In June, many Democrats were humming “Georgia on my Mind” in a misplaced euphoria at the prospect of a major win in a Republican congressional district. The national media fed the narrative as it painted that House race — the most expensive in history — as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.
A far better case can be made for Virginia’s fall elections as the first real test of a Democratic resurgence.
Democrats can draw positive lessons from Georgia’s special election. We built a strong infrastructure and made serious gains in a district in which we’ve never played, and we forced Republicans to invest in a race that should have been safe. Despite those efforts, however, it was still a loss.
In hindsight, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District never should have been christened the epicenter of the resistance. Rather, as Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman suggests, the number of seats Democrats pick up in Virginia’s House of Delegates is a better indicator of success.
This fall’s contests for the Virginia House are a much better investment for a party hungry for change. Consider:
- The geographic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of our competitive districts. Georgia’s 6th is a predominantly white Atlanta suburb. Here in Virginia, all 100 House of Delegates seats are up for election in 2017. We are contesting 54 districts held by Republicans, including each of the 17 Republican-held districts that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in November. These districts are spread throughout the state, from Northern Virginia to Richmond to Southwest to Virginia Beach. And they include a broad demographic mix of African American, Asian American and Latino voters who are central to the Democratic base.
Democrats can take back the House by winning the 17 Republican-held districts Clinton won in November. We need to build our party from the ground up, not the top down. This will require connecting with voters on the values they consider important and finding new ways to support hard-working people as they build a future for themselves and their families.
David J. Toscano is the Democratic leader in the Virginia House of Delegates. He represents Charlottesville and Albemarle County.