaRock’s chances.
In the end, not only did LaRock win handily in a high turnout race, Mark Berg won, and Dustin Curtis was 300 votes away from winning as well. Speaker Howell told his caucus he would ensure there reelection if they voted for the transportation bill, he almost lost all three of those efforts. He lost two powerful chairmen lost their seats.
In the article I wrote for NetRight Daily, I detailed the incredible amount of party and PAC money spent to support May, Orrock, and Sherwood. All told, when you look at 2013 fundraising by the six candidates, the incumbents outraised the challengers approximately $444,703.00 to $128,361.00. Outraising your opponents 3.5 to 1, should enable entrenched incumbents to defeat their incumbents handily. This is particularly true when the challengers periodically gave their supporters severe cases of heartburn.
While there were definitely more factors than just HB 2313, the transportation bill was definitely a major factor. The challengers largely decided to run as a result of the vote, ran aggressively on the vote, and Speaker Howell even raised money specifically to defend those who voted for the bill.
There was a wave of sorts that helped candidates who had much of the deck stacked against them, from fundraising to time to campaign, do incredibly well. Were there more factors than just the vote including district changes, and other votes by the delegates? Of course. But “while HB2313 was not THE factor, it certainly was A factor. Without it, the four House members would probably not have been challenged.” I would contend without that vote, the energy that elected Berg and LaRock and almost elected Curtis would not have been there.
Is Speaker Howell going to get challenged before the 2014 session? Of course not. However, when these elections did do was show that party money will not guarantee an incumbents reelection. It also told challengers that they can defeat entrenched incumbents as long as they work hard even if they are outraised. This should make for some very interesting dynamics in 2015 when conservatives have the time to recruit candidates. (Remember there was only a month between the transportation vote and the end of the filing deadline which is a short time frame to decide to kick a campaign in gear.) These dynamics could put things in motion for some very interesting leadership fights in 2015. Also will the lack of confidence in the Speaker’s ability to protect them after votes that piss off the base make Delegates think twice about violating their principles?
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a mention of a major part of LaRock’s win, his campaign manager. I’ve known Daniel Davies for years, and when I first heard that LaRock was running in early February, knowing that Davies was managing gave me confidence in the campaigns chance of success. While Dave LaRock is relatively new to politics, Daniel Davies is a veteran of many campaigns and kept the campaign focussed and hitting doors during what turned into a tempestuous campaign. Daniel is a guy to watch over the coming years.