The timeline and cost for completing the Purple Line is up in the air after a judge ruled that contractors may quit in the middle of the project. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich weighs in on that, the latest coronavirus news and more.
Analysts, as well as a few winners, join us to break down what this week’s elections mean for communities in the D.C. region and across the country.
- Mark Plotkin Political analyst, WTOP
- Quentin Kidd Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Government, Christopher Newport University
- Elissa Silverman Member Elect, D.C. Council (At-Large, Independent)
- Michael Steele MSNBC Political Analyst; Founder, Purple Nation Solutions; Former Chairman, Republican National Committee; Former Lt. Governor, Maryland (R)
- Karl Racine Attorney General Elect, District of Columbia
MR. MARC FISHERFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. I'm Marc Fisher, sitting in Kojo. Coming up, this hour, a Republican wave swept through the United States yesterday, the GOP scored key victories in races in every corner of the country and will now control majorities in both houses of Congress.
MR. MARC FISHERBut that wave also swept through places in the Washington region, usually thought of as safe-havens for Democrats, look no further than Maryland where Republican Larry Hogan won the race for Governor in a state where his party's voters outnumber or outnumbered by Democrats by a two to one margin.
MR. MARC FISHERHogan defeated Anthony Brown, the Lt. Governor of Maryland, a Democrat who, up until yesterday, appeared poised to become the first African-American Chief Executive of Maryland. This hour, we will explore the local and national forces that shaped this upset, we'll look at the near toppling of Virginia Senator Mark Warner, as he sought his second term and we'll look at what held up the Democratic establishment in the District where Muriel Bowser held off two independent challengers and will be the city's next mayor.
MR. MARC FISHERWell, joining me to start things off is Mark Plotkin, no stranger to these airwaves. He's a contributor to the BBC and thehill.com and writes a weekly column for the Georgetowner. And starting off with Maryland, Mark Plotkin, this -- was this -- or should this have been -- have come as much of a surprise as it was to many people?
MR. MARK PLOTKINWell, first of all, I'm brilliant after the election. And I always say that, I don’t think anybody saw this coming. What you pointed out, all the registration figures, two to one, overwhelming majorities in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate. The last Republican Governor was Bob Ehrlich who got beaten solidly by Martin O'Malley, when he attempted to do a second term.
MR. MARK PLOTKINBut there may be our harbingers, Bob Ehrlich beat a Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend from Baltimore County by four points and that was considered...
PLOTKIN...a surprise, at that time. And prior to that, Paris Glendening beat Ellen Sauerbrey, my mind is cluttered with this minutia, by only 5,000 votes and before that, we are all age appropriate here, we go back to Spiro Agnew who got elected as a liberal Republican when he beat George, your home is your castle, Mahoney in 1966, but enough of the history lesson, this was shocking.
FISHERIt was and here to talk with us about that is Michael Steele, he's the former Lt. Governor of Maryland and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee. And Chairman Steele, were you surprised by these results?
MR. MICHAEL STEELEI was, I was particularly surprised at the magnitude of it. I think, it was just stunning, the response of Marylanders to Larry's, you know, policy, ideas, arguments and just the reputation of the last eight years of taxes and regulations and so forth. So it was, it was very stunning in that regard. But then again, at the other side of it, I think, it also reflected part of what was happening nationally, so Maryland was not isolated as it was in 1994, when the wave hit and Maryland didn't turn the tables over to Saurbrey and Glendening won.
FISHERAll across this country, Republicans ran for governor and for senator and essentially ignored their opponents and ran against Barak Obama, that could not happen in Maryland, it did not happen in Maryland, where the president remains quite popular. The president and his wife, both, came out heavily supporting, campaigning for Anthony Brown, didn't do him much good, but instead, Larry Hogan ran against Martin O'Malley, his TV ads portrayed Brown...
FISHER...as a third term for Martin O'Malley. Obviously, that was the right strategy but why was Martin O'Malley so unpopular and what does this say about his presidential ambitions?
STEELEWell, why he wasn't popular is, you know, you raise taxes 40 times of folks and they're looking at their paychecks and the number's shrinking, coupled with the lack of, you know, of pay raises and stagnation in take-home pay, absolutely, that, sort of, built into the narrative that people want to change, and that was the narrative that Larry supplied them. I...
PLOTKINMichael Steele, this Mark Plotkin, I have to jump in and say, you were the Lt. Governor with Bob Ehrlich, the last Republican administration. You lost.
PLOTKINWhy did you lose and, to Martin O'Malley, and Larry Hogan...
PLOTKIN...who was the appointment secretary, not even...
STEELEWell, but the...
PLOTKIN...a cabinet member, who had to take public financing, won. You had a lot more money.
STEELEWell, I think, it was part of the dynamic, which is, you know, the part of this that played out. You know, we -- you know, we were very much in a -- an ugly election year, electoral year, for Republicans. The Bush administration was unpopular, like the Obama administration. There was war fatigue then as there is now, even with the drumbeat of ISIS in the Middle East, Going on. So there was some similarities that, I think, fed and contributed to that angst and frustration that voters had. You couple that...
STEELE...with the economic situation in the state, you know, and then it just compounded the problem for O'Malley and Brown and Brown in particular.
PLOTKINWould Doug Gansler have beaten Larry Hogan, would Doug Gansler been hard -- because he wasn't part of the O'Malley administration, yes, he was attorney general, but he wasn't barred, would he have been a tougher opponent and would we be just not even talking about this race because he would've put together a traditional Democratic alignment?
STEELEI think it would've been -- yeah, I think, that's the key thing. He would've brought a different challenge to the Hogan team, their approach to a Gansler campaign, would be very different. So it's hard to say what the outcome would've been. I think, like 2006, there was some angst and some residual, you know, frustrations with the president and people wanted to lash out, they wanted to speak their mind on that. And so, I think, Democrats, as we've seen around the country, had to carry that burden, which is why they weren't...
STEELE...all, you know, hog-wild about inviting the president into their state.
FISHERWe're speaking with Michael Steele, the former Lt. Governor of Maryland and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee. You can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at Kojo, K-O-J-O, @wamu.org. And, Michael Steele, let's look a little bit at the electoral calculus here, there was an enormous drop-off in turnout between last night and four years earlier, in a similar off year...
FISHER...mid-term election and a lot of that decline in turnout took place in heavily African-American areas of Prince George's County and Baltimore City, it's a pattern we've seen all across the country last night, where a lot of African-American voters simply stayed home and a lot of Democrats lost as a result. Is that what happened in Maryland?
STEELEI think, that contributed minorly to what happened in Maryland, last night. I think there was, again, a frustration in the African-American community. They're looking at the unemployment rate with African-Americans, both in the state and nationally. They're frustrated about small business opportunities in Maryland, just as they are anywhere else in the country. And so, yeah, I think, all of that contributed to it and, again, what was the incentive? What was the motivation, to go to the polls? So the only motivation I saw, were signs around Prince George's County, saying, "Vote for the Democrats." Really, why?
PLOTKINWell, that used to be enough.
STEELEYou know, my paycheck is -- well, it's not, it's not when your paycheck is shrinking, it's not when, as a business owner, you're over regulated or over burdened with taxes. So all of these things play into it, and I think, the voters either had the choice of, I'm going to vote for the other guy or I'm just gonna stay home, and we see that -- we saw that played out again, in 2006 and 2012 and...
PLOTKINMichael Steele, you make a...
STEELE...had to deal with that.
PLOTKINMichael Steele, you make a very good case for a possible, Michael Steele for Governor or for Senator, and what does it say about the Republican party or was this just an aberration? You had statewide offices, Brian Frosh and Peter Franchot from Comptroller and for Attorney General, they won with the, sort of, conventional numbers that a Democrat usually runs in Maryland. You did pick up a few seats, I understand, in the State Senate...
STEELEAnd -- yeah, we did.
PLOTKIN...and in the House.
STEELEIn the legislature, um-hmm.
PLOTKINBut does this hearten you to the degree that you ran for the Senate, that you're interested in going back and running again?
STEELEI, you know, I haven't given that much thought but I do take your point about the opportunities for Republicans, in particular, in the fact that we picked up County Executiveships in Howard County and Anne Arundel County, for example, important counties in the calculation of how a party grows in the state of Maryland, to be leading in growing counties.
STEELESo, I think, that there's some real markers for the party, in the future. Larry now is the official head of the Republican Party in Maryland. It will be his opportunity and responsibility to put in place a foundation from which that party can grow and thrive. And that means crafting it in his image, if you will, and so taking this idea of change and making it real for the people of the state and then having candidates who are coming subsequent to this election, mimic that and devise it and divine it in their own way...
PLOTKINYou have no Republicans...
STEELE...and hopefully Maryland doesn't respond to it.
PLOTKIN...no Republicans elected from Prince George's County, will that ever change?
STEELEOh, I think it will, I think it will, and I think it can. But you gotta make the case and we haven't in the past, effectively, when I was Chairman of the County, you know, we had our battles with Wayne Curry, God rest him, and we won some and we lost some, but it was about building something that was sustainable for the party that -- to grow from. And, I think, that's what we have to do in county's like Prince George's and cities like Baltimore, in order to be ultimately taken seriously as a statewide party.
STEELEAs well as a local party.
FISHER...Michael Steele, thanks so much for joining us.
FISHERMark Plotkin, in Maryland, there was not just a race for governor, obviously and didn't -- it wasn't just African-American's in Prince George's and Baltimore City who stayed home, it was also white liberals in Montgomery County who stayed home...
FISHER...to a remarkable degree and thereby gave both of the Montgomery County Congressman a scare, in fact...
PLOTKINThe District's have changed though.
FISHER...the District's have changed but Chris Van Hollen, who you would think would be a mortal lock for reelection, a mainstay at the House of Representatives, had an unknown challenger and won with only, I think, it was just under 60 percent of the vote but much lower than in previous runs, and an even closer, much closer race, John Delaney, the recent -- the one-term Congressman in a District that was essentially created for him, and was designed that he could be reelected, he just barely eked out a victory against a former Secret Service Agent who was extremely conservative and not someone you would in any way associate with...
PLOTKINRon (sic) Bongino.
PLOTKINDan, thank you.
FISHER...Bongino, who, you know, not within what you would call the mainstream of Montgomery County politics and obviously that District extends all the way through Western Maryland, but what was going on there with people in Montgomery County staying home?
PLOTKINI was flabbergasted when I saw those numbers and early in the evening, maybe, the numbers were coming from Western Maryland, I couldn't believe it, I thought it was a misprint or something. I'm supposed to have an explanation, I guess, and I really don't have an explanation because I'm stumped. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Now, Delaney, supposedly, to advance the story, as they say, is heartened, he wouldn't admit to this, and he plans to run for governor, even with this slim mandate, he has a vast personal fortune.
PLOTKINBut, I think, he's gonna have a problem making a case for himself, for exactly the statistics. Yeah, heck, you didn't even do very well in your base and now you want to run statewide and the whole matrix of Democratic power in Montgomery was roll-up big numbers in Montgomery, Prince Georgia (sic) and Baltimore City and Howard -- Hogan won Howard. With Ulman, the county executive, being on the ticket and that...
FISHEROn Anthony Brown's ticket.
PLOTKINYes. Thank you. That formula is really now suspect.
FISHERWell, before we move on to Virginia, one last question. A question that you asked Michael Steele about whether Doug Gansler, the former attorney general, Montgomery County, former state's attorney, who lost in the Democratic primary to Anthony Brown…
FISHERYeah, would Gansler have handily beaten Larry Hogan in the tradition of Maryland easy victories for Democrats?
PLOTKINWell, the case is made for Gansler that you have to -- like, the difference between congressional and presidential elections, the electorate that votes in primaries, the turnout was something like 21 percent. And they are union establishment liberals. And the general election population is obviously much larger. And that Gansler was making the case that Hogan was making about taxes and that he could reach conservative Democrats. We haven't talked about race. And I do think it was a component.
PLOTKINHe was going to be the first African American governor in Maryland. Only the third elected governor since reconstruction in America. And in some places in Maryland -- I'll just say it -- I don't think they wanted an African American governor and they voted that way.
FISHERAlthough, of course, President Obama won overwhelmingly in Maryland in both of this races.
PLOTKINBut that you talk about Obama's name was not on the ballot, didn't draw those people to vote.
FISHERExactly. Let's go to Scott, in Salisbury, Md. Scott, you're on the air.
SCOTTYes. I just wanted to -- you guys were talking about why Hogan won and with Brown being a quasi-third term for O'Malley. The taxes and all is part of -- taxes and regulation, but O'Malley did that in his first term and he still won. The major piece of legislation I think that drove people to Hogan was the passing and implementation of the Firearms Safety Act of Maryland. Which is -- makes it extremely difficult to buy a handgun and outlawed a lot of modern sporting rifles.
SCOTTAnd that aggravated and angered a lot of people. And I think that that would hurt him because in the counties -- if you look at the map where the, you know, red and blue counties -- only three counties were blue. The rest of them were all red. And they're mostly rural counties where people like their firearms.
FISHERExactly. Thank you, Scott. That's a really good point. And it's interesting because Larry Hogan steadfastly avoided the social issues. He wanted nothing to do with discussion of guns or abortion, at least on a larger statewide level. But within rural communities, in various parts of Maryland, that discussion was happening, was being fed by Republican strategists who were working with gun groups and so on.
PLOTKINYou mentioned Martin O'Malley's presidential ambitions. And I think he has not been shy about going to Iowa or New Hampshire or anywhere else that has a primary. And his approval rating -- not approval rating. His vote when he is matched up against Hillary Clinton -- I couldn't believe the number. She was at 69, he was at 3 percent would Maryland people vote for.
PLOTKINHe has run to the left of Hillary Clinton if he should enter the presidential race. And people might actually say, do you want to rethink this political philosophy or is it once again -- it's important to give what you need to the people that actually vote in primaries and caucuses.
FISHERWell, we'll have to leave it there for Maryland. And we will turn our attention to Virginia and the scare that Mark Warner got last night. Scare of his life I would imagine. And we'll also talk later in the hour about the results in the District. That's all coming up with your calls at 1-800-433-8850. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post. We'll be back in a moment.
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. And we are talking about last night's elections and the startling results in various parts of the country. We've covered the Maryland races. And now we're taking a look at Virginia, where through much of the evening it looked like Mark Warner, long considered the most popular politician in Virginia, was going to get thrown out of office.
FISHERIn fact, he eked out a victory literally in the final moments of the count. His challenger, Republican Ed Gillespie has still not conceded. But Warner has declared victory and with 100 percent of the votes in he does have a narrow lead. Joining us to talk about that race and what's going on in Virginia, Quentin Kidd. He's a political science professor and director of the Watson Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Welcome.
MR. QUENTIN KIDDGood to be with you.
FISHERSo was this something that Mark Warner was accountably blind to? Should he have foreseen what was going on?
KIDDI think the Warner campaign became aware of this wave about two and a half weeks ago. As the night laid out last night, I started thinking back over the last two and a half weeks and thinking about conversations I'd with people in the Warner campaign, conversations I'd had with people in the Gillespie campaign. It became clear to me that two, two and a half weeks ago the Warner campaign realized that there was really rapid movement in the electorate, especially amongst the undecideds.
KIDDAnd there had been a large segment of undecided voters for months and months and months. We did our first poll of this race, matching Gillespie and Warner back in January. And there were 20 percent -- 18 percent of the electorate undecided. Warner had a 20 point lead. And that shape, that electoral shape stayed up until late August, early September. And then you started to see undecideds move a little bit. And you started to see the gap between Warner and Gillespie fluctuate a little bit.
KIDDBut Warner maintained this big lead, even through September, into early October even. And we did a poll in early October and we showed Warner the 12 point lead. And then the last poll we did he had a 7 point lead. So there was a really late-breaking…
FISHERAnd what was driving that? Was this Ed Gillespie managing to pin Mark Warner to Barack Obama? Was this general voter frustration with the economy? What do you think was causing that shift?
KIDDA couple things. I think Ed Gillespie was unknown to a lot of voters throughout the summer. Gillespie didn't have the money to do what a well-financed challenger to an incumbent -- a popular incumbent would do, spend the late spring running ads on TV, introducing himself in a biographical way, run ads throughout the summer, sort of reinforcing this image of who he is and beginning to articulate his argument against his opponent.
KIDDGillespie didn't have the money to do that stuff. And so we were showing in our polling a lot of voters saying they didn't know enough about Gillespie to make a decision. Even into early September. And so I think as voters starting paying attention late, you know, they broke overwhelmingly for Gillespie. And he -- to his credit and his campaign staff's credit, understood that these -- that those undecideds that had been breaking were breaking all for him.
KIDDAnd they realized that, you know, late in the game they would get most of these undecided voters. And so they really pressed their case late and hard. And I think, you know, that's what got them where they ended up last night.
FISHERYou can join our conversation about the election results in Virginia by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at email@example.com. And let's go now to Spencer, in Arlington. Spencer, you're on the air.
SPENCERHi. This is question is for Dr. Kidd, or really for the entire panel. So he kind of touched on this just a little bit ago, but I was wondering to what extent do you think Democratic complacency in Virginia may have played a role?
KIDDWell, especially amongst African American voters. We were just talking before we came on the air, you know, I think, you know, had -- if they had to do it over again the Warner campaign would be smart. I think to bring Barack Obama into the state multiple times over the last two weeks, especially to go to heavy African American cities, Norfolk, Richmond, for example, Portsmouth, and essentially rally the Obama coalition. The Obama coalition didn't show up yesterday in Virginia.
FISHERDidn't show up.
KIDDMillennial voters were 11 percent of the electorate. They were as high as in the low 20s in 2008 and 2012. African American voters essentially didn't show up like they did in 2008 and 2012. And these were core voters that Senator Warner needed to have a safe reelection.
FISHERAnd what Sen. Warner did instead was he tried to reach back for that moderate coalition that he'd put together as -- in his race for governor, his first race for senator.
FISHERAnd his ads were all about how he reaches across the aisle. He -- what about John Warner, the former senator, Republican senator endorsing him?
PLOTKINYeah, that -- did that help? Did John Warner help?
FISHERAny didn't get any of those votes...
PLOTKINWhat was the -- what…
FISHER...it looked like. Instead, the question is did he miss a chance? I mean, would it have been a double-edged sword to bring Obama in, in other words? Would the, you know, yes, he would have perhaps increased the African American turnout. But on other hand, Gillespie's ads were all about how Mark Warner votes with Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.
KIDDThink about it. I think Democratic candidates all over the country were in this position. They were running against Republicans who were running against Barack Obama. And the Democrats didn't have defense, except to say, well, no, I'm not really like Barack Obama. I think, in Mark Warner's situation -- and there may be others around the country, if -- Mark Warner should have run with Barack Obama. Because those undecided voters all broke for Ed Gillespie. They, you know, hindsight's 20/20, right? But they all broke for Ed Gillespie.
KIDDIt's not like Mark Warner was going to be in any worse shape if he had brought in the president and mobilized the inner city voters and the younger voters.
PLOTKINLet me ask about John Warner, that Marc mentioned. Here's a guy that he lost to by four points when he ran for the Senate. And then they became bosom buddies. He's 87 years old. Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, I call him, but he has a little more respectability now -- where he was really sort of ridiculed. And what was Warner's desire? Was it similar -- Quentin, we talked about this there. He transformed his persona when he ran for governor.
PLOTKINHe became the bluegrass, NASCAR -- what am I leaving out -- NRA, huntsman -- although he lives…
KIDDSportsman for war?
PLOTKIN…he lives in a mansion in Tony, Alexandria. Was this desire to get every vote -- and what role was John Warner to play? To actually strip away Republican vote, Republican moderates -- they weren't probably going to vote for Gillespie anyway.
KIDDYeah, I think it's -- I think it's friendship, one. I think there's a genuine friendship there. I think it was shoring up what they worried was going to be some erosion in the moderate middle of the electorate. I think one of the things that probably stings Mark Warner more than anything is losing Southwest Virginia, losing it big. Because he -- Mark Warner is a rare species amongst politicians. He won his race for governor by six points. He left the governor's mansion with nearly 70 percent approval rating.
KIDDIt's just so rare amongst, you know, statewide elected officials anywhere in the country. And part of the reason he was so popular is because rural Virginia really liked him as governor. But I think rural Virginia looks at him now and they see Washington, they see Barack Obama, they see a guy who really -- he's been gone for a while. They're not sure where, you know, who he is anymore. And he lost rural Virginia. He lost Southwest and Southside Virginia big time.
FISHERAnd in that way the influx of immigrants and migrants from the Northeast into Virginia -- that has in recent years been taken as proof that Virginia was trending Democratic -- in that way it may have hurt him, I think -- maybe you could comment on this Quentin Kidd -- because you have all these people who are new to Virginia and didn't know Mark Warner as governor. They only knew him as yet another Washington figure.
KIDDAs a senator, a U.S. senator. I would say this, you know, we're talking about how close this thing was. A Republican has not won in Virginia statewide since 2009 and Bob McDonnell. So as close as this was, just to make a statement about what Virginia's like as a state now, the Democrat won in a really close race where every other Democrat around the country just got swept up in the wave.
PLOTKINSo Quentin, the Congressional delegation -- and we won't get into gerrymandering and why it is what it was. There used to be a Democratic majority of the Congressional. It's now eight Republicans and three Democrats. And it seems to me that that is some way reflected. As Marc said, everybody thought they're moving away from purple to blue because Obama had won twice in all three statewide offices. And what you know far better than us, what -- I think this election is, wait a second. Stop. It isn't moving. So it isn't a guarantee that it's going to be blue in a presidential election.
KIDDYeah, I think Virginia's firmly purple…
KIDD…in statewide races. And when you slice the state into smaller districts, congressional districts, you're talking about different electorates. And those electorates look different. I mean, just look at the 10th. Right? That's a different…
PLOTKINYeah, what -- we haven't talked about that.
KIDDThe shape to that electorate looks different.
FISHERIn that the -- in which Barbara Comstock, the Republican, quite conservative -- more conservative than the longtime incumbent Frank Wolf -- handily dispatched John Foust, the Fairfax board member who was the Democratic nominee.
PLOTKINAnd the Post didn't endorse Foust, didn't endorse Comstock either. And said -- and the writing was that he was a terrible candidate.
KIDDYeah, she ran an excellent campaign. Almost flawless. She's far more conservative I think then that district is. She can't be a congresswoman like she was a candidate because I think in a presidential year where there's a more Obama-like coalition that shows up, she would be in trouble against a good Democratic candidate. And Foust ran a campaign that made several mistakes, including the statement in the debate that Barbara Comstock had never held a real job. I think that really hurt him.
FISHERThat killed him.
KIDDYeah, that really hurt him. And so he -- several mistakes there. Barbara Comstock, give her credit, it was a strong, decisive win. But I don't think she can govern -- she can't be a congresswoman as conservative as she ran.
FISHERWe -- there were even some folks last night who were saying that Mark Warner, if he's angry at anyone today he's probably most angry John Foust who cost him the large turnout in Fairfax County.
FISHERThat would have made this a much easier election for him.
KIDDThat's right. Yeah, so Fairfax County put him over the top, but Fairfax County also is what gave him the greatest anxiety early on. So really the heart and soul of Virginia yesterday was Fairfax County.
PLOTKINDon Beyer. We haven't mentioned him. One, I wondered if he will serve two -- a one two-year congressional term -- he took Jim Moran's seat -- and say, wait a second? Jim Gilmore beat me on the car tax. I'm coming back…
FISHERTo run for governor.
PLOTKIN…and I'm run -- for run for governor. Is that -- is -- I'm fond of Don Beyer. I visited him when he was ambassador to Switzerland. Is that a scenario by which a politician starts thinking? I'm going to win that office that was deprived.
KIDDSure. Why not? I mean, he's got plenty of energy. He's got plenty -- he financed well. I think given the governorship of Jim Gilmore, Don Beyer, for people who would remember that and look back on it, doesn't look so bad.
FISHERLet's hear now from Steve, in Alexandria. Steve, you're on the air.
STEVEYeah, hi. I was very interested in the analysis about the kind of geographic divisions in Virginia. Because in my experience it is very much like there are two states of Virginia. I mean the northern part of the state very much centralized, you know, kind of Democratic based. The southwest part of the state, I find it very hard to think that somebody even like Warner could win because just culturally it is so different.
STEVEAnd you don't see -- I mean, the Democratic base is so focused in the northern part of the state, you rarely see a politician focus on, you know, issues that are important and kind of focusing on being, you know, a kind of suburban city voter. But you certainly see the cultural approach towards, you know, the rural voters. Where the Republicans will say, you know, hey, these big city politicians, you know, vote them out. So I'm kind of wondering in the future how it's possible that you're going to have, you know, this idea of a moderate vote, when it seems that it's much more geographically and culturally divided.
KIDDSo the state is what we call the Golden Crescent. Northern Virginia, the Richmond metro area and Hampton Roads, those tend to be Democratic strongholds. The four bellwether localities that I pay attention -- Prince William, Loudoun, Henrico County and the city of Chesapeake -- I look at the city of Stanton, as well. It's a small, but I think it's a good bellwether. I mean, those are Democratic areas.
KIDDThe rest of the state is red. And Mark Warner --if a Democrat could win in the rest of the state, it was Mark Warner. And, you know, he got it handed to him last night in the rest -- in Southwest Virginia. So it really is two states right now.
FISHEROne last question on Virginia before we move onto the District. Ed Gillespie -- we've mentioned this extraordinary run that he had last night. Two questions about him. First of all, is he really done? Will there be a recount and how serious of a challenge to Mark Warner is that? And is Ed Gillespie now, by popular acclaim, the candidate for governor for the Republicans in two years?
KIDDI'd be -- I would be shocked if there's not a recount because I think he owes it to his supporters, I mean, if it's within 1 percent, a recount is available by law. He has to pay for it. If it's within a .5 percent the state will pay for it. I think he has to do it. It's a -- I'm making this sound more simple than it is. It's a simple process. There's a cost involved, but it's a simple process.
KIDDThe question about his future is the, you know $64 million question right now. The Gillespie campaign staff is essentially Mark Obenshain's staff. Mark Obenshain -- everybody knows -- wants to run for governor. So the real problem would be does Gillespie now run for governor and put together a different staff or does he fight Mark Obenshain to keep the staff and there's this struggle over who's going to be the nominee for governor. I'll look to -- right after the general assembly session in early March, if Ed Gillespie's going around the state talking to people, my money is on he's running for governor.
FISHERQuentin Kidd is a political science professor at Christopher Newport University and director of the Center for Public Policy there. Thanks very much for being here.
FISHERWhen we come back after a short break we turn our attention to the District of Columbia, where there's a new mayor, some new council members and legalized marijuana. We'll talk about that with two of the winners in yesterday's election. I'm Marc Fisher, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. We'll be back in a moment.
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. And after a very dramatic results in Virginia and Maryland, the District's election night may have seemed somewhat more stayed or predictable. Nonetheless, the city gets a new mayor, new council members, its first elected attorney general and legalized marijuana. And so, we have two of the winners in studio with us. Karl Racine is attorney general elect of the District of Columbia. He's a Democrat, and he won quite handily. Welcome.
MR. KARL RACINEWelcome. Thank you very much. It's great to be here.
FISHERAnd Elissa Silverman is the noon-Democrate at-large member-elect of the District council. She's a former Democrat or a pseudo-Democrat. What do we call that?
MS. ELISSA SILVERMANProgressive Democrat.
FISHERWho's masquerading as an independent, but that's the nature of D.C. politics where seats are reserved on the council for non-Democrats in this overwhelmingly...
PLOTKINNot a majority.
FISHER...in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.
SILVERMANI'm a progressive independent Democrat.
FISHERAnd now a member of the council. And so, let's start with you, Elissa Silverman. This was not your first run for office. But it got in this time and one with Anita Bonds, the Democrat who came in first in that race. You beat a very large field of candidates. What -- what do you think voters were saying and what is your top priority as you begin this work?
SILVERMANWell, thank you, Marc. And, Marc, it's a thrill to be here. And first of all, I want to thank my supporters and voters fort it's really their victory. And what -- what I think we did in this election, Marc, is build upon the foundation that was built last year and I think has been built -- this has been a slow, painful process through, you know, initiative 70, which was about banning corporate contributions for over the past few years and other candidates who ran on, you know, what has been called a progressive slate and vision.
SILVERMANBut I really think it's about maximizing our resources in our city, including ourselves, making sure we're spending our tax dollars efficiently and effectively on the things that matter the most. And I think it takes time. It takes time to let people believe that they can make a difference in their government. And that, I think, is what we have been working on over the past several years and culminated last night. And that -- we broke though the cynicism, I think, that people can't make a difference at city hall. You can fight city hall, can't you, Mark Plotkin?
FISHERNow, you have a new mayor, Muriel Bowser, who won with more than 50 percent of the vote, which a lot of people were not expecting. She did well in eastern parts of the city and more African American parts of the city. She lost Wards 2 and 3, whiter parts of the city and more affluent parts of the city. How difficult will it be for her to govern, and the phrase that she constantly use, in all eight wards given this deep divide in the city that we've now seen recurring in one election after another?
SILVERMANWell, I -- we were involved with our own election night activities. But I have heard and I haven't read too much of the paper uncharacteristically this morning, but I know that Mayor-elect Bowser will, I think, make a lot of effort to bring the city together. And I think she started that process last night. I think that probably some voters voted on education issues. But I think that that will be -- I think, you know, Council Member Bowser is up for the challenge. And it will be, I think, a challenge to bring the city together. But I know that will be a big focus of ours.
PLOTKINYeah, I, first of all, want to take credit for the election of both individuals, not just one but both. I write now a column for the Georgetowner and I've never done this before. It used to make veiled endorsements. But I made an endorsement of a list of who I've known a long time. And I didn't Karl Racine, I endorsed Paul Zuckerberg. So all my legion of detractors who said, well -- and they were running for different offices, they weren't running against each other.
PLOTKINI feel responsible of the election of both of you. And I -- I surely hope I will be getting thank you notes from each of you by not endorsing Karl. They said, well, if you didn't endorse Karl, he's good enough for me. And for my very minute following, maybe it helped Elissa. But I wanna Elissa a sort of question that people don't have comfortable -- you know of my fondness and my admiration for you.
PLOTKINBut having said that, do we not have a situation in the District of Columbia when there are 15 candidates and a lot of them are one color and very few are another color. And I talk about Phil Mendelson who is elected by virtue of him running a large field. I do not take away from your qualifications or your credentials at all. Isn't it the political phenomena -- and you ran before and you ran a good campaign -- that if there eight black candidates and there are one white candidate in terms of turnout in the city being 45 percent in a multi-field race like that, the qualified, competent, talented white candidate is always going to win?
SILVERMANWell, I think last year we had a different dynamic of the field and I almost won in a field that was, I think, largely white candidates. So I really think that we need to focus, Mark, on -- you know, I have to point out that one of my major endorsements...
SILVERMAN...was from the Ward 8 council member. And that was surprising and shocking to a lot of people. But what I've said to everyone who's asked me about it is, Council Member Barry and I are focused on one of our biggest issues, which is income inequality and poverty in our city. There are new census numbers that just came out that show one out of two kids in Ward 8 is in poverty. We need to have a sense of urgency that goes beyond what our skin color is and where we live in this city.
SILVERMANAnd we need to have a sense of urgency about -- about fighting poverty in our city, because it is the cause of our achievement gap, it is the cause of our opportunity gap. And it's holding us back from being a fabulous city. You know, what I think our campaign largely about -- was about, Mark, is unlocking the potential of our city. We need to unlock the potential of our people and we need to maximize our resources to do that.
FISHERKarl Racine, the attorney general-elect of the District of Columbia, this is a brand new office or at least a brand new elected office. It's been an appointed position until now. You ran in a five-way race, as Mark pointed out. A large race with different candidates with different races. You've won 40 percent of the vote, quite handily given that it's a five-way race. But you now face a city that perhaps, would you agree, had some misperceptions about what this office is and what you -- a number of your competitors portrayed this as a position from which you would fight crime. Well, the attorney general really doesn't have much to do with crime. So what is the perception that you think voters have of what your job is how do you combat that?
RACINESure. First of all, I congratulate Elissa on running a fine race. And as to our victory last night, I, too, want to really emphasize and thank our supporters, the citizens throughout the city, an extraordinary number of volunteers, as you noted. We won in a comprehensive way. We won all eight wards. That's what we were trying to do and we accomplished just that. We received endorsements from the business community, from unions.
RACINEIf you look at the demographics, you'll see that white voters and black voters and Latino voters came out yesterday. So we feel real good about going into the attorney general office. Now, as regards to that office, you know, this is new. There is no doubt about it. And what we're going to do initially, of course, is focus on building a culture of independence. Here to fore, as you know, the office has been appointed by the mayor. What we're going to have to do is build another culture, a culture that really focuses fundamentally on the law, not politics. So that'll be job one for us.
FISHERAnd one of the things you're going to deal with fairly soon is the decision by District voters yesterday overwhelmingly backing an initiative that legalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the city. It is now fallen to the D.C. Council to make decisions about what that means, how to regulate that. Will sales be allowed? Sales are not really mentioned in the initiative. And you're -- you would somehow be immaculately be allowed to possess something that you're not allowed to buy unless the council does something about that. And then, of course, Congress will play a role in whether this goes forward. What is your role as attorney general in working all of that out?
RACINESure. Well, first, I commend the council for all that it's done, particularly most recently in seeking to thoughtfully consider how to rollout legalization, if you will. And my role, as I see it, is to really work with Elissa and the other council members to bring in, you know, the best practices of what other jurisdictions have done. It's important to note that we are not writing on a clean slate. In fact, I've already made contact with my colleagues out in Colorado and in Oregon. So I will have ready suggestions to make to the council as we enter into this new world.
PLOTKINMr. Attorney General, how do you see your role? Your office was elected. It was an expansion of home rule. It was an affirmation of autonomy. Do you plan to be, and I hope you do, courageous and gutsy about expanding home rule through the -- your office in terms of legally challenging things and bringing cases? They failed in the past. But -- or are you -- do you feel constricted in that way?
RACINEMark, I don't feel constricted by anything other than law and facts. And so, I will absolutely work very closely with the council as well as the, you know, extraordinary number lawyers and advocacy groups in town, D.C. Vote, Appleseed and others to really devise the best strategies in order for us to make that march towards budget autonomy and statehood.
PLOTKINAnd the other thing that has been criticized is that the counsels in the various departments report not to you, but to the mayor. Thus, in some way, subverting the real will of the -- what is behind setting up this office. You all candidates answered diplomatically about it. But don't you see that as a potential problem?
RACINEYeah, the fact is I do see it as a potential problem. And I certainly believe that the structure that we had in place prior to October...
PLOTKINDo you want to change it legislatively?
RACINEWell, you know, these are conversations that I certainly will have with Elissa and the council.
PLOTKINWould you be for it, Elissa, changing -- expanding the powers of the attorney general? You now got a vote.
SILVERMANRight. Well, I think that's what Karl's job will be is to really shape what the -- an independent attorney general will look like. So I'm sure there'll be many conversations between Karl and me and my fellow council members about what that should look like.
FISHERKarl Racine, obviously you've just been elected to this office. But we're talking about politics here. So looking four or eight years down the road, are you ready to...
FISHER...would you rule out running for mayor at some point later?
RACINEYou know, I'm focused on being the city's first attorney general.
PLOTKINBoy, is that predictable.
FISHERYou're not going to answer that question.
RACINEThat's a shocker for you, Marc. And, look, sure enough, you know, my whole life, I've been a practicing lawyer. I quite love the law and I do think that the attorney general's office has immense opportunity to really advance the cause of the district's most vulnerable citizens.
FISHERNot ruling out anything then. Okay. Let's turn to -- given short rifts so far to the premier race yesterday, the race for mayor and the election of Muriel Bowser. Elissa Silverman, as you look at what happened in this race, what were voters saying, why -- why did the city split as it did with the western chunk -- west of Rock Creek Park supporting David Catania and the rest of the city supporting Muriel Bowser?
PLOTKINAnd who did you vote for?
SILVERMANOh, Mark Plotkin, I should have said up front that I think my election was largely due to Mark's endorsement. I wrote it down on a piece of paper in front of me.
PLOTKINKeep on saying it.
SILVERMANI did. I do think that -- I know in my area in Ward 6 and of my peer group, let's say, who have invested in our city, who have a lot of young children who are in the public schools that David Catania had a focus on public schools. And I think that spoke to I know my neighbors, my peer group. And I think where he was strongest was largely where public schools were the premier issue, public school parents for David. I think that that was probably why we saw the -- the basis of support that he had.
FISHERAnd who did you vote for?
SILVERMANI -- I -- how can I...
PLOTKINThis is a different persona for Elissa Silverman who has never had any timidity about saying where she comes from. She's matured into a public figure.
SILVERMANI am transitioning into a public figure.
PLOTKINOh, I'll ask her again. Mark, what I would like to bring up, which is the skunk at the dinner party and it's terribly predictable. I want somebody to challenge Eleanor Holmes Norton, not just because it's Eleanor Holmes Norton but because after 24 years, we have no progress. And she's been there. And I think that a person of stature and ability should make that case and that should be a contested race.
FISHERDon't you think -- don't you think the fact that no one ever runs against her simply indicates that no one considers it an office worth having? It's a meaningless office.
PLOTKINNo, I think, no. I think they could make it something worth having. This is a delegate who refuse to ask the four uncommitted -- I know I'm mono maniacal on this, but I have a venue now right on this microphone.
FISHERFor 10 more seconds.
PLOTKINYeah. There were four uncommitted senators and maybe Karl Racine and Elissa Silverman will go up there and she never asked them for the vote on the statehood deal.
SILVERMANWell, let me say, Mark, while you're on this topic that I do want to, you know, statehood. I had it on my website. I look forward to working with you and the other statehood advocates on a statehood strategy.
FISHERElissa Silverman is the new at-large member-elect of the D.C. Council. Karl Racine is the attorney general-elect of the District of Columbia. And Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC and to thehill.com. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Thanks for joining us.
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