It is about 5 1/2 weeks until Election Day in Virginia, and you can feel the excitement … and the annoyance and hostility. Yes, most Virginians have already seen enough political ads on their smartphones, computers, and TVs–but the worst is yet to come.
Polls and surveys are already showing Terry McAuliffe with a marginal to good lead. But can Ken Cuccinelli still pull out a win on November 5th? Click to see my map presentation in a prezi format.
Below is a quick graphic overview of the electoral geography of Loudoun County (click on the link below). Loudoun is vital to both the Democratic and Republican candidates for Virginia Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. It is a battleground county.
The pdf below is based on a powerpoint presentation for a class and is a continuing look at the electoral geography of Virginia. Prince William County votes are vital for the Lt. Governor and Attorney General races, but the focus of this presentation is on the high profile governor’s campaign between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe.
Earlier this month, I summarized the Virginia race from a geographic perspective. Since early July, the purported scandals surrounding current Governor Bob McDonnell have become more intense. This could benefit the McAuliffe campaign and jeopardize the Cuccinelli campaign, but both candidates will still need to prove themselves throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is especially true in Fairfax County.
Fairfax County: The Electoral Prize
Why is Fairfax County so important? It has by far the highest population (and votes) of any county or city in Virginia. Fairfax, with more than 1.1 million people (670,000 voters), contains about 14% of an estimated 8.1 million Virginians as of 2012. Fairfax is also a fundraising mecca for candidates, due to the high number of corporations and wealthy individuals in the county. The state’s second highest population center (a distant second) is the resort city of Virginia Beach, with a population of 447,000. Prince William and Loudoun counties in Northern Virginia, and Chesterfield County, south of Richmond, round out the top five most populated places in Virginia.
Fairfax County’s Changing Population Geography
The county is highly urbanized and diverse: 63% White (54% Non-Hispanic White); 17% Asian; 10% Black; and 15% Hispanic (may be of any race). Fairfax County was less urban and diverse in 1990 at 818,000 people—back then it was 81% White, 8% Asian, 8% Black, and 6% Hispanic. The rapid growth and urbanization are largely due to job growth in places like Tysons Corner, which employs some 105,000 people in technology industries and serves as the “downtown” for Fairfax County. Tysons Corner is the 12th largest employment center in the United States.
The growth in racial and ethnic diversity has coincided with Fairfax County going from a reliably Republican county to a mostly Democratic county. Today there are 9 Virginia Senate districts partly or totally within the county, and Democrats currently hold all 9 districts. Of the 15 House of Delegates districts in the county, Democrats hold 10 and Republicans retain 5 (see map). Republicans hold districts that are mostly on the less urban periphery of Fairfax; but as urbanization and migration continue to these outer regions, some of these Republican delegates find themselves vulnerable. Republican incumbents in districts 34 and 86 are facing significant challenges from well-funded Democratic opponents.
Presidential Election Results: Going Blue
Is Fairfax a blue county? Can Democrats depend on a large number of votes? Well, if presidential election trends are any indication, then the answer is YES! The graph below shows how Fairfax County voters went from being a red (Republican) county to a solid blue (Democratic) county.
Note that in 1988, when George H.W. Bush ran against Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis, Fairfax was solidly Republican, and Mr. Bush won by some 75,000 votes. However, 12 years later his son George W. Bush received only 5,680 more votes than Democratic rival Al Gore. In his 2004 reelection bid, President Bush lost Fairfax County to Democrat John Kerry by more than 33,000 votes. Finally, in both 2008 and 2012 President Obama carried the county by about 109,000 votes over Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney. It is evident that Fairfax can go blue in a big way.
Voting Trends for Governor and Other Statewide Offices
Finally, let us look at voting trends since 2005 in elections for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and U.S. Senator. The graph below shows the election results for 9 races. In only one race did a Republican candidate prevail in getting more votes than a Democratic opponent—the 2009 Governor’s race where Bob McDonnell beat Creigh Deeds by 4,500 votes in the county.
The 2008 U.S. Senate contest between two former Virginia governors, Mark Warner (Democrat) and Jim Gilmore (Republican), is notable for a huge spike in voter turnout. Mr. Warner garnered some 188,000 more votes than Mr. Gilmore in Fairfax County. In the 2012 Senate election, former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine beat George Allen, a former Virginia governor and U.S. senator, by almost 95,000 votes.
Fairfax County and the 2013 Governor’s Race
The county will loom large for both the McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns. As a state senator, Ken Cuccinelli represented parts of Fairfax County, so he would like to repeat Bob McDonnell’s 2009 success and win the county. However, Bob McDonnell earned more votes in the county by being competitive with moderate and independent voters in an election where there was a decline in turnout among minority voters, who are key to Democratic victories. Cuccinelli’s ideology and demeanor is considered more fiery than McDonnell’s, which will likely alienate moderate voters and push minority voters to the polls.
The Cuccinelli campaign strategy is focusing on pro-business policies in Fairfax, which should resonate with many. The campaign also pushes the personal attachment Ken Cuccinelli has to the county. “I was raised in Fairfax County and attended public schools,” states the Cuccinelli campaign website.
The McAuliffe campaign needs high voter turnout in the county, especially among minorities. His campaign states, “Terry McAuliffe is a businessman, entrepreneur, and dad who has lived in Fairfax County, Virginia for over 20 years.” Based on past voting trends, it looks like Terry McAuliffe should get the most votes in Fairfax County. His campaign should plan on winning by a large number of votes in Fairfax to offset votes in Virginia’s western conservative counties. We will see what the November election brings.
The 2013 governor’s race is on in Virginia between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. As a cartographer, I was curious as to the geopolitical landscape of Virginia. I sought to define the regions of Virginia that favored either Democrats or Republicans.
Population Geography of Virginia Voters
To appreciate a map of election results, a quick review of population density in Virginia would be helpful. Almost one third of Virginia’s 8.1 million people, about 2.6 million, are in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County alone has more than 1.1 million. Next in importance is the Hampton Roads region, dominated by the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News, with some 1.7 million people. Finally, the state capital, Richmond, is at the center of the Greater Richmond metropolitan area, a region holding about 1.3 million people. Outside of these three regions, the rest of Virginia is mostly sparsely populated, with only about 30% of the state’s population and voters. In general, urban areas tend to favor Democrats, and rural areas gravitate toward Republicans.
The 2005 Virginia Governor’s Race
In 2005, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, Tim Kaine (Democrat), ran against Virginia’s Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore (Republican). The map below shows the cities and counties won by Kaine in blue and the ones garnered by Kilgore in red.
Geographic Analysis of 2005 Election: The vote-rich counties and cities in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Greater Richmond were key to Tim Kaine’s victory. As the former mayor of Richmond, Kaine ran up the vote in Richmond, as well as in other Democratic urban strongholds, such as Alexandria, Arlington, and Norfolk. He also captured the traditionally Republican cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, along with the growing Northern Virginia suburban counties of Loudoun and Prince William. Kaine even did well in some rural counties of western Virginia.
Other 2005 Races: Despite Kaine’s victory, Republicans won the offices for lieutenant governor and attorney general. However, the attorney general’s race between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell was very close, with McDonnell getting only 360 more votes than Deeds out of 1.9 million ballots.
The 2009 Virginia Governor’s Race
In 2009, the political geography of Virginia was decidedly redder, when Virginia’s Attorney General Bob McDonnell (Republican) ran against State Senator Creigh Deeds (Democrat) again—but this time for governor.
Geographic Analysis of 2009 Election: The mostly red Virginia in this election points to the geopolitical weaknesses of the Deeds’ campaign. Deeds was a rural Democrat from western Virginia, and he did not excite the Democratic urban base in Northern Virginia and elsewhere. This lack of excitement affected voter turnout, which was only 40.3% of the electorate—down from 44.9% in 2005. Also, McDonnell successfully campaigned as an effective and non-political attorney general throughout Virginia. McDonnell had represented Virginia Beach as a state senator, and his campaign gained votes in Virginia’s normally Democratic urban areas. Finally, many pundits noted that McDonnell won the fundraising race, with almost $24 million, compared to about $13 million for Deeds.
Other 2009 Races: It is important to note that Ken Cuccinelli, the current Republican candidate for governor, won his election for Virginia Attorney General in 2009. Cuccinelli prevailed in most counties, but he lost in Fairfax County, even though McDonnell won there. This is significant because Cuccinelli represented parts of Fairfax as a Virginia state senator.
The 2013 Race for Governor of Virginia: Setting the Stage
While far apart ideologically, Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli are close geographically, with both living in Northern Virginia. McAuliffe’s home is in Fairfax County and Cuccinelli resides in Prince William County. This guarantees that Northern Virginia will be a battleground for both campaigns.
The map below of Virginia sets the stage for the 2013 campaign by mapping the geopolitical landscape of Virginia, based on the seven statewide elections since 2005: two for Virginia governor (2005 and 2009); three for U.S. senator (2006, 2008, and 2012); and two presidential races (2008 and 2012).
In general, Northern Virginia has shown a recent tendency to support Democratic candidates, but in 2009 McDonnell captured everything, except for the Democratic strongholds of Arlington and Alexandria. The Hampton Roads region appears to tilt toward Democrats, except for Virginia Beach. The Richmond area possesses a Democratic city—but with many Republican suburbs. In any election strategy, Democrats will try to run up votes in Northern Virginia and take most of the Hampton Roads region, which would duplicate Kaine’s 2005 success. The Republican model would follow McDonnell’s 2009 triumph by holding most of rural Virginia, while targeting Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia. Republicans also need Virginia Beach in the Hampton Roads area, along with Henrico and Chesterfield counties in the Richmond region.
Who will win? It is way too early to say. The path to electoral victory seems to require more effort on the part of Republicans because recent statewide elections seem to favor Democrats—especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. However, the geopolitical landscape is just one factor in an election, others include the appeal of the candidates and the effectiveness of their respective campaigns. It is a long road to Election Day on November 5th, and both candidates have a lot of Virginia geography to cover.
The starter’s pistol is ready to sound for statewide races in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The race for governor, between Ken Cuccinelli (Republican) and Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), will officially start in earnest after the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 11, where Mr. McAuliffe is running unopposed. However, Democrats will choose candidates for Virginia Lt. Governor and Attorney General.
Less than 4% of registered voters are expected to vote on June 11, and my guess is that the party faithful will back state Senator Ralph Northam for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for attorney general. However, Aneesh Chopra may have the connections and money to get the lieutenant governor’s nomination.
As the candidates come out of the starting gate, they need to consider the political geography of Virginia. In general, urban areas favor Democrats and rural areas back Republicans. Suburban areas can go either way, and both candidates will focus on Northern Virginia. Why? Reasons include:
-Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are both from Northern Virginia.
-More than 25 percent of Virginia voters reside in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County is the biggest prize with 1.1 million people.
The jigsaw-puzzle-like map below reveals counties and cities favorable to Democratic and Republican candidates, based on six recent statewide elections. The Democratic candidate needs to do well in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Norfolk-Newport News areas to offset Republican votes in rural southern and western Virginia. The Republican candidate needs to run up the votes in Virginia Beach and suburban Richmond—and try to take Fairfax County in Northern Virginia.