The post-Trump Democratic Party’s revival began in Virginia in 2017. At the time, a state, local, and national backlash against the party’s racist demagogues helped win the top three races – governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general – and 15 seats in the House of Representatives missing a majority due to a tie in one district by selection the name of the winner, a Republican, from a ceramic bowl. The Democrats took over the majority of the Virginia House of Representatives delegation in 2018 and took control of the state’s General Assembly, both the House and Senate, in 2019.
But to paraphrase the old rap song: more incumbents, more problems. Now some Virginia Democrats are in a circular firing squad and progressive party insurgents are blowing up the establishment. Last week, the state electoral authority, headed by a Democrat, disqualified three House of Representatives candidates challenging Democratic incumbents over various campaigning issues. All three happen to be black. The state NAACP quickly spoke out against it “The emergence of unequal treatment of color candidates … trying to challenge incumbent lawmakers.”
The three challengers – Dr. Michael Jones, a member of the Richmond City Council, legal counsel and activist Matt Rogers of Arlington, and Cydny Neville, a member of the Dumfries City Council, of Prince William County – come from different corners of the Commonwealth and from different backgrounds. Their paperwork problems are also different – and protracted, as such problems always are. But the state board routinely granted renewals to candidates to resolve such issues – at least eight received in 2020, including GOP congressional candidates Nick Freitas (who lost) and Bob Good (who won). State law provides for a 10-day “grace period” at the discretion of the board of directors.
In exercising this discretion last year, Chairman Bob Brink described the disqualification of candidates for paperwork as a “draconian” move. “This would run counter to my personal conviction that we should as far as possible allow access to the ballot paper and let the voters decide”. Brink told The Roanoke times. “The board is between a rock and the hard place. We don’t want to be able to pick winners and losers. That is the job of the voters. “To be fair, Brink also complained that by granting the extensions, the board was” giving the scoffers a passport at the expense of the candidates who obeyed the rules. ”
But this year, for the first time in ages State Democrats have defended majorities in the General Assembly, the board suddenly turned the candidates’ paperwork problems into a capital crime, with no grace period to resolve. “I’m not going to lie,” Jones told me. When faulty papers usually doomed candidates, he returned to his life as a pastor and councilor in Richmond and took the L. But it was their practice to give extensions. Are you changing the rules in the middle of a pandemic? “The NAACP has asked the board to extend” the same way as in the past “but there is no evidence that the decision will be reconsidered.