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Monday, January 3, 2011

Democrats gearing up for challenging year

Fairfax County Democratic leaders are gearing up for a tough fight in the state legislature and Congress after a bruising election that saw huge gains by the Republicans. At the Fairfax County Democratic Committee’s annual Road to Richmond Breakfast at the Springfield Golf and Country Club yesterday, Brian Moran, the new chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, vowed to “stop the red tide.”

Moran plans to “promote a positive Democratic message” and “remind Virginia voters of the litany of accomplishments” of Democratic leadership, such as balanced budgets and triple A bond ratings.

Despite all the doom and gloom, the recent election had at least one bright spot for Fairfax County Democrats: Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents most of Annandale, was re-elected to a second term in Congress.

“Winning, like losing, is a passing phenomenon in politics,” Connolly said, noting that the Tea Partiers will soon see what they’ve gotten into when they have to begin dealing with the debt ceiling in February. “There is going to be some buyers’ remorse after this election,” he predicted.

“We have to be as passionate as the Tea Party about what we believe,” Connolly said. “Every vote is about values and choices,” he said, noting that his first vote in Congress was for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act law and his last vote of the session was to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

He blames the Democrats’ poor showing in the last election on failing to get the right message out. “We need to address people’s fears, not dismiss them,” he said, noting that some people actually believed the health reform bill would have created “death panels.”

Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the Democrats should have done a better job publicizing the accomplishments of the Obama Administration, such as the landmark health reform law, the middle-class tax cuts, the auto company bailout, and the stimulus, adding that the taxpayers ultimately made $12 billion on the TARP. He called Connolly’s win a “a tremendous election victory,” noting that the Republicans put an enormous amount of energy and money into defeating the first-term Democrat.

Meanwhile, it’s going to be very tough year for Democrats in Richmond. The budget will dominate the session said Sen. Janet Howell (32nd district). “We have a governor who thinks we have a surplus” and “wants to pull out a credit card and bond everything,” she said while recent analyses show the state budget needs to be cut by $300 million.

“We’re facing budget problems we’ve not seen in a while,” said Del. Jim Scott (53rd district). He said the Republican governor’s transportation plan involves taking money from the general fund for a short-term fix.

“It will be difficult to make much progress in the House,” Scott said, now that the Republicans have captured a majority. But the Democrats still have control of the Senate with 22 seats, compared to 18 Republicans.

“This is your year if you like politics,” said Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Every member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate are up for election, along with all of the of the county supervisors and every member of the Fairfax County School Board. Regarding the budget battles in Richmond, Bulova’s message to the state legislature is “please do no harm.”

The primaries have been delayed until after redistricting, which will occur later this year, after the new Census data comes out in February. Howell said the legislature will hold a special session in April to work on redistricting. Whatever plan is agreed upon must then be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Howell predicts the Republicans will mount a court challenge. The county magisterial districts are being redistricted, too, and former Board of Supervisors Chair Kate Hanley is chair of the Fairfax County redistricting committee.

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