As the dust settles from the 2011 campaigns I want to offer you my gratitude for your unwavering support of our Democratic candidates and the causes that bring us together as a party. Having driven about every inch of this Commonwealth over the last several weeks I had a chance to witness first hand just how hard you were working right up to when the polls closed on Tuesday.
As we speak, the fate of the Senate is still undecided. The race between a respected public servant Senator Edd Houck and his opponent Bryce Reeves remains too close to call as officials continue to work on a canvass of the vote.
While we wait for the final conclusion of that race there are many reasons for Democrats to be proud. Prior to Tuesday’s elections prominent Republicans were going on the record stating that Democrats would lose between 5 and 9 seats in the State Senate. Despite facing down millions of dollars at least 20 of our 22 Democratic Senators earned another term. That is a remarkable achievement considering the difficult environment of the past two years and the enormous effort the Republicans made to discredit and tear down effective Democratic leaders like Phil Puckett, Dave Marsden, George Barker, John Miller, Toddy Puller and others who stood tall and persevered.
In addition to our Senate victories, Democrats from around the Commonwealth won local offices that will empower them to make a real difference in the lives of the families in their communities. Each of our candidates for local office deserves our thanks and congratulations, but there is one I would like to mention. Shannon Taylor joined the race for Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney very late and she was up against the full might of Eric Cantor’s political machine. Few people gave her much of a chance against such long odds but despite all that she prevailed and will be a phenomenal chief prosecutor for Henrico. Shannon’s victory is a testament to the Democratic Party of Virginia’s commitment to doing more for local candidates and we will continue that commitment in 2012 and beyond.
There were also reasons to be disappointed. As a former House member I am distressed at the composition of the House. We need to rebuild just as we did last decade when we held as few as 34 seats but worked over three election cycles to be within striking distance of the majority. We start today recruiting and developing candidates to run in 2013. On a personal note, my good friend Ward Armstrong fought valiantly after being redistricted into a heavily Republican area but was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to return to the House.
If indeed we end up with a tied Senate it will be more important than ever for us to work together. We must fight for an agenda that creates opportunity for every person. I hope you will take a moment and reflect on the enormity of the challenges we faced together this year and the many reasons for Democrats to be energized and optimistic heading into the future.
Many people have asked me what this election means for 2012. I sincerely believe that we will prevail next year. Despite Governor McDonnell pouring millions of dollars to attack our Democratic incumbents our grassroots community of Democrats stepped up and answered the call to mobilize Democratic voters. Next year we can increase voter turnout by more than two fold giving Barack Obama and Tim Kaine the support they need to once again win in Virginia.
Let’s resolve to take the energy created during this election cycle to power on to 2012 and make Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family.