Despite struggles in the first, the Nationals have comeback win

opening weekBetween limited use during the World Baseball classic and his last exhibition start being rained out, Tanner Roark had only seen 10 and 2/3 innings of game action over the course of the last month. This caused some folks to be concerned that he wasn’t quite ready for the season to start as he made his way to the mound in last night’s game against the Miami Marlins. Although the Nats eventually won the game 6-4, that concern for Roark’s lack of work this spring really sparked some nerves during the first two innings.

In the first inning alone, it took Roark 29 pitches to give up two runs and eventually get out of the inning. Throughout the inning, the crowd wasn’t pleased with how the home plate umpire had a relatively small strike zone. But part of that was really just frustration with Roark being a little wild.

The right hander walked two batters during the first inning and then proceeded to start the second inning by hitting Derek Dietrich with a slider in the mid-80’s. He also hit Dee Gordon with a fastball later on in the second inning, which caused a fair amount of concern even though he ended up getting out of the inning without giving up a run.

Fortunately, Roark appears to have flipped a switch when he came out for the third. From the third through sixth inning, only former National Tyler Moore was able to get on base when he hit a pinch hit double in the fifth inning. He ended up pitching six innings and only giving up three hits while having six strikeouts.

On top of that, the Nationals were able to step it up on offense to help build up some momentum. They were able to first get on the board in the bottom of the second as Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homer to right center field. Then it was in the fourth inning that the offense really got going.

After Adam Eaton walked on four straight balls, he scored on a Bryce Harper double. Harper then scored on a single from Daniel Murphy before Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth both got on to load the bases for Matt Wieters. The new catcher then ended the day of Marlins’ starter Dan Straily when he drove in Murphy and Zimmerman on a grounder to left field.

Bryce Harper drove in another run during the bottom of the fifth to bring the Nationals’ total runs to six. This ended up being more than enough for Washington, but that didn’t prevent some fans from getting nervous during the bottom of the ninth.

The bullpen had struggled during the eighth inning and J.T. Realmuto had hit a solo homer to make the score 6-3, which should have left more than enough of a comfort zone heading into the ninth.  That’s especially the case when Treinen quickly retired the first two batters he faced during his second game as the Nationals’ closer.

The excitement began with two outs though as Dee Gordon hit a single to center field before proceeding to steal second. He then scored on a soft fly to right field by Realmuto. A couple fans near me began openly calling for Treinen to be taken out at this point, even though he still had a comfortable two run lead. Fortunately, the fans were overly worried as Treinen was able to immediately turn things around and strike out Christian Yelich to end the game.

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Video: Tom Perriello speaks to crowd in McLean

PerrielloOn what many would argue is the most important day of the year (Opening Day for Major League Baseball), Tom Perriello held a meet and greet with about 40 people in McLean. Interesting enough, the group that hosted the event — Virginia Democracy Forward — had also hosted an event for Ralph Northam, so this was a very good way to compare the reaction that the candidates received from the crowd.

One aspect that I noticed right away was that I wasn’t the only person who had traveled quite a bit to make it to the event. There were several other people who made the trip out from Loudoun County, for instance, and a number of people were there from Arlington and Alexandria. This makeup also made for an interesting dynamic because it combined the inner suburbs with more of the exurbs (one of the people from Loudoun had actually been at a meeting of rural Democrats earlier this weekend).

With that in mind, it was good to hear Tom mention that a progressive campaign can help rally both those at the base of the Democratic Party and the rural voters that many claim we need to do a better job of reaching out to. The plain and simple fact that he had people from both deep blue Arlington and more rural parts of Loudoun there supporting his campaign seems to suggest that’s the case.

It was also very interesting to compare the way Tom interacted with this crowd compared to how Ralph Northam did a little over a month ago. Tom, who openly admits he’s a policy wonk, for instance, really seemed to enjoy interacting with the crowd. After making a point of talking with almost every person in attendance for at least a couple seconds, he went on to give a 15 minute opening speech then take questions for a good 20 to 25 minutes.

Northam, on the other hand, only took questions for about 10 minutes after giving his speech even though he had a larger crowd there. He did, however, go on to speak with people one on one for a few minutes afterwards.

It was also a perfect setting for Tom as he ended up speaking in the backyard. Anyone who’s seen Perriello speak probably realized that he doesn’t like to stand still. So much so that he often makes fun of himself for it. This setting allowed him to move constantly as he was trying to make sure he addressed the entire crowd.

For those who are interested, here’s the video of Tom’s speech.

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Justin Fairfax collects 16,369 petition signatures

One of the first major tasks a campaign has to do is collect petition signatures to get on the ballot. In a statewide race, the campaign has to collect at least 400 signatures from each congressional district and a grand total of at least 10,000 signatures statewide. Most campaigns try to far surpass those numbers to make sure they qualify for the ballot and to send a message of how strong their campaign is at the moment.

With that in mind, Justin Fairfax’s campaign has announced that they submitted 16,329 signatures with at least 800 from each of the 11 Congressional Districts in Virginia.

The news comes on the verge of a new poll showing Susan Platt leading the LG race by almost a two to one margin, so the campaign is using this to highlight some of the victories they’ve had recently. With that in mind, here’s the statement that was put out with the signature numbers:

“We are excited to announce this major milestone in our campaign. Over the past months and weeks, our organizers and volunteers have talked to voters in every part of the Commonwealth. This is truly a grassroots campaign fueled by our supporters. We have won all four straw polls for Lieutenant Governor by wide margins, and Justin has traveled more than 25,000 miles around the Commonwealth since entering the race last May. We also have been endorsed by Congressman Gerry Connolly, more than half of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including the leadership, and more than one hundred elected officials and party leaders throughout Virginia. Our message of fighting for more economic security and opportunity for all Virginians and protecting everyone’s civil rights and liberties is resonating in this political climate where people are hungry for hope, positivity, and change. Real change requires grassroots energy and new ideas and is powered by the people. We will charge ahead to the June 13th primary where Democrats will decide the vision they want for Virginia. Our campaign has the energy, support, and momentum to win in June and help the entire Democratic ticket win in November.”

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New polling shows Susan Platt leading LG primary

In a new poll that was released by the Wason Center for Public Policy (h/t to Lowell at Blue Virginia) Susan Platt has almost double the support Justin Fairfax received in the race for Lt Governor. While “undecided” is clearly running away with the race at 60 percent, Platt came in with 20 percent of the vote compared to just 11 percent for Justin Fairfax.

This was very surprising considering that Justin Fairfax has raked in more endorsements and has been dominating the recent straw polls. Looking at the numbers more carefully doesn’t explain the gap between the straw polls and Susan Platt being largely ahead in the scientific poll either.

Most of the major straw polls have been held in Northern Virginia, which is the one place Justin actually has a lead in the polling. That could help to justify the difference, but he only has a five point margin there and doesn’t even come close to the 80 percent of the vote he’s been getting at the straw polls.

Since Justin’s on the younger side and much of the younger crowds at events seem to be supporting his campaign, one would think the polling would suggest he’s dominating the younger age groups in the polling. In actuality, he’s losing the under 45 crowd by one point (24 to 23 percent) while being very far behind among people older than that (19 to 8 percent).

What could be telling about this, however, is that a larger percent of younger voters have actually made up their mind and could potentially be stronger in their support. They therefore might be more willing to show up to a straw poll event. Combine that with Justin Fairfax winning in NoVA and we have one possible explanation for how he’s dominating the straw polls.

Now in last year’s presidential election, 50 percent of those polled voted for Hillary Clinton compared to 37 percent for Donald Trump (12 percent voted for someone else). Of those, 37 percent voted in the Democratic primary, 34 percent voted in the GOP primary, and 26 percent didn’t vote in any primary.

This is important because it shows how the Republicans surveyed were showing up to the primary, but a large portion of the Democrats surveyed didn’t vote in last year’s primary. If they didn’t even vote in a presidential primary, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be showing up at the polls for the Lt. Governor primary. The people at the straw polls, however, are active enough in the political process to be showing up to an event months before the actual primary, which suggests they will actually be making their way to the polls on June 13.

It would be wrong to conclude that the straw polls are more accurate than a scientific poll — in fact, one should usually lean the other way — but it’s very telling that there’s a large drop off among Democratic primary voters in this poll. A drop off, for comparison, that’s simply not there on the Republican side. When you combine that with the enormous amount of undecided voters in this poll, it suggests that a lot of people outside of the politically active simply aren’t paying attention to this race yet.

As a result, it’s hard to say that either straw polls or this scientific poll at this point in the race gives you more than a simple snapshot of where a group of voters stand at a specific moment in time. The only clear conclusion we have right now, after all, is that “undecided” would win by a landslide if the Lt Governor primary was held today.

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Gerry Connolly endorsed Justin Fairfax

gerry-connolly-2I recently wrote about how Justin Fairfax overwhelmingly won the straw poll at Gerry Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day party. It now appears as though Gerry was paying attention to that and the campaign in general as he’s endorsed Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be Lt. Governor.

“I am proud to endorse Justin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor in the 2017 primary and general elections,” Gerry said in a statement this afternoon. “The stakes are high for Virginians in 2017. Virginia Republicans are already following the Trump playbook of divisive rhetoric and vicious partisan attacks. But Justin is focused on uniting us around what matters — protecting and creating good-paying jobs for all Virginians.

“As a Northern Virginian, Justin understands the unique challenges facing our region and is committed to fighting for our fair share in Richmond. I’ll be casting my ballot for Justin Fairfax on June 13 and I urge all Virginians to do the same.”

After receiving the Congressman’s endorsement, former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax made the following statement:

“I am very honored to receive Congressman Gerry Connolly’s endorsement. Congressman Connolly is a dedicated public servant who has served the people of the 11th Congressional District and this nation with distinction. He has fought diligently for our Virginia values, including creating more economic security and opportunity for all. As Lieutenant Governor, I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Connolly to resist the destructive policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration, expand access to the American Dream for all, and move Virginia forward.”

It’s worth noting that Gerry doesn’t give out his endorsement very easily and hasn’t made an endorsement in the gubernatorial primary even though he knows both of those candidates well. It should also be noted that all three Democratic candidates for Lt. Governor have connections to Northern Virginia, so it’s not like Gerry is simply endorsing Justin because he’s in NoVA — but instead focused on how he truly does understand the challenges that face the region.

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Gerry Connolly sends letter to Trump on Middle East policy

There’s been a lot of talk about the Trump Administration’s policy towards Israel, which has only been invigorated recently as Mike Pence told AIPAC that Trump is planning on moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With that in mind, Rep. David Price and Rep. Gerry Connolly sent a letter to President Trump signed by 191 other Members of Congress who suggesting he express support for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There must be absolute clarity regarding the United States’ continued support for a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution,” Price and Connolly said. “For decades, American presidents and Israeli prime ministers of all political parties have publicly supported and worked toward attaining a peace agreement that recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized Palestinian state, coexisting side-by-side in peace and security.”

The letter continued, “We stand ready to help facilitate an environment that fosters the resumption of direct peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in order to achieve a viable, lasting, and mutually agreed upon two-state solution.”

In addition to coming on the heals of Pence saying the administration will move the embassy to Jerusalem, we’ve also seen President Trump back away from supporting the idea of a two state solution. It therefore shouldn’t be too surprising that Gerry Connolly and others have found it very important to remind the president of America’s bipartisan support of moving forward with this method of bringing peace to the Middle East.

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Democracy for America endorses Justin Fairfax

justin-fairfaxVirginia’s off year elections have received a significant amount of attention all across the country since they’re going to be the first referendum on the Trump Administration. With that in mind, the national progressive organization Democracy for America has weighed in in some races and decided to endorse Justin Fairfax’s campaign for Lt. Governor.

“Across the country, the American people are hungry for leaders who will stand up to the wealthy and powerful and work towards racial and economic justice for all,” said Jim Dean, the chair of Democracy for America. “These fights sit at the core of Justin Fairfax’s bold vision for Virginia and they’re why we’re so excited to be standing with him in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor From advocating for expansion of early childhood education to showing up at Dulles airport to help those detained by Trump’s Muslim Ban, Justin has demonstrated a clear understanding that Democrats’ path back to power is through bold progressive ideas and action.”

It’s also worth noting that DFA also endorsed eight candidates for the House of Delegates. The organization endorsed the following incumbents in their first round of endorsements Lashrecse Aird (VA-63), Lamont Bagby (VA-74), Jennifer Boysko (VA-86), Jeff Bourne (VA-71), Mark Levine (VA-45), Delores McQuinn (VA-70), Marcia Price (VA-95), and Jeion Ward (VA-92).’

While there’s the possibility that they could endorse more candidates in the future, I think it’s noteworthy that there’s no endorsement in the gubernatorial primary and not every Democratic incumbent received an endorsement. This is important because it shows that DFA isn’t going to support a candidate just because there’s a D by their name on the ballot.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a new organization looking to make a splash in the news. DFA has been around since it was founded by Howard Dean back in 2004 and has over 37,000 members in Virginia alone. If the organization can mobilize just a fraction of those members for Justin’s campaign, it will be a huge benefit in trying to get people out to the polls on primary day (June 13).

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Do Members of Congress even show up to committee hearings?

aging committeeWhile there’s a lot of talk about the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch or when FBI Director Jim Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee, most Congressional hearings aren’t filled with too much drama. There’s such a lack of drama that most Members of Congress can’t even be bothered to stay for the entire hearing — if they even show up at all.

A prime example of this can be seen at hearing held by the Senate’s Committee on Aging about how the opioid epidemic has led to many grandparents taking care of their grandchildren. For the entire committee hearing, there was only one Republican senator who actually showed up — the Committee’s chair, Susan Collins. The other eight simply couldn’t be bothered to show up.

It’s not a partisan issue either. On the Democratic side, it was only the ranking member, Sen. Bob Casey, who actually stayed for the entire hearing. Unlike the Republicans, however, there were some Democrats who actually showed up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Joe Donnelly, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto all showed up to ask questions of the panelists and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand showed up to listen to some of the panel’s testimony.  The other three Democrats didn’t even make an appearance.

Now, one could argue that these senators didn’t miss much if they missed the prepared testimony. The hearing wasn’t designed to break any news and the testimony that the panel provided was simply a five minute summary of the written testimony they’d already submitted. At this hearing, and others, it was the questioning round that truly gave both the panelists an opportunity to expand on their statements and the politicians an opportunity to show where they might want to go with the issue. And that is why it’s disappointing some members (11 in the case of this hearing), couldn’t even show up to ask questions.

At the hearing, Sen. Susan Collins gave a shout out to C-Span viewers (which suggests a video record would be available) and mentioned that the record would remain open for two weeks if any senators had more questions to ask of the panelists. Combine this with how there were plenty of staffers present at the hearing and one could assume that any senator could get all the information he or she needed even if they weren’t present at the actual hearing. But there’s still something to be said for actually showing up and being present when the original dialogue is taking place.

While waiting for the hearing to begin today, for instance, I met a set of grandparents who traveled down from the Pittsburgh area for the hearing. They’re taking care of their two grandchildren (ages 8 and 12) because their daughter is suffering from opioid addiction and simply isn’t in a position to take care of her kids. As our conversation moved forward, I found out that part of the reason the 71 year old grandfather is still working is because his grandkids receive health insurance through his work. This was a concrete example of what the hearing was trying to investigate and I wouldn’t have necessarily heard about if I hadn’t actually been there.

With that being said, I’m not confident that we’ll see changes in attendance rates anytime soon. As one communications director for a Member of Congress put it to me, many elected officials consider these hearings to be “torture” and have binders full of briefing material anyways. Nonetheless, I am perhaps naively hopeful that the number of elected officials who are at these type of hearings and engage with the public might grow.

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Do straw polls mean anything?

Rep. Gerry Connolly held his 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Fete yesterday in the ballroom at the Kean Shriners’ Temple in Fairfax. The event is the largest annual gathering of Democrats in Northern Virginia (there were approximately 1,200 people there last night) and is well known for the straw poll that it holds every year.

To give you an idea of the importance of the straw poll, many people credit the event as what turned around Jim Webb’s campaign. At the time, he was running against Harris Miller in the Democratic primary and people were just beginning to come around to the idea of Webb becoming the eventual nominee. The campaign was initially not going to contest the straw poll, especially since Harris Miller had Connolly’s support and was the former chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

Chris Ambrose and bloggers, however, finally convinced them to actually compete and Ambrose personally made about 300 phone calls (including to about 60 percent of FCDC) and turnout a large amount of Webb supporters. Although Webb reportedly still thought it was going to be a hostile crowd when he got there, he ended up winning the straw poll by a margin of 58% to 42%. According to what Lowell Feld wrote in Netroots Rising, Steve Jarding credits the event as a major reason why Webb won the nomination.

“If it wasn’t for the netroots packing Gerry Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day party, Webb might not have won the primary,” Jarding believes. Jarding adds that the straw poll victory “was the first moment of concrete victory in the campaign, and it was mainly because of the netroots.”

It’s worth noting that Jarding credits the netroots as one of the major reasons for the victory. I think it’s worth noting because the blogs not only helped organize prior to the event, but they were the ones also arguing afterwards that the event showed the momentum of the Webb campaign. This is important because a straw poll victory isn’t worth much if it isn’t used correctly in the larger sense of the campaign.

At this year’s event, it’s Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax who get to use the straw poll as a momentum builder. As I mentioned in earlier posts (see here and here), they both easily won their respective straw polls.

While it’s a good measure of a campaign to see how they’re able to turn out their supporters to Gerry’s event, the Northam and Fairfax campaigns will have to continue to work hard if they want the St. Patrick’s Day straw poll to have the same impact it had on the Webb campaign. Winning the straw poll here, after all, doesn’t always mean electoral success.

Ralph Northam already knows this first hand. He lost the same straw poll in 2013 by a 40 point margin to Aneesh Chopra and still went on to win the Lt. Governor nomination. It’s also worth noting that Terry McAuliffe received 58% of the vote back in 2009 compared to 30% for Brian Moran and 12% for Creigh Deeds despite the fact that Deeds would go on to win the gubernatorial nomination.

It appears as though Justin Fairfax also knows he can’t just depend on these straw poll victories and is simply using them to talk about momentum. His campaign sent out an email after winning the recent Alexandria Democratic Committee’s straw poll saying “momentum is building in our movement, and we are nowhere near finished!” It’s using that momentum, like Webb did, that will help to bring in donations, volunteers, and some media attention.

As it stands now, we’re just under three months away from the Democratic primary on June 13th, so there’s plenty of time for things to swing either way. But as Jarding put it, these are “concrete victories” that the Fairfax and Northam campaigns can use to help build some momentum.

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Ralph Northam wins another straw poll

In the gubernatorial primary, Ralph Northam once again won easily in last night’s straw poll at Gerry Connolly’s St. Patrick’s Day event. He received 78 percent of the vote compared to 22 percent for Tom Perriello.

For those who are interested, here’s the video of the two candidates speaking last night. First up, Tom Perriello.

Now here’s Ralph Northam.

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