Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Well, Jefferson-Jackson suddenly became a lot more interesting

Senator Jim Webb announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2012. This comes as no surprise to those of us who worked with Jim Webb during the 2006 election. While I believe that Webb has enjoyed his time serving in the U.S. Senate, Webb simply hates to campaign. In that respect--as well in many others--Webb was the polar opposite of his 2006 opponent George Allen. Allen is the kind of professional politician who relishes the opportunity to go on the road, schmooze the voters, and then--if elected--more or less ignores the duties and work involved in the position.

Even as I write this there are those who are jumping to various wrong conclusions about this. Right wingers are--wrongly, I think--rejoicing at Webb's departure. Webb has been a great Senator for Virginia, ably representing the beliefs of most Virginians. His work for veterans alone would justify calling him one of the best Virginia senators of the past fifty years or so. Republicans seem to think that Webb's departure somehow leaves Virginia Democrats in a bad way as regards retaining Webb's senate seat.

Possibly--it will largely depend on how Democrats react to this news. There is plenty of time to find a good candidate for 2012. It is only February of 2011. That leaves plenty of time to organize a campaign and fund raise, and the Republican field up to this point has been pretty lackluster. Jamie Radtke could flame out like other Tea Party candidates (O'Donnell, Angle) and George Allen is damaged goods. There is plenty of time to find a good candidate.

There is also plenty of time to find a very bad candidate and to divide the Democratic Party with a nasty primary battle the way the party did during the 2009 Governor's race. The current DPVA Chair, Brian Moran, was the candidate who--probably more than any other--was responsible for the negative tone of the 2009 Democratic Primary. Does Moran want the nomination? But wait, it gets more complicated. Moran works full time for Harris Miller, the arch-lobbyist defeated by Jim Webb in the Democratic Primary in 2006 for the nomination to run against George Allen. Does Miller want to run again? He's got more corporate money than ever, and Moran owes him his livelihood. If Miller runs, can Moran do anything other than back him?

And there are more potential players: Tim Kaine, Tom Perriello, Bobby Scott, Donald McEachin, Rick Boucher, and hell, maybe even Glenn Nye.

Then again there's the key question of who does Mark Warner want? As last year's "race" for the party chairmanship showed, Warner isn't shy about thumping his thumb down firmly on the scales to achieve the outcome he desires.

Which is why, with all this potential intra-party intrigue, the 2011 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner just became a very hot ticket for Virginia politicos. Will Miller show up with a dozen staffers in tow? Will Warner annoint Webb's successor? It could be a wild weekend for Virginia Democrats.

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