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52nd District Outlook

By Greg L | 27 October 2009 | 52nd HOD District | 17 Comments

The 52nd district has been one of the the sleeper races in Virginia.  With the retirement of Jeff Frederick, the conventional wisdom has been that Democrat Luke Torian would take this race in a walk.  Not only hasn’t he “sealed the deal” in this district, but despite a significant fundraising advantage and a black church in the community effectively acting as his campaign staff Torian hasn’t connected with the voters, leaving Republican Raphael Lopez within striking distance.  With a huge pool of undecided voters late in the game and a broader dynamic in Virginia favoring Republicans, this has actually turned into quite a battleground that is potentially depriving Democrats of the one pick-up they expected to get this election cycle.

Luke Torian is a pretty poor nominee for this district when you consider Democrats had better alternatives to pick from and Torian has enough political baggage to fill a bus.  Rumors about infidelity, maintaining an extravagant lifestyle while serving as a church pastor, and his behavior at a local golf club swirl around this district while members of Torian’s congegation wrestle with Torian’s recent announced support of homosexuality, amnesty for illegal aliens, and other doctrinal deviations not to mention the novel idea of someone both serving as a pastor and as an elected official.  A strong opponent would demolish someone like Torian, whose only political experience prior to running was helping to organize an ecumenical group supporting the cause of granting amnesty to illegal aliens.

Raphael Lopez hasn’t quite brought that challenge.  Most notable has been his lackluster fundraising, but his campaign has seemed to be operating on life support for months aside from the financial weakness of his campaign, and his performance in debates (when his opponent has bothered to show up for them) has been pretty lackluster.  Lopez has consistently looked like a nice guy who simply didn’t have the experience or demeanor to qualify for the “A” team list of candidates.  That’s not to say he wouldn’t be a fine legislator, but we elect candidates, not legislators.  There’s a difference.

The race has gone from sleeper to highly active in the past few weeks, however.  Torian blew off the NAACP debate (without any advance notice) in order to attend a cocktail reception hosted by developers.  The RPV crowd noticed that somehow Lopez was still in the margin of error with a lot of undecideds in the district and poured in money to get Lopez commercials on cable and establish his direct mail operation, seeing this as a potentially fruitful battleground rather than the hopeless cause it looked like before.  Now we’ve got the Republican state-wide ticket showing up in this week in the district to rally the electorate, indicating that not only is this one winnable, but worthy of the investment of time by all three state-wide Republicans on the ticket.  This doesn’t happen when this looks like a loser.  It happens only when it looks like with just a little effort, this one can go into the “win” column pretty strongly.

In 2007 Jeff Frederick carried this district 59-41 against a candidate not too unlike Torian.  Match Lopez up to Frederick and you begin to understand why the dynamic has shifted here so much from 2007.  While this isn’t a district that you’d consider a typical bastion of conservatism, Frederick had great constituent service, presented himself really well, and has been a really great campaigner and fundraiser.  Above all, he got the turnout in precincts like Washington-Reid and Henderson to break for him in a huge way that just swamped election results across the district.  While Lopez is clearly not garnering the same level of support Jeff Frederick received in the past, there’s the impact of the state-wide ticket that considerably helps to make up that ground.

This district has a turnout model that shows that unless you drag these voters to the polls, in a lot of precincts voters are simply not going to show up.  Obama’s outstanding effort last year got voters to come out of the woodwork in this district but by all indications those Obama voters are not going to be there this year.  Neither Torian, Deeds, Wagner nor Shannon has gotten folks energized in Woodbridge, and there’s no evidence they’re going to change from being bored with the whole elections thing and stay home to suddenly showing up at the polls in this off-year election.  The Republicans have done considerably better, but to a large extent this district seems to want to take a year off from the annual election game in Virginia.

The dependable turnout precincts all favor the Republican ticket, and none favor the Democrats, and Lopez is going to benefit from this.  He really needs this support that will be generated from McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli and provide him with about a ten point turnout boost.  Without that, he’d likely be down 8-10 points.  That makes this the nail-biter of Prince William County, where this is about an even race than hinges on what the state-wide tickets can do in their get-out-the-vote effort.  A lot of predictable Frederick voters wouldn’t get all that excited about Raphael Lopez, but they will show up for McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli and probably pull the lever for Lopez as well.  That could put Lopez over the top, but it’s going to be close.

Given that the state-wide ticket is showing up for a last week of the campaign push and the effort that seems to be focused on this district, my suspicion is that Republicans think Lopez could carry this district by 3-5 percentage points with a good last-minute push and a solid GOTV effort.  The decision to invest in this district in such a way isn’t being made hastily, especially when you consider that Fairfax county has a lot of seats in play and are very competitive investments.  McDonnell could be there instead of in Woodbridge, but he’s choosing Woodbridge for a reason.  He thinks Lopez can win, and the results there could bolster his state-wide numbers in a meaningful way, perhaps more than some of the competitive venues in Fairfax county.

I’m expecting Lopez will narrowly win this district within a couple of points, but it’s going to take every last ounce of effort by Republicans in the last week to make this happen.  So far, it looks like Republicans are committed to making that happen, but keep your eye on this one.  If Republicans win the 52nd, they’ll make a clean sweep of Prince William County, including the 51st district.

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  1. Bwana said on 28 Oct 2009 at 8:34 am:
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    I think this race is the Canary in the Coal Mine for the Democrats. If they can’t grab this seat, they are in deep kimche in areas with stronger GOP candidates/operations.

  2. Not SPLC said on 28 Oct 2009 at 9:44 am:
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    I don’t think either of them are that great.

  3. Not SPLC said on 28 Oct 2009 at 10:43 am:
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    Republican Robert F. McDonnell has now opened a 13-point lead over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds with less than a week to go in the race for governor of Virginia.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state - taken last night just after President Obama made a campaign appearance for Deeds in the state - shows McDonnell ahead 54% to 41%. Only four percent (4%) remain undecided.

  4. J.B. Miller said on 28 Oct 2009 at 12:17 pm:
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    If any seat needs to be rallied for its this one. If Frederick wants to ever get back in political graces, he would get behind Rafael, and pull this one out for the team. That would be of great redeeming value for Amy and Jeff Frederick.

    Needless to say, Rafael is the better choice here as far as the people go, he has been there to speak to them and listen to their needs. Torian has dodged, the press at every turn in hopes that information such as this does not get out, only proving it is true. In the primary members of his church openly stated they signed petitions to get his name on the ballot at church meeting at First Mount Zion Baptist Church. Torian’s refusal to provide his churches 990 tax form to the public as stated by the law, also gives off red flags. And VOICES, the organization Torian is a founding member of has been mentioned several times as an affiliate of ACORN in the public hearings now being aired on CSPAN. This type of conduct by Torian could not possibly benefit any community.

    We need republicans to get on board, and get out and vote for Rafael Lopez come Nov. 3rd. McDonnell is doing his part, now we need to come out for both Lopez and McDonnell to do our part.

  5. Amused said on 28 Oct 2009 at 1:24 pm:
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    Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Fredericks to come support Rafael! It won’t help either of them; therefore, it’s a waste of their time!!!

  6. Matt said on 28 Oct 2009 at 1:53 pm:
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    As a resident of this district I can share a couple items you didn’t cover in this otherwise decent analysis. The Potomac precinct, which is the most democratic in the district, also has some of the best turn out percentages. It is also split pretty equally between black and white residents. Torian has been absent in this precinct other than his lackluster direct mail program focusing on bringing metro to PWC (which is such a ridiculous idea), and a terrible set of auto dials. His people do not walk the neighborhood (Southbridge which makes up over 60% of the population for this precinct), there are no signs, and if you weren’t paying attention you’d have no idea a campaign was being waged here.

    One of the key precincts to watch is Dumfries. Frederick was able to break even here even though this is a relatively poor, diverse, and typically democratic precinct in Federal elections. Deeds and the other “leaders” of the democratic ticket have done zilch to motivate the African-American community and the demise of democratic candidates in the 52nd will likely start here. Couple that with Lopez being most well known in this precinct, this precinct could actually give some life to his chances

    Another thing I’ll be looking for is how the folks in Wash-Reid and Henderson split their votes. Henderson has a large over 55 community that tends to vote dem, Torian has spent alot of time here with large dollar fundraisers (that have pissed off a lot of not so well off residents). If he can’t pull at least 45% here and in Wash-Reid Torian is toast.

    The general problem with this race is neither candidate is qualified. I still don’t know who I will vote for. I think Lopez is an empty suit and I loathe the idea of having a pastor as an elected official. Lopez has no ideas, and Torian’s are unworkable. At least with Jeff I knew what I was getting; even though we disagreed on policy I could always count on him to be excellent with constituent service and honest about our differences. At least Jeff believed in something; Torian and Lopez have no clue.

  7. Pam said on 28 Oct 2009 at 1:53 pm:
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    Politics is such a dirty game. Why anyone would want to run nowadays is beyond me, but somebody’s got to do it. You can expect all of the haters and naysayers to emerge. Luke Torian, my pastor, is the best man for the job!!!

  8. J.B. Miller said on 28 Oct 2009 at 3:47 pm:
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    Thats great you support your Pastor, too bad youcan’t say that for the other half of your church. So being your so good with your Pastor, have you seen your 990 tax form, and can you name your associate pastors?
    I’m just looking for a trust worthy person to represent me, cant say I believe your Pastor can do that, so I’m voting for Rafael Lopez.

  9. Slick said on 28 Oct 2009 at 4:50 pm:
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    If you support gay marriage vote Torian.

  10. Ron Homan said on 28 Oct 2009 at 6:52 pm:
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    Neither one of them gets the juices running. 95% of the blacks will vote for color and the district is pretty heavy in blacks. With all of Torian’s metro crap he will probably walk away with it because most of the district thinks he can go to Richmond and get the bucks. I will vote for Lopez but not with much enthusiasm.

  11. Riley said on 28 Oct 2009 at 11:08 pm:
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    Latest polls in this district that run through Sun. 10/25 have McDonnell +5 and Lopez tied with Torian.

  12. Big Dog said on 29 Oct 2009 at 11:52 am:
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    Noted in today’s WaPo voter’s voter guide that under
    “What is the most urgent problem facing your jurisdiction?”
    Rev. Torian focused on transportation with his “plan”
    led by those two old warhorses - bringing Metro to PWC and
    “fighting for our fair share in Richmond” .

    - Unless he is tight with a Saudi Prince, there is no money for
    the massive cost of bringing Metro to PWC, even as popular
    as it sounds. What is his funding source?

    - Everyone will fight for their share of the meager funds in
    Richmond. Donor jurisdictions like PWC need to focus on
    the 2010 Census - get our fair share of representation and
    and we will get our fair share of resources in Richmond - not

  13. Casanova Frankenstein said on 29 Oct 2009 at 12:15 pm:
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    Torian’s thugs have torn down Lopez signs throughout the Town of Dumfries along Route 1 (including several that were out of the right of way on private property) and put up a ghastly number of Torian signs in their places.

    I guess that if you believe what Greg said above about Torian’s personal life, you can add another Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal, to the list that Pastor Torian doesn’t tell others to obey.

  14. Casanova Frankenstein said on 29 Oct 2009 at 12:19 pm:
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    Oh, one more thing. Perhaps Torian’s thugs are putting up this ghastly number of signs because they’re trying to use them up before Election Day and they can’t find anyone who wants one in their yard beyond the dozen or so that he has been able to pawn off on his congregation.

  15. J. B. Miller said on 29 Oct 2009 at 3:35 pm:
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    Casanova Frankenstein, you are so right. I noticed the same thing with the signs a few weeks back. I must say this is poor behavior for any person let alone a Pastor and or his campaign. To think some feel he will be a good leader, well someone ought to tell him that this is a public service job not leadership. Thus he will be working for the people if elected.
    I have heard that those behind these deeds are more so some old Hillary Clinton campaign workers that are part of his campaign that have been up to these types of deeds, including munipulating numbers on polls, newspaper commenting etc, and calling in others they have worked with to help with the same.

  16. Not So Amused said on 5 Nov 2009 at 1:12 pm:
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    Amused, you haven’t a clue. Amy and Jeff worked hard to elect Rich Anderson. He headlined a fundraiser for Lopez. Publically endorsed him (see the newspaper article on that?). Yet, if you know the history between the Fredericks and Lopez, you’d know that Jeff had every reason to not only not endorse, but to maybe even go in the opposite direction.

  17. ACTS said on 6 Nov 2009 at 1:06 pm:
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    I’ve known Jeff and Amy for a while, mostly through their charitable work, so I disagree with those that think they only do things for themselves. They’ve been very giving of their time and personal money for various causes seeking no recognition.

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