Story by Chris Graham
The 27th Senate District is still a Republican Senate district – but that doesn’t mean that Democrats will throw in the towel following the bitter defeat of nominee Karen Schultz in Tuesday’s election.
“If a Democrat can show that they’re viable, and they can attract the state Democratic Party, and with that comes people like the former governor, who came into our area – if you can show that you’re viable, and Karen did that very early on, she raised money, and she got the attention of the state party – when the state party moves into an area with a viable Democratic candidate, the Democratic Party can be, as was shown in this race, competitive in many of these races,” Shenandoah University political-science professor Bill Shendow said in an interview for this week’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”
I had just asked him a question prefaced by my own analysis of Democratic activity and inactivity in the Central Shenandoah Valley GOP stronghold in 2005 and 2007. Dems in 2005 backed several candidates in local House of Delegates races, including committing more than $200,000 to Rockingham County delegate candidate Lowell Fulk in a run for the open seat in the 26th District – before pulling back in 2007 to the point where the party didn’t run anybody in the five delegates races on the ballot in Augusta County and Rockingham County and let its two Senate nominees in the 24th and 26th go basically on their own against well-heeled GOP incumbents.
What happens in the Northern Shenandoah Valley in the 27th in the next couple of cycles will be worth watching – since Democrats helped Schultz amass a campaign warchest of nearly $900,000 and sent Gov. Tim Kaine and former governor and 2008 U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner to Winchester to campaign on her behalf and still saw their nominee fall short in the end.
But Shendow felt all along that Schultz was fighting an uphill battle against Republican nominee Jill Holtzman Vogel.
“Going into this race, I would have said that even with the hard-hitting, aggressive campaign run by Karen, I still thought Jill was the favorite. I thought there’d been some changes, but not sufficient enough to tilt it in Karen’s favor to put it in the Democratic column,” Shendow said.
“That’s pretty much as it worked out – very heavily contested. What had happened for the first time in a long time was that both parties, the Democratic Party in particular, had gotten involved. Normally they had written off this area, but they did get involved in Karen’s race, and provided her with some consulting, some money, and that made a difference – she ran a very aggressive campaign,” Shendow said.
“Jill Vogel was a very viable candidate from the beginning – so not only were the Democrats try to snuff out a candidate, they were trying to defeat a very viable Republican candidate in a normally reliable Republican district,” Shendow said.
If Democrats got any good news in the 27th on Election Night, it was from Loudoun County – where Schultz was able to pull a majority of voters in an area that now has to be looked at as leaning Democrat.
“Loudoun County appears to be becoming a Democratic county – and some of that may be seeping over the mountain as well. And that had some effect on Clarke County, where Karen ran well, and the city of Winchester has become a very competitive area, at least at the state and local level,” Shendow said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.