Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 10, 2013

Bipartisan progress ahead?

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey usually garner a lot of attention for two reasons. First, they are the only elections in the year immediately following a presidential election and second, they are oftentimes indicators of what is to come the following year in the midterm congressional elections.

Earlier this week the Old Dominion and the Garden State voters went to the polls and made their choices and if anything could be drawn from the outcome it is that we are destined for more gridlock, possibly, in the future.

In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli in a closely contested race. While Cuccinelli did better at the polls than the pundits had predicted, the Republicans lost control of the governor’s seat in Virginia.

An interesting aside is that McAuliffe becomes the first member of the party occupying the White House to win Virginia’s governorship since 1973 when Republican Mills Godwin was elected the year after Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide presidential victory.

Democrats Chuck Robb, Gerald Baliles and Doug Wilder were elected in the years after Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Republicans George Allen and Jim Gilmore ascended to office after Bill Clinton’s elections, while Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — both currently U.S. Senators — were elected in the years after George W. Bush’s victories. Bob McDonnell took office following Barack Obama’s first victory.

So what does McAuliffe’s victory mean?

It means that there is a wide political divide in Virginia.

Polls indicate that McAuliffe won in urban areas carrying the Democrats and making inroads with Republican voters. Cuccinelli won in the rural areas, including Southwest Virginia. The urban areas are the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia, the Tidewater area and metropolitan Richmond.

This sounds a lot like things happening more than 150 years ago when the residents of Western Virginia had interests much different than those along the Atlantic Coast and the farmlands of central and southern Virginia. The result was the eventual creation of the state of West Virginia.

My old friend Will Pruett and I used to joke about creating the state of Appalachia — and that is to be pronounced App-uh-lah-cha, not App-uh-lay-cha. That state would consist of southern West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

I don’t think the Old Dominion will split, but it is a state that is politically divided along geographic lines.

The New Jersey governor’s race is also of importance and is a bellwether as much as Virginia’s contest.

Republican Chris Christie gained an overwhelming victory in the Garden State. Christie won a majority of the women’s vote and split the Hispanic vote with his challenger, Democrat Barbara Buono. He got nearly 25 percent of the African-American vote.

New Jersey has oftentimes been called a microcosm of U.S. society in terms of its composition. Its population mirrors very closely the racial, ethnic, religious and socio-economic percentages in the nation. It has rural areas, it has urban areas.

Christie has received much criticism from the conservatives in the Republican Party for many of his positions and his praise of President Obama following Hurricane Sandy last year. His victory this week came from a coalition of voters that on a national level could send a presidential candidate to the White House.

So what are the conclusions drawn from the nation’s only two gubernatorial elections this year?

The political extremes are not viable on a statewide level in a states that are diverse as the U.S. populace. Whether it is Barbara Buono on the left in New Jersey, or Ken Cuccinelli on the right in Virginia, voters in both states moved to the center. McAuliffe got Republican votes. Christie got Democratic votes.

Chris Christie has positioned himself as a very serious candidate for the White House in 2016. He was already considered such prior to Tuesday’s polling, but the results from this week showed that he can attract more than those in his party’s base. In fact, he does not have a lot of his party’s base and he still won by an overwhelming margin.

As for the Old Dominion, McAuliffe said, “Over the next four years most Democrats and Republicans want to make Virginia a model of pragmatic leadership. This is only possible if Virginia is the model for bipartisan cooperation.”

You see, the legislature in Virginia is controlled by Republicans.

The electorates in Virginia and New Jersey have spoken, let’s see how things transpire across the nation. I think we will see bipartisan progress in both states that will set the tone for the nation.

Bob Redd is a sports writer for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at