On underestimating Creigh Deeds.

In 2001, after Sen. Emily Couric’s death, a special election was held to determine who would fill out her term. The 25th senate district contains Charlottesville, of course, so we knew that we could just select a nominee from among ourselves. The folks we expected stepped up to vie for the nomination: former Mayor Nancy O’Brien, City Councilor Meredith Richards, Al Weed…plus some delegate from Bath County (wherever that is), Creigh Deeds. We held the nominating convention in Charlottesville one Saturday morning, for which it was pretty clear that a woman was going to win, it was just a question of which one. But then we arrived that morning. Creigh DeedsDel. Deeds had filled a whole bus with folks from Alleghany, Bath, Buckingham, Buena Vista, Covington, and Rockbridge (not a single one of which any of us Charlottesville muckity-mucks could have picked out on a map.) He had slick-looking brochures, palm cards, and stickers. None of our candidates were even close. When we went into the balloting process, damned if that Deeds fellow didn’t lick everybody in the first round of voting, getting a majority of votes on the first ballot. He knew that the voting would be weighted by municipality, he knew how to campaign—not the deal-cutting like in Charlottesville, but really campaign—and he sure knew how make folks underestimate him. We never saw him coming, but we sure adopted him as one of our own real quick. Just a few weeks later he licked his Republican opponent in a landslide victory, continuing his lifelong streak of never losing an election.

This winter, when Terry McAuliffe was thinking about entering the race, I had a chat with Creigh Deeds about it. I was concerned how he’d fare against a well-funded pair of popular, liberal, upstate Democrats. I didn’t see how he could get the nomination, given that McAuliffe’s own data must have shown that the electorate was looking for somebody pretty far to the left, or else he wouldn’t be running. Creigh smiled, and in just about two minutes, explained to me just how he would win. He’d stay positive, and let McAuliffe and Moran fight over the same slice of the pie—geographically and ideologically speaking—while he sat back, raised money, and campaigned in every corner of the state. The two candidates would tear each other up, but they wouldn’t bother with him, since he’d be polling so low that they’d just ignore him. Then, just before the primary, they’d do enough damage to each other and Creigh would gain enough popular support that he’d shoot up in the polls. Before they had time to react, the primary would be upon us, and Creigh would win the race.

Don’t let anybody tell you that today was about luck. Luck had nothing to do with it. Today was about Creigh Deeds kicking ass and taking names, so that he can follow up with a thank-you note. That’s just how they do it in Bath County.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

21 replies on “On underestimating Creigh Deeds.”

  1. I gotta say, Deeds ran his campaign EXACTLY as he needed to and gave one hell of a whoopin’ to Moran and McAuliffe. Just gorgeous. I hope he gets cocky and forgets all of it by November.

  2. As I visited the Central Virginia precincts this afternoon, I was met by several paid “poll watchers” who had been hired by the Deeds campaign. Terry McAuliffe had some roving support, like me, but the Deeds campaign had the “boots on the ground” in the neighborhoods, where it counts (especially in a low turn-out primary).

    So now, Virginians have the dubious privilege of choosing between a Republican, “Bush-clone-Bob” who was anointed by GOP insiders, well before their phony convention, and Creigh Deeds, who received the “mandate” of less than seven (7) percent of those eligible to vote in the Democratic Primary.

    We can be sure that the GOP will pour millions into Bush-clone-Bob’s campaign and Creigh will have the same anemic funding as he had for his AG race. Hopefully for Virginia, Creigh Deeds can somehow win the rematch.

    **Hint: 1. Kiss and make-up with community groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans. 2. Show-up at every gun show and stock car race from now until the election. If Creigh can learn from Mark Warner and Jim Webb’s campaign, he just might be able to out “bubba” Bush-clone-Bob.

    How about some orange, “Sportsmen for Deeds” stickers?

  3. Waldo, I thought I saw you at the party at the Omni tonight, but by the time I made it over to your side of the room you had evaporated. I never would have thought one of the tallest guys in the room could disappear so completely.

    Also, it’s Buena Vista.

    Great post.

  4. Great win and congratulations…one of the good guys in public service won tonight.

  5. There is one Amy Reaves, Sec. of the 6th District Committee and LDC member, who will NOT stop smiling today!
    Please, Waldo, do any and everything you can to help Shannon Valentine win the 23rd HOD race against her opponent, “SLICK” Dr. Scott Garrett.

  6. Isn’t it “misunderestimating”?

    Me, I’m not looking a victory like this in the mouth until the chickens have been counted and the barn door closed.

    Or something like that.

  7. Creigh Deeds, who received the “mandate” of less than seven (7) percent of those eligible to vote in the Democratic Primary.

    First, who are you quoting on “mandate”? Has someone claimed Deeds has a mandate? (FWIW, I’m not even sure what that means in the context of a primary).

    Second, addressing the 7% of eligible voters thing, is that abnormal in an off-year Democratic gubernatorial primary without a Republican primary? That number is not too surprising to me, given that primaries are usually relatively low turn-out, off-year elections usually have low turnout, and I wouldn’t expect a significant portion of the state’s Republicans or even independents to turn out for the Democratic primary.

    Basically, it looks to me like you’re batting at strawmen.

  8. Waldo, I thought I saw you at the party at the Omni tonight, but by the time I made it over to your side of the room you had evaporated. I never would have thought one of the tallest guys in the room could disappear so completely.

    We had my 5-year-old niece with me, and I spent a lot of time crouched over or off playing with her on the steps to the stage. :)

    Also, it’s Buena Vista.

    Oops! Thanks. Though I kinda like the idea of “Vuena Vista.” It sounds awfully exotic.

    Creigh Deeds, who received the “mandate” of less than seven (7) percent of those eligible to vote in the Democratic Primary.

    What Ben said, plus 7% isn’t even close to accurate. That’s the percentage of all registered voters in Virginia. If you figure Democrats make up 50% of the electorate (it’s surely less, but I’m being conservative here) then there was 14% turnout. If you think Dems are just below 40%, then it was 20% turnout.

  9. J. Tyler,

    Why would Creigh have anemic funding for this race? In 2005 he was down-ticket, in a national climate in which Democrats had been losing for a long time and fund-raising was very difficult. It wasn’t until 2006 that the party became really resurgent and the cash started flowing.

    Creigh was out-spent something like 3 to 1 in 2005, but he still came within around 300 votes of winning. This year, he’s at the top of the ticket and its going to be a lot easier for him to raise money.

    If you’re so damn concerned about how much money Creigh is going to have for this general election, then put your money where your mouth is and donate some money to him.


    As for your sour grapes BS about Creigh not having enough of a ‘mandate’ in this primary, stop whining. Your candidate (whomever it was) lost, and he lost in a landslide. Creigh beat each of the other candidates by a 2 to 1 margin. Turnout was typical for a Virginia state-level primary. If anything, it was higher than even the 2006 primary in which Jim Webb won the nomination for Senate. Did Jim Webb lack some kind of legitimacy because of low turnout? No.

  10. All I can say is – WELL PLAYED MR. DEEDS!

    This was one of the most exciting and resonant landslide victories in Virginia political history.

    There are huge lessons here for VA Dems, like:
    * if you want to win statewide, fight everywhere.
    * despite trending blue, this is still Virginia.
    The “Ol’ Virginny” may be dead, but it’s still got agriculture as its number one industry and an honest and humble public servant can carry a message of economic justice and universal opportunity to every corner of the commonwealth.

    As a Terry supporter, I am 100% overjoyed to have Creigh Deeds as our nominee. And as one of those C’ville muckety mucks who watched Creigh gracefully succeed Emily Couric those years ago, I’m 110% sure it’s GAME ON for November.


  11. Another boots-on-the-ground result was in the 25th Assembly district, where Greg Marrow won by a 2-to-1 margin. In the 3 Albemarle precincts in the 25th, he won 80% of the vote; in Crozet precinct, he won 84%. That is almost certainly attributable to the fact that his campaign came east of the mountains with mailings and canvassing; his (very energetic) campaign manager was there for several hours at the polls in Crozet. He’s a longshot to beat Steve Landes in the fall, but it’s very much like the Periello-Goode matchup, where hard work and commitment to the needs of the district may be able to trump ideology.

  12. J. Tyler Ballance — well done. I’m not wrong often, but I admit it when it’s been proven and I can’t deny otherwise.

    People kept trying to tell me otherwise, but I stubbornly kept saying, “Nonsense! No one will ever out-crazy James Young in the comments on Waldo’s blog!”

  13. And let’s not forget Joe Abbey, Creigh’s manager. He had to make some tough choices (like laying off staff to be sure there was money for TV). I supported Brian in the primary, but I am enthusiastically going to work to elect Creigh Deeds.

  14. 1. (Waldo) From the SBE website: 320,159 of 5,071,226 total voters – (6.313%).

    2. (Cline) From Webster’s, “Mandate: 2. The wishes of a political electorate expressed by election results to its representatives…” (Should not be confused with, overwhelming mandate).

    3. (Landers) It is not, “sour grapes” to point out that Creigh Deeds has had difficulty in the past raising money and that he could remedy the problem, in part, by repairing his relationship with groups that he previously and mistakenly deemed as politically incorrect, like the UDC and SCV. I know first hand that thousands of Virginia SCV members would like to support Creigh, but they still remember how vociferously he opposed the SCV logo license plate a few years ago. A group that is based on promoting the accurate telling of history has a long memory, and Creigh would be wise to at least try to rebuild a relationship with the SCV, a group that is worth 50,000 votes in the Commonwealth.

    As for cash donations, I used to give money, but I didn’t like what some of the campaigns used the money for. I used to support both Republicans and Democrats, but I have not financially supported Republicans since I saw what the Bushies were doing to our Constitution. Now, I will work as a paid staff member, provide in-kind donations, or provide my time as a ballot petition gatherer to candidates who are pledged to Constitution-based governance. When I provide time or material support, I find that I can have a more constructive impact, than with mere financial donations. I have discovered that my in-kind donations are rarely recorded, however, but that is not of consequence to me, since I know the time, material and effort were well spent. For example, when I organized the, Bike for Obama event in Richmond last year, the whole effort cost very little cash, but we managed to get about 1,000 folks to ride their bikes to the Richmond Coliseum to hear Obama’s speech.

    I will consider making a cash donation to Deeds’ campaign if I see some effort on his part to rebuild a positive relationship with Virginia’s SCV, UDC and other civic/historic societies. Virginia could be making a billion dollars in added tourism revenue by promoting Confederate era tourism. We can’t get there if the Governor is afraid to have the Battle Flag displayed in public and proclaims that we should be ashamed of our Confederate Veterans, rather than honoring their service to the citizens of Virginia. Nobody expects Deeds to kowtow to the SCV, all they want is to be treated equally with all of the other civic/historic service organizations.

  15. As has been pointed out elsewhere (fivethirtyeight.com most recently), between 6% and 7% turnout sounds ridiculously low compared to most states, but that’s because Virginia has open primaries and non-partisan registration. If you look at raw totals between states, it’s actually quite respectable. And if you compare our 2008 turnout with the 2006 Senate primary, Virginia Democrats had a veritable explosion of voter participation — more than twice as many people voted in June 2009 as compared to June 2006.

  16. Yep, very well done by Deeds. I’m not thrilled about another round of “Suck it, NoVA, it’s me or the winger Republican”, but Deeds is someone I can get behind.

  17. Well called, Waldo. And well played, Senator Deeds.

    I was rooting for Brian Moran, but I’m far more enthusiastic about Creigh Deeds than I was at the time about Tim Kaine and even Mark Warner. Joe Abbey ran a great campaign, and I hope Deeds’ coffers are filling quickly enough that they can hire back those laid off staffers and many more.

  18. Creigh also benefited from a number of non-demos–lbertarian types who have been impressed with his stance on freedoms and his combination of being a real guy and sophisticated, something that will do him well in the general election. I know republicans, libertarians and independents who can get behind a Deeds for governor because of his willingness to go to bat for what is right rather than toe any party line. Heck, Joel Salatin personally endorsed Deeds at VICFA meeting on sunday….

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