Campaign managers of Mark Warner and Ed Gillespe’s campaigns came together in Arlington on Tuesday for a retrospective view on Virginia’s Senate race.
David Hallock, senior advisor to Warner, and Paul Logan, communications director for Gillespe, represented their respective campaigns at “After Virginia Votes.” Mark Rozell. acting dean of the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs moderated their discussion. The event highlighted many aspects of this year’s midterm election, even before the discussion started, an underlying point during the forum was the topic of low turnout.
Douglas Brammer, state government affairs manager for Verizon, assisted in opening the event and made a direct connection, on Veterans Day, between military service and exercising the right to vote.
“Exercising our right to vote allows us to have a voice in such important matters such as taxes, healthcare and education, and I can’t help but wonder if those that did not vote realize that they not only silenced their own voice, but also disrespected or dishonored those who fought for our right to vote,” Brammer said.
Only 41% of registered voters in Virginia voted in the midterm election.
The discussion also covered election night, when the results, according to Rozell, became a lot closer than previously thought.
Hallock contributed the results to the overall nature of the race, which changed very quickly as the election approached.
“I think what you saw across the country was that it became an anti-Washington, anti-incumbent senate races very quickly and we knew the ground was quickly shifting underneath our feet,” Hallock said.
Despite always leading behind in the polls, Logan felt that Gillespe’s campaign could see a difference in voter energy as the election closed in.
“We could feel it in the crowds as we were going and we felt that we had the momentum on our side the last couple of weeks but one place we didn’t see it was in our polls,” Logan said.
The discussion continued, highlighting aspects of each campaign, including spending, advertising and campaign strategy. Hallock emphasized Warner’s image as a “bi-partisan problem solver” throughout the discussion, which he believes was both a strength and a weakness in this election as many citizens are tired of partisanship and gridlock in Washington while also hoping for something new from Congress.
“People like Senator Warner, they like what he’s trying to do, but they wanted to send a message that Washington is not working for them and the dysfunction and gridlock in Washington is not acceptable. So while they like him, they wanted to vote to send him a message,” Hallock said.
Logan highlighted Gillespe’s emphasis on the use of technology to reach out directly to voters during the campaign.
“We were going to put an emphasis on digital. That was one of the ways we saw we could engage in asymmetrical warfare and close [the spending] gap. But at that end of the day, we were being outspent in every media market,” Logan said. “There’s never been a greater ability to bypass the media and go directly to voters on that digital front.”
However, Logan did acknowledge that despite the emphasis Gillespe’s campaign put on digital marketing, the campaign was outspent 2 to 1.
Questions were also taken from the audience, which ranged in topic from state laws surrounding voter ID to issues local to Northern Virginia.
Hallock took time in one of his answers to acknowledge the challenges posed by student debt, an issue that Warner paid particular attention to on his Virginia college tour in September.
“[Student debt] is crushing young folks that are coming out of college,” Hallock said.
The discussion concluded with both Hallock and Logan commenting on the futures of both of their candidates. While, according to Hallock, Warner will be going back to Washington to try to stimulate bipartisanship, Logan believes that Gillespe has “many options” as to where he will be headed next.
The event was co-sponsored by Mason and the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-public, nonpartisan group that works to show how technology can improve the public’s understanding of the role of money in Virginia politics. This is the third time the pair has partnered to sponsor post-election campaign discussion. Verizon Wireless financially sponsored the event.
Featured photo courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project