Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District: Of Naval Commanders & Mermaids

November 5, 2018

By Al Giordano

(This is an excerpt from Issue #66 of Al Giordano’s América of November 4, 2018, “An Hour-by-Hour Guide to Counting Midterm Results.” In the next day’s Issue #67, “Final House & Senate Projections for 2018,” this newsletter was the only publication that projected Democratic candidate Elaine Luria to win Virginia’s 2nd CD. She is now the US Rep.-elect for that district.)

If there ever was a Congressional District whose zeitgeist included the US Navy and mermaids, look at the one on this map. Home to the largest US Naval base on earth and that sliver of the Delmarva Peninsula (get it? DELaware, Maryland & VA!) that is territory of the Old Dominion, it’s Virginia’s 2nd CD.

The incumbent is Republican US Rep. Scott Taylor. His Democratic challenger is Elaine Luria, a Naval Commander who retired after 20 years in the service in 2017 (she had gone directly from high school into the Naval Academy), married to another retired Naval Commander, 42 and Jewish American (she once held a seder on an aircraft carrier, an event mentioned regularly in profiles of her by Jewish press outlets).

Again, the Cook Report is the only projections operation calling this contest a tossup – the others rank it a Republican lean or win – but since I’m old enough to remember the wave election of 1974 and the surprises that happened that night when Democrats took 49 House seats from Republicans, the shockers were in districts where exceptional candidates were fielded. I haven’t completed my projections yet but I thought subscribers would want to know about this candidate, who has proved quite effective on the campaign trail.

Luria didn’t go straight into politics when she retired last year. She started a small business called the Mermaid Factory. Yes, they make mermaid dolls there, with glitter and frills, and she employs ten people at it. Not what people might expect from a seasoned Navy commander!

If there really is a blue wave coming, no district is closer to the water than this one! Trump won here by 3.4 percent. In 2008 and 2012 Obama won it each time by two percent. More recently, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam won this district by four points. 538 gives Luria just a 2 in 7 shot at winning and has Taylor with a 3.2 percent advantage.

There are just two polling organizations in the field. A Christopher Newport University poll (by the same outfit where Rachel Bitecofer works) taken October 3 to 18 had Taylor winning by seven percent: 50 percent to 43. But a more recent NY Times Siena poll taken October 18 to 22 had the Republican Taylor up by just three points: 45 percent to 42 percent.

This is the kind of slim margin that can be overcome by turnout, enthusiasm, field organization and Election Day ground game. It’s not a “must win” for Democrats but nonetheless it’s one I’ll be watching closely early on Tuesday. That’s because an intangible that is often missed in our data-soaked world is that great candidates over-perform the polls, and Luria fits the part.

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