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Once Upon A Time In DemocratLand…

By Greg L | 1 March 2007 | PWCDC | 5 Comments

The Gainesville Times has an amusing letter to the editor from James Walkinshaw, who is the Gainesville chairman of the PWCDC and Jeff Dion’s former campaign manager. Clearly concerned about public perceptions of disarray and confusion within the county democrats, he stretches long and hard to try to reassure his demoralized fellow travellers and gloss over the challenges that the PWCDC is faced with, but apparently doing little to address. While Walkinshaw chides the Gainesville Times for not doing enough research on the local political landscape and coming to a conclusion he disagrees with, the source material for his rebuttal seems to have come from “The Brother’s Grimm”.

First Walkinshaw claims that for the first time in memory Democrats will challenge every Republican office holder in the county. While that might conceivably happen, I’m not hearing much in the way of challengers for county constitutional offices such as Sheriff and Court Clerk, nor does there seem to be movement in finding challengers for county supervisors or school board other than in Gainesville. Perhaps Walkinshaw is personally managing these campaigns, which would explain why there’s been so little visibility on these candidates. Walkinshaw’s claim is absurd. Only in fairyland can there be found enough volunteers for political martyrdom sufficient to run credible Democrats in all of these races — the effort a frog hunt like this would require would be truly extraordinary.

Walkinshaw then goes on to discuss several races where in his fantasy world the Democrats are in good shape. Chuck Colgan, if he succumbs to the pressure to go for another term from the DPVA instead of retiring with his $20 million in proceeds from the sale of Colgan Air, faces a strong challenge from Bob Fitzsimmonds. This is the race where Democrats have the best chances for success, where their candidate doesn’t even want to run for the office. Bruce Roemmelt and Jeanette Rishell are trotted out as encouraging challengers even though they’ve failed pretty badly before as far-left “social justice” crusaders against well-financed and popular incumbents. Then the unknown and inexperienced Corey Riley is revealed as a challenger to Supervisor John Stirrup, which seems to give Walkinshaw cause for optimism. If running folks from the communist wing of the PWCDC who have never served in elected office against popular incumbents gives Walkinshaw cause for hope, his trek down the yellow brick road will certainly be long and fruitless.

Walkinshaw’s misplaced optimism is hardly a novelty. Recently he’s been campaign manager for Jeff Dion (thumped 57-43% in ‘07), Andy Hurst (crushed 55-44% in ‘06), and Bruce Roemmelt (whipped 56-44% in ‘05), all races where he regaled the press with his convictions that victory was certain, and that the Walkinshaw magic was certain to deliver a historic upset. Instead he’s delivered nothing but failure, which has somehow made him the “golden boy” of local Democrats who just can’t seem to get it through their skulls that this guy is nothing but a perennial loser.

From the unremarkable heights of his chairmanship of the Gainesville Democrats, James Walkinshaw has regaled us with a wonderful tale that lacks only in the requisite opening “once upon a time.” If Democrats are serious about mounting serious challenges to Republicans in the future, they’re going to have to find someone offering more than fairy tales to help them do it.

UPDATE: Not Larry Sabato adds that Walkinshaw apparently got hired by Gerry Connolly and will bring his considerable talents and skills to Fairfax. No word yet on when the celebration will be held at the FCRC…

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  1. Anonymous said on 1 Mar 2007 at 2:07 pm:
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    Democrats in PWC have the record of the Republican party in PWC that has been in the majority for the last 15 years to run against. A record that doesn’t look too great when light is cast upon it. In addition to that the demographics, etc. are all starting to shift Democratic in PWC.

    There are numerous Democrats running for office that will be announcing soon. One indiviudal running for Clerk of the Clerk is actually more qualified than Lucy and McQuigg. I think you will be suprised by the quality and depth of the Democratic bench this year.

  2. Turn PW Blue said on 1 Mar 2007 at 2:24 pm:
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    Well, there was a potential candidate for Brentsville School Board who would have gone after the Democractic Party’s endorsement(me), but work circumstances won’t allow me to devote the time and energy necessary to a campaign or the office, so I’m not running. Couple this with the fact that School Board, which is supposed to be non-partisan, has turned into a training ground for candidates with grander ambitions rather than a place for actually making sure our schools run well and teach our kids. Party affiliation seems to mean more than ideas. Heck, there’s a sitting member of the School Board who doesn’t have enough faith in the schools he helps run to have his own children attend them (Dr. Otaigbe’s children attend private school). This trend, however, is another story for another day.

    But you’re right in a few regards. If Democrats want to actually pose credible challenges, we’ve got to work on organization at the lowest levels and not focus so much on central party leadership or county-level squabbles. Organizing at the precinct level, not just the Magesterial District level is the first step. Get people energized for their local candidates and draw on the support seen for Webb and Kaine within in the County. Field candidates in the mold of someone like Jim Webb or Mark Warner who clearly were not “traditional” Democrats and hold appeal across party lines, even in areas where someone as conservative as Bob Marshall sits as an encumbent.

    The final piece is to put together the support and funding network to actually put together a respectable campaign. A Democrat in Brentsville, for instance, will have a hard time matching the developer gifts to a candidate like Wally Covington and the geographic size of the Brentsville District makes it a little harder to mount a door-to-door campaign. Let’s face it. Campaigns in Northern Virginia are expensive and the Republican Party seems to be a bit better at getting large donors(whether they live in the district or even in the state or not) to pony up the cash needed to mount a campaign.

    I’m not sure I’d be so quick to write-off some candidates though. While Marshall had a comfortable margin the last time around, Roemmelt (brand new to the scene) did pretty well against an entrenched encumbent. The traditional cannon fodder put up against such entrenched encumbents usually clock in around 30-35%. Marshall’s “no” vote on the transportation bill may haunt him (whether you like the bill or not, for those not familiar with the details, it will be spun that Marshall voted against a transportation solution at a time when his constituents really want transportation answers).

  3. James W. said on 1 Mar 2007 at 4:35 pm:
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    I didn’t mean to say that we would have challengers for every Republican in the County. I was speaking merely in regard to the Gainesville District. Looking back at the letter, my language could have been a bit more precise on that point.

    And, just for the record, I’ve never used the term “Walkinshaw magic” whilst “regaling” the press (or for any other purpose). It would be kinda funny if I did though…

  4. Dittyman said on 2 Mar 2007 at 11:36 pm:
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    Just wondering, is Jeff Dion intending to run again? I still see plenty of his signs sitting around. Is he intending to run again in November or is his campaign too pathetic to pick up the signs in compliance with Virginia law?

  5. Greg L said on 2 Mar 2007 at 11:41 pm:
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    Pathetic is what comes to mind for me.

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