Virginia Primary Preview (correction)

We made an error in our coverage of SD-31.

In our newsletter this morning covering SD-31, we incorrectly said state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) is a registered lobbyist in Richmond. She is not; she runs a consulting firm, Pathways to 21st Century Communities, that lobbies Richmond lawmakers on behalf of many powerful clients, including Marymount University and Virginia Hospital Center, Arlington. Shortly after Favola’s firm became a campaign issue, its website was taken down. Favola has previously insisted she is not advocating for the interests of powerful businesses with the expectation of compensation, even businesses who donated substantial sums to her campaign. It remains true that everything Favola is doing is legal under Virginia’s lax ethics laws.

While Favola’s conduct leaves much to be desired, she is not, technically, a registered lobbyist, and our calling her a registered lobbyist was unequivocally false. We regret the error, and we will do better in the future. Our view of the SD-31 race is otherwise unchanged. We have corrected our SD-31 writeup, and it is included in this email. We have also corrected it on our website.

SD-31 (Barbara Favola, D)

Clinton 69.2% Trump 24.9%
Barbara Favola vs Nicole Merlene

This district is a Democratic vote sink covering a thin strip of Northern Virginia, from urban Arlington to wealthy, suburban Loudoun County. Incumbent Senator Barbara Favola is a bland, milquetoast Democrat who also runs a Virginia lobbying firm. She funds and profits from the lobbying of her own colleagues. Somehow that’s legal! Thankfully, she faces a primary challenge from local activist Nicole Merlene. Merlene is a young activist running on a platform of ethics reform, renters’ rights, and increased transit funding. Merlene’s campaign has faced the issues most upstart campaigns face, with limited fundraising and near-complete institutional support of Favola, although Merlene does have the support of a few local Democratic Party officials.
It’s hard to get a handle on where this race sits.

The incumbent is generally favored in a case like this, but Favola hasn’t acted like she feels safe. She’s engaged in personal attacks against Merlene, calling her a “tantalizing” “new flavor you can look at,” and dumped $300,000 into the race. She seems scared! But Favola is known for not taking primaries for granted. Back in 2011, when she was running in a primary in which she was a clear favorite, and that she would go on to win 65-35, she still felt the need to run a “poll” calling her opponent a Republican. (In that same campaign, her opponent pointed out that Favola had also taken tens of thousands of dollars from a developer with business before the Arlington County Board, of which she was a member.)