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Too Much Is at Stake in Virginia for a Blackout in Coverage

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By Lowell Feld & Cliff Schecter

Remember how much coverage the national progressive blogosphere gave the Anthony Weiner special election in NY-09 a few weeks ago? A great deal! How about the New York 23rd Congressional District special election? Again, this one got enormous coverage in the national progressive blogosphere. Or, we can go back to 2005, when the "Mean Jean" Schmidt vs. Paul Hackett special election for Congress from Ohio's 2nd district got wall-to-wall coverage in the national progressive blogosphere.

These were all more-than-worthy endeavors -- and they deserved the fantastic coverage they got. But have we not yet learned from groups like ALEC and union-busting in many states -- among dozens of examples -- the price we will pay if we don't similarly pay attention to key state legislative races going on right now?

We have what you could all a "situation" in Virginia right now, where we've got just 8 days to go until absolutely crucial elections determine whether Republicans and Tea Partiers grab monolithic control of this crucial, "purple," swing state, a state won by President Obama in 2008 and that has elected Democrats to both Senate seats and in key House races. Yet, despite the clear importance of these elections, as well as the fact that there are few other significant elections are occurring in 8 days to draw attention away (ironically the Ohio Issue 2 election is then -- a result, at least somewhat, of not protecting the state house in Ohio), there's been little discussion in the national progressive netroots community, let alone the all-out effort we've seen in so many other races over the past few years on these contests.

A bit of background. In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine won the governor's mansion, in large part helped by the contributions of Virginia progressive, netroots activists. Then, in 2006, the netroots-fueled Draft James Webb movement managed to knock off both the establishment Democratic candidate AND George "Felix Macacawitz" Allen, winning back control of the U.S. Senate in the process. The surge continued in 2007, when Virginia Democrats picked up 4 seats in the State Senate - taking control of that body for the first time since 1999! -- and 4 seats in the (still-Republican-controlled) House of Delegates. Then, in 2008, came the culmination, with Democrats winning Virginia's other U.S. Senate seat, as well as control of Virginia's U.S. House of Representatives delegation (by a 6-5 margin), and also handing Virginia's 13 electoral votes to Barack Obama for president. Not too shabby for this former "red state."

Since 2008, of course, Democrats have suffered some major setbacks nationally, including the loss of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, and those losses have not spared Virginia. Still, the state remains a crucial, "purple" swing state heading into 2012, one which both parties would love to put into their column, and one whose governor, Bob McDonnell (aka, "Pat Robertson's Manchurian Candidate"), very well could be on the Republican's 2012 presidential ticket. (Something to remember -- McDonnell got his start in the Virginia House of Delegates, as did Eric Cantor and Allen.)

But first, before we get to 2012, Virginia holds elections for its entire General Assembly on November 8 -- just over 1 week from now. The amount of money being poured into this state by national right-wing and Republican groups is staggering, as they very well know how much is at stake here. Unfortunately, Democrats are lagging far behind, notwithstanding the tremendous efforts of folks like Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe, who just raised $1 million for Virginia Democrats. The result of the Virginia Republicans' money advantage: they get to spread the playing field, attack potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and increase their chances of picking up the 3 State Senate seats they need to take absolute control of Virginia.

How bad could things get in Virginia if Republicans and Tea Partiers sweep next Tuesday? Well, imagine extremists like Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a truly frightening character, run amok? Imagine raving homophobes like Dick Black (also infamous for sending plastic fetuses to legislators as part of his anti-abortion efforts) around in the State Senate. Imagine gun nut agendas like these making their way into law in Virginia. Imagine Karl Rove's "one woman wrecking crew" with greatly enhanced powers. Imagine harsh anti-immigrant legislation like this becoming law. Imagine radical groups like ALEC using Virginia as a laboratory for the rest of the country.

With all of this at stake, you'd think that there would be tremendous interest about Virginia's General Assembly elections on the Left. Instead, what we're getting is mostly the sound of crickets chirping.

Seriously, folks, there is essentially NO COVERAGE of the crucial Virginia General Assembly elections on national progressive blogs, and I think it's because people do not know what's at stake here.

The question is, with just over a week to go, will we rise to the occasion and help Virginia Democrats keep control of the State Senate? Crucial races include the ones listed here. As you can see, there are several races that will likely determine whether the Tea Party Republicans take control of Virginia on November 8. Right now, it's touch-and-go whether we can stop them, but we're fighting hard. We could really use some national, progressive activist "love," though, there's no doubt about it. If you're interested, you can start by letting people know about this piece. You can also volunteer for or donate to the candidate(s) of your choice (there are some great progressives running; find out more about them at Blue Virginia). Thanks folks.