11/14/13: The rush for Northam’s seat in state Senate

This op-ed appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on the date shown.

WHAT a difference a week makes. The contest in the 6th Senate District has made me feel like someone wants my vote.

The same cannot be said for the recently completed elections. For the first time in years, I received almost no contact from the statewide campaigns.

There were a couple of pieces of mail from the party operations, both the Republican Party of Virginia and the Democratic Party of Virginia, but that was early on.

No one knocked on my door and asked if I intended to vote. I received one recorded call from a statewide candidate the Sunday before the election. Had I not sought out the information, I might not have even known there was an election to be held.

Even the pollsters mostly ignored me. Typically, I hear from them numerous times during an election cycle. But I was contacted by a pollster just once, in early September.

I happen to be one of those people who votes in every election. I guess the campaigns felt my vote — and the votes of other folks like me — was a given. I’ve talked to friends around the state who were similarly ignored.

Is this the nature of modern campaigns, where deciding which voters to contact — what those in the business call “targeting” — leaves out those who vote regularly and only goes after those who don’t? Campaigns in which candidates fail to even ask for my vote?

How do they know that this isn’t the election I decide to sit out?

None of the candidates in the 6th — three each in the Republican and Democratic nominating contests — is taking my vote for granted.

In the week since the Nov. 5 election, I’ve been contacted more than once by each of them. The earliest contact came around 9 a.m. last Thursday: a phone call from one of the candidates. And I’ve been contacted by pollsters, too.

Both parties met recently to set the date for the nominating contests. The Democrats chose Saturday and the Republicans five days later.

Candidates are being nominated in anticipation of Gov. Bob McDonnell setting a date for the special election to fill the seat being vacated by Ralph Northam, who was elected lieutenant governor last week.

Once the governor sets the date, the parties have just five days to certify their candidates, assuming the election date is not more than 60 days away.

This time, the voters targeted by the campaigns are those who vote regularly. With such a small window, the campaigns have no time to convince intermittent voters to come to the hastily arranged primaries.

These aren’t your regular primaries, which are run by the state. Instead, they are party-run contests with party rules, held in locations secured by the parties throughout the 6th Senate District.

For Norfolk 6th District voters, for example, the Democratic Party primary will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Granby High School, while the Republican Party primary will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Masonic Temple.

Of course, the selection contests are open to the public.

While it feels good to be asked for my vote again, I wish there were sufficient time for the candidates to ask for the votes of all who live in the 6th District.

The district, composed of parts of Norfolk, Accomack County, Northampton County, Mathews County and Virginia Beach, contains more than 100,000 registered voters.

Despite not being asked for my vote, I did cast my ballot in the Nov. 5 election. I hope those who haven’t been contacted by the candidates in the 6th District consider doing the same in the primaries.