I was talking with some candidates on the ballot this November over the weekend and they were talking about how fundraising has been relatively slow recently. They’re therefore focused in on making sure they can fund good mail campaigns and pay staff salaries. TV commercials aren’t even on their radar — especially in the costly DC media market that candidates in NoVA are running in. But it appears as though Speaker Kirk Cox isn’t in that position as he’s already hit the airways with a new commercial for his campaign.
The ad is backed by $90,000 and will be aired on Richmond area television stations through September 2. The Speaker’s district has new boundaries after a new court district forced several districts to be changed and his chances of reelection are much lower than they were with the previous borders. He must realize that he’ll have to reach out to more people of color, however, because the ad features several people from diverse backgrounds claiming he’s “one of us.”
With the election several months away, Election Day’s not really on the radar of a lot of people. And that’s if they’re even aware there’s an election taking place this year (which isn’t terribly uncommon as many people don’t realize Virginia holds state and local elections in odd numbered years). Cox’s decision to launch a commercial before Labor Day suggests he’s worried about where he stands in his first competitive race since being elected to the House of Delegates back in 1989.
Cox is facing an African American with strong roots in the community, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, this November. She had a strong showing in the neighboring 62nd House District in 2017 and only lost by three percentage points to Riley Ingram, who’s been in the House almost as long as Cox. When the districts were redrawn, she ended up in the same district as the speaker and decided to run against him this year.
Bynum-Coleman’s campaign pounced on the opportunity to highlight how the commercial suggests Cox knows he’s in trouble. The Democratic Caucus has said it shows he’s worried Sheila has “the momentum” and her campaign manager put out a statement saying the commercial doesn’t square with his voting record.
“Republican Speaker Cox’s efforts to rebrand himself as ‘one of us’ doesn’t square with his 29-year public record of taking hard right votes that are way outside the mainstream of the district,” Rob Silverstein said. “Cox’s attempt to keep his grip on power and buy this election in August demonstrates that Sheila’s message of economic fairness and keeping our communities safe is clearly resonating with voters.”
Democrats are certainly happy to have another competitive race on the ballot, especially since it wasn’t one of their prime targets before the court mandated redistricting. Despite their optimism, however, the speaker definitely has a fundraising advantage which is why he’s even in a position to put out the commercial this early in the campaign. As of the June 30th reporting deadline, Cox had almost four times more cash on hand as Bynum-Coleman ($448,000 compared to $124,000). Plus, he controls a PAC with another $761,000 that could be used to help his campaign.
With all that being said, the plain and simple fact that a 30 year incumbent who’s the most powerful Republican in the House of Delegates is being forced to run TV ads this early says something about what’s at stake this November. Republicans having to defend a previously safe GOP district shows the Democrats now have several different routes to winning back control of the General Assembly.