As the rumors first reported by the Virtucon that Senator Watkins won’t run again have been confirmed, the question becomes: Will Republicans find a candidate to retain his seat beyond 2015? Unlike Steve Martin’s 11th Senatorial District that would certainly stay red if Martin were not the candidate, Senator Watkins’s District 10 is far from a sure bet for Republicans to retain as an open seat. It will take an optimal candidate to keep the seat.
The district was redistricted in 2011, so we will examine the district as it stands today. In 2009, the district (as outlined today) as was strongly conservative as the Republicans swept the state with McDonnell and Cuccinelli winning 59% of the vote, and Bill Bolling taking in 57%. Since then, the district has changed remarkably. In 2013, Ken Cuccinelli lost the district to Terry McAuliffe 42% to 47% with Sarvis taking 10%. Mark Obeshain lost 51% to 49% while E.W. Jackson was crushed in the district 60% to 40%. Obama won the district 51% to 47% in 2008 and 50% to 48% in 2012. Warner crushed Gilmore 64% to 44% in 2008, while Kaine won 53% to 46% in 2012. While the numbers haven’t been published on VPAP yet, an analysis of the relevant precincts shows Warner defeated Gillespie 49.7% to 46.6% with Sarvis stealing 3.5% of the vote.
The only Republican to win in the district since 2009 is Senator Watkins. Watkins, a prodigious fundraiser, outspent his Democratic opponent in 2011 $1,200,723 to $505,032 and won the election handily 56% to 43%. With the 10th District likely getting state wide and even national attention as it may swing the senate in 2015, it is unlikely that a the spending split will be as large as it was in 2011. This district will be in play, and it will take the right kind of candidate for the Republicans to win.
Looking to the recent races what sort of candidate will be the most competitive for Republicans in the 11th? I would say that we need a Chesterfield County based candidate that is issue focused, small government, anti-tax, business friendly, and conservative while not being a firebrand on social issues.
The optimal candidate would be from Chesterfield County because, despite being called the Powhatan Seat, the district’s voting population divides up 49% Chesterfield, 37% Richmond, and 14% Powhatan County.
The optimal candidate would be issue focused because that’s how Ed Gillespie derailed Warner’s campaign enough to almost score a win.
The optimal candidate would be small government and anti-tax because Watkins is leaving the seat for the sins of supporting Medicaid Expansions and McDonnell’s unpopular transportation tax-hike package.
The optimal candidate would be business friendly, because fundraising will be a key part of this race and Watkins made the district happy for a long time with his business friendly policies.
And the optimal candidate will not be a firebrand on social issues due to the illustrated disparity between Obenshain and Jackson in the 2013 election and Gillespie’s successful parries of Warner’s attempts to paint him as extreme on social issues.
So… any ideas on who this optimal candidate may be?