The opening paragraph of my post about the last time there was a primary race in this district applies equally here:
The primary race between Johnny Joannou and
Henry LightSteve Heretick was the one that I followed the closest. The end result was not a surprise.
This was no upset, folks. I hinted at it in my earlier post about this year’s race:
The challenge by Steve is probably the toughest Johnny has ever faced. Steve is, in his own right, a known quantity in Portsmouth. Note that Portsmouth makes up almost 77% of the district. The last serious challenger to Joannou came from the Norfolk sliver of the district – and even Mark Warner’s support couldn’t overcome the love Portsmouth has for Johnny.
Two things are different between 2007 and now: a candidate from Portsmouth and the district boundaries. The numbers suggest the former was more potent than the latter.
Turnout this year was similar to 2007, although there are far fewer registered voters in the district now. (Keep your eyes on the SCOTUS case about the one man, one vote issue, folks. This is it right here.) Heretick actually earned fewer votes overall than Henry Light did. But the battle was, once again, in Portsmouth.
Norfolk, while accounting for a larger percentage of the electorate this year, ceded the fight to Portsmouth. In fact, in one Norfolk precinct – Titustown – not a single vote was cast. Norfolk turnout was a paltry 6.1%, while it was about three times that in 2007. The turnout in Portsmouth was virtually the same in both years: 11.5% in 2007 and 11.7% this year. While I suspect Heretick will be a bit more attentive to his Norfolk constituents than Joannou was, unless these folks start showing up to vote, there isn’t a whole lot of incentive for him to be so, even though Norfolk provided the margin of victory.
The Portsmouth numbers jump out when you compare to 2007. I’ve no doubt that there has been increasing dissatisfaction with Joannou in Portsmouth, particularly on the Medicaid issue. Heretick was someone with whom Portsmouth voters were familiar. Not only has he served on council, but he was the Democratic nominee for state senate in 2007. He was able to keep the race close, losing the city by a mere 64 votes.
I actually thought Heretick would win Portsmouth. I suspect actions in the last days of the campaign may have suppressed some of those leaning towards him. Recall if you will what I said about the 2007 race:
To me, this race was a test of NoVA-style politics in Hampton Roads – and it failed miserably.
The late appearance – a week before the election – of a website calling Joannou “Our Tea Party Delegate” was the kind of scorched-earth things we don’t usually see around here. Personally, I found it offensive and totally unnecessary. Disagree all you want with a candidate’s policies but calling him names – and yes, in Democratic circles “Tea Party” has a negative connotation – is a step too far. It is no secret that Joannou has been out of step with the Democratic Party for a long time. Quentin Kidd echoed what I said on the radio yesterday:
An old-stripe, conservative Democrat like Joannou “harkens back to a day that we just don’t have around here anymore.”
That alone was enough to fuel a win by a Heretick. Given that primary voters tend to be older than the general electorate, I have to wonder how many votes this little stunt cost Heretick.
To the nearly 90% of voters who stayed home Tuesday: you missed your chance. Like me, you’ll only have one name on the ballot for this contest. Steve Heretick is your delegate.
Congratulations to Steve on his win. My thanks to Johnny for his service.