Last month, we looked at Glen Sturtevant’s chances to save the Virginia Senate in 2015, as the consensus Republican choice to keep John Watkin’s purple district in the hands of Republicans. However, there is also hope from our western neighbors in Virignia’s 21st Senatorial, as Republican Nominee Nancy Dye has a real shot to turn a long-blue seat Republican Red.
The 21st Senatorial has long been in a reliable win for the Democrats, with John Edwards having a choke-hold on the seat since 1996. At 71 years old, Edwards is getting a bit long in the tooth and might have been vulnerable to a strong candidate, but Dye’s real chance comes from the recent trend in Roanoke’s Democratic Party to defect away from the party and run as independents. While Edwards was too entrenched as the senior Democrat in the region to be successfully primaried, Roanoke liberal Don Caldwell has risen up as an Independent challenger and give Nancy Dye a real opportunity for victory. Unlike some gadfly, no-chance independents we occasionally see, Caldwell’s challenge to Edwards is serious with real political strength. Caldwell previously served as Chairman of the Roanoke City Democratic Party and is one of the longest tenured Commonwealth’s Attorneys in the Commonwealth.
Historically, the 21st Senatorial has been a safe haven for Edwards, with Edwards only being challenged twice since 1996. In 1999 he trounced former Delegate Bill Fralin 58% to 41% and in 2011 he easily defeated former Delegate Dave Nutter 55% to 43%. Both Fralin and Nutter were well-funded, raising almost exactly as much as the incumbent Edwards.
The District shouldn’t be considered truly blue however. VPAP’s analysis of the 2011 redistricting shows the distrly to be slightly Republican, with McDonnell’s 2009 gubernatorial race showing the old district 51.5% McDonnell and the new district 51.7% McDonnell. While the geography of the district changed, the partisan make-up seems to have remained the same. During federal election cycles, the district is much more Democratic, however, with Warner defeating Gillespie 54% to 42% (Sarvis 3.6%) and Obama beating Romney 53% to 43%. The district went blue for MacAulliffe in 2013 as well, with McAuliffe defeating Cuccinelli 48% to 40%. In that race. However, unlike in Gillespie’s loss, Sarvis pulled a full 9.94% in that race, showing that the district may have been turned off by the far-right Cuccinelli more than embracing McAuliffe. It appears that moderate Republicans may do better in the 21st Senatorial District than far-right conservative. This theory gains strength when one considers Obenshain only losing by 1% to Herring and Jackson being destroyed by Northam 58% to 41%.
If the 21st Senatorial is the bluish purple that it seems, and does in fact prefer more moderate candidates, that could prove very important to Nancy Dye’s chances. Nancy Dye’s campaign is focused on winning Republican issues of jobs, economy, low taxes, and fiscal responsibility. A retired surgeon, she can speak intelligently on the perils of Medicaid expansion, and as a small business owner she understands the economy. More importantly, she seems to be avoiding the divisive social issues and running a generally positive campaign.
Further, the 21st Senatorial’s trend toward moderates will trend against Edwards this election. Caldwell is running to Edwards’s right, not his left. Caldwell touts his support of the Second Amendment on his website and with pictures of himself hunting. Honestly, his page looks more conservative than liberal. This leaves Edwards the least moderate candidate in the race. Further, despite his website, Caldwell is a well-known Democrat and will surely take significantly more from the Edwards side than from Nancy Dye’s. This will give Dye a real shot to win this race, especially if she works to make certain that she gets the NRA endorsement and pulls Virginia Sportsman to her side rather than Caldwell’s.
With a strong, positive message – we see Dye as a strong candidate to pull a blue seat to the Red in the Senate and help keep the Virginia Senate safe in 2015. But she can only do it with support and a strong campaign. As the incumbent, Edwards has currently out-raised her $224,149 to $179,486. As you look at where your Republican dollars can best be spent, look to Nancy Dye and Glen Sturtevant.