Senator Ebbin Visits NOVA Alexandria

State Senator Adam Ebbin came to the Alexandria campus to talk to Professor David Miller’s Cultural Geography (Geo 210) class on Thursday, March 19. Senator Ebbin represents the 30th district (parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax) as a Democratic member of the Virginia Senate. His district borders the Potomac River from National Airport to Mount Vernon and includes part of NOVA’s Alexandria campus. He spoke to students about gerrymandering, the Virginia Senate, and his bills in the recent legislative session.

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Senator Ebbin discussing his district.

Ebbin explained that gerrymandering is the drawing of voting district boundaries in awkward shapes to make the districts safe for the party in power. A senator can choose voters rather than voters electing a senator.

In 2011, when the districts were drawn, Republicans controlled the governor’s mansion, Virginia House of Delegates, and the Virginia Senate. Therefore, the process of drawing new districts, or redistricting, tended to favor Republicans.

Virginia is a purple state with roughly equal populations of Republicans and Democrats, but the power of gerrymandering gives an edge to Senate Republicans, who hold 21 seats versus 19 seats for Democrats. Democratic voters are packed into Senator Ebbin’s elongated district, making districts to the south and west safer for Republicans. Each state senator represents about 200,000 people, and all 40 senators will be up for election in November 2015.

In 2011, District 30 changed in shape and size due to gerrymandering.

In 2011, District 30 changed in shape and size due to gerrymandering.

Senator Ebbin also discussed a number of his bills, including ones for cleaner energy, mass transit funding, and protections against discrimination in state employment. He highlighted his sponsorship of Senate Joint Resolution 337 commending Dr. Robert Templin for his 13 years of service as President of Northern Virginia Community College.

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Senator Ebbin taking questions from students studying political geography.

After his presentation, Senator Ebbin met with Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Dean of Liberal Arts, and Marcus Henderson, Community Outreach Specialist.

David B. Miller, Assistant Professor, Geography, NVCC-Alexandria

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the view of the NOVA Institute for Public Service or Northern Virginia Community College as a whole. All materials may be reprinted with permission, for more information please contact the IPS Coordinator.

Countdown to Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Primary June 10

First of all, there are a lot of good Democratic candidates vying for the right to succeed Congressman Jim Moran, who is retiring. I have met some of the candidates, been to some forums, reviewed campaign sites, and seen countless brochures. Some candidates who have visited Northern Virginia Community College:

Delegate Charniele Herring, Minority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates, was an impressive candidate. She came to NOVA’s Alexandria campus in 2013 to talk about the Democratic agenda in an election year. Unfortunately, she dropped out of the race on May 10, but her name will still be on the June 10 ballot.

Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin visited my class on November 13, 2013, at the Alexandria campus to do a presentation on Virginia gerrymandering. Senator Ebbin was elected to the Virginia Senate in 2012 after serving 8 years in the House of Delegates. He is a proud liberal with solid accomplishments and should do well in the June 10 primary.

Delegate Patrick Hope talked to my Cultural and Political Geography classes on March 19, 2014 about the House of Delegates and about his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.

So who will win on June 10?

Candidates for the 8th Congressional District & District Map

Candidates for the 8th Congressional District & District Map

Geographical Advantage to Patrick Hope

The candidate favored to win the June 10 primary seems to be former Virginia Lt. Governor Don Beyer. He certainly has the money and the political connections to win, but I think Delegate Patrick Hope may pull an upset win. Why does Hope look so good electorally? As a geographer, I look at geopolitical patterns and trends, and I see some advantages:

  • Hope has won three elections to his House of Delegates district (47th) since 2009.
  • His Arlington district holds some 60,000 voters; he is the only candidate from Arlington. His effort to personally meet constituents translates into voter loyalty.
  • Hope’s primary rivals are all from Alexandria, which will divide the Alexandria vote.
  • The Hope campaign seems to be using money more for events and personal appearances, rather than massive (and expensive) media purchases.
  • Hope tried to visit all 159 precincts in the 8th; he even broke a rib after misjudging some stairs while visiting the Woodlawn area (Fairfax) on May 25. His effort to meet Fairfax voters brought responses like, “After living in Fairfax for 42 years, he’s the only candidate to ever knock on my door.”
  • Within the last week, staffers from the Mark Levine and Don Beyer campaigns have come to my door in Arlington, indicating a belated effort in Hope’s district.

Message Advantage to Patrick Hope

From forums to campaign literature, Hope has a simple message. He is an expert on health care, embraces the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and wants to make it work for Virginians. His May 25 rib injury took him off the campaign trail, but it gave him a media opportunity to talk health care while recovering at the Virginia Hospital Center.

He is passionate but concise, and voters who have heard him like what he has to say. Also, his campaign literature is eye-catching and well designed (see image below of donkey’s head in the sand). Finally, he is a former Capitol Hill staffer, who knows how the Hill can work (but often doesn’t).

Patrick Hope's Campaign Literature on Democratic Beliefs

Patrick Hope’s Campaign Literature on Sticking to Democratic Beliefs

What About $Money?

It is true that Patrick Hope has not raised the most money for the June primary, based on recent figures, but he has shown that money isn’t everything. In 2009, Hope ran against four other candidates in a Democratic primary. As you can see on the Virginia Public Access Project table below, he got the most votes without raising the most money.

Patrick Hope's 2009 Primary: Less Money But More Votes

Patrick Hope’s 2009 Primary: Less Money But More Votes

Who Will Vote in the Primary?

The older and more affluent Democratic establishment seems to support Beyer; but several straw polls, including one done by Dranesville Democrats (below) favor the Hope campaign.

strawpollMay19Primaries often offer surprising outcomes. Given the overwhelming Democratic population in the 8th, the primary winner will win the November election. If you are not certain whether you live in the 8th district or not, go to the official U.S. House of Representatives site, type in your zip code, and see a map of your location and district.

Remember to vote on June 10!

David B. Miller, Geography Instructor, NVCC-Alexandria

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the view of the NOVA Institute for Public Service or Northern Virginia Community College as a whole. All materials may be reprinted with permission, for more information please contact the IPS Coordinator.