Where there’s smoke…

Where there’s smoke…

You remember November 2008, right? That magical time of hope and rejoicing for Virginia’s once-beleaguered Democrats, who rode a wave of Obama-inspired optimism to record gains, and even managed to knock off their arch-nemesis, Charlottesville’s longtime U.S. Representative (and Albemarle County Fair glad-handing champion) Virgil H. Goode, Jr., the one-time Democrat who switched parties in 2002 with the joyous abandon of Darth Vader embracing the dark side.

Well, the Old Dominion’s excited assortment of delighted donkeys might just want to frame a picture of that stunning upset and hang it on their collective wall, because it seems that

every passing day since the election has revealed just a little bit more of the chaos and disarray that was once the party’s stock in trade.

The latest embarrassing hiccup to disturb the Democrats’ newfound euphoria arrived with the January 13 special election to replace Del. Brian Moran, who recently quit Virginia’s House to campaign for governor full time. Now, this election should have been a Democratic slam-dunk, seeing as Moran’s Alexandria-area district favored Obama by a lopsided 72 percent margin, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. In fact, the eventual victor, Democratic lawyer Charniele Herring, captured the seat by the thinnest of hairs, winning by a margin of only 16 votes out of over 2,600 cast.

Yes, there were mitigating factors galore: Turnout was incredibly light, Moran’s abrupt resignation didn’t allow much time for campaigning, local Republicans poured almost $20,000 into the race in the final week, hoping for a humiliating upset. But still—16 votes? In Alexandria?! Before last week, we would have predicted that Socks the Cat would have won that seat in a blowout. This certainly doesn’t bode well for Moran, who is desperately trying to prove his progressive and organizational mettle against the more well-known state Senator Creigh Deeds and impressively well-financed Terry McAuliffe.

Luckily for local liberals, the Old Dominion is still under the firm control of a hands-on Democratic governor, who has promised to focus like a laser beam on important, constituent-pleasing issues in the final year of his term, thus proving…wait, hold on, what’s that? Tim Kaine has accepted the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, and will basically be working two jobs for the remainder of his term in office? Wow—we knew the economy was bad, but we’re frankly shocked that the Governor is being forced to moonlight to cover his weekly buzzcut-and-botox regimen.

O.K., so the de-facto head of Virginia’s Democratic Party is now effectively a part-time employee, and will be fighting a wicked case of senioritis for the rest of the year—but surely he’s planning to advance an ambitious agenda, highlighting kitchen table issues that will help his party overcome its recent stumbles and retain the governor’s mansion in November, right?

Well, sure—if your kitchen table happens to be located in your friendly neighborhood Shoney’s, and your biggest issue is the fact that the truck driver in the next booth keeps blowing cigar smoke over the vinyl-sided partition.
That’s right—with a massive, still-unaddressed transportation budget deficit, plummeting tax revenue and a growing foreclosure crisis, Tim Kaine decided to kick off the new year by renewing his quixotic crusade to ban smoking in restaurants across the Commonwealth—an effort that has gone down to defeat in each of the last four years.