The Downfall of The Virginia Democratic Party


“Shotgun Election”  Washington Post, 12-16-08


The Democratic Party of Virginia’s campaigns of harassment of me in email and online (Twitter) are a telling example of the desperation of an organization which has lost its way and no longer fulfills its calling. The Executive Director himself refused to listen to my complaints of harassment and public humiliation.

The Back Story of How Brian Moran handed his state delegate seat to Charniele Herring

DPVA’s actions are an attempt to cover up not only the horrendous performance of the Committee for the past several years, and but also the ugly underbelly of how people get elected to state office in Virginia. An example is the election of Charnielle Herring to replace Brian Moran in the 2008 46th District Special Election. Remember: Charniele became chair of the DPVA soon thereafter.

moran herring 1-09 election

Brian Moran, Charniele Herring and many other Virginia party leaders were in Denver in August of 2008 for the Democratic Convention. The day after the convention folded, Charnielle Herring filed her candidacy for the 46th District delegate seat then held by a member of the Democratic leadership – a vacancy that did not exist.

According to knowledge available, no other person filed for this office, even with rampant speculation that Moran might resign to run for Governor. Herring’s campaign accepted a donation shortly thereafter in the amount of $1,000 from a family member, and for the next four months, (if not longer) she and her staff were privy to nonpublic information that the office she filed for, which  was held by a Democratic incumbent, was about to be vacant.

Publicly filed records reveal the following. Charniele Herring’s (PDF) original Friends of Charniele Herring Statement of Organization

Public records show that Charniele Herring’s Statement of Candidacy was filed on August 27, 2008.  The designation of a treasurer, all the requirements to file for office, and the collection of signatures were completed on the same date. Brian Moran publicly announced his intent to resign his delegate seat on December 12, 2008.

VPAP records also show that almost a full year before Brian Moran announced his resignation as Delegate to run for Governor, an $800 in kind donation was made from Jennifer J Bissett to “Herring for Delegate – Charniele” for the printing of materials. Why was Charniele Herring printing campaign literature for a delegate race against an incumbent Democrat almost a full year before anyone knew there was going to be a special election for that seat? It should be noted that Jennifer Bissett is and was at that time a Virginia state employee. She worked in the Virginia House of Delegates, and then went on to work for DPVA. She has held many positions in and out of government and Democratic politics in Virginia for years. There were other donations as early as January 8, 2008 for a campaign for this 46th District office with no vacancy, occupied by Democratic Party leadership.

Fundraisers were held for Charniele Herring for the non-vacant office without as much as a peep from anyone. In October of 2008, she bought a voter file from the party, which only sells such files to candidates who have already filed the required papers to seek office. Still no one in the DPVA said anything. Cut to Early December 2008, and Brian Moran announced that he was resigning his seat to run full time for Governor.

You might remember the Democratic Party had three candidates for Governor in 2009. Moran, Creigh Deeds (the eventual nominee) and Terry McAuliffe. Ariel Gonzalez, an Alexandria Democrat, decided to run for the 46th District seat. At the time, Gonzalez was director of congressional affairs at the American College of Radiology.

The candidates Herring and Gonzalez were then left with about three days to do any effective campaigning before the weekend primary caucus.

Gonzalez never had a chance and was beaten in the firehouse primary 86-14%. There was talk about the election being “pre-cooked” by Gonzales’ campaign manager, Chris Spina. This fact was reported in post-election reports in the Washington Post.

In a Washington Post, article the day after the election, reporter Tim Craig wrote the following:  “Christopher Spina, a spokesman for Gonzalez, said in an interview (Brian) Moran’s endorsement of Herring “was clearly precooked,” suggesting she had advance knowledge of his decision on Friday to resign. But Spina could offer up little evidence to support his assertion that Herring had an unfair advantage. According to emails sent to the Washington Post, Herring’s staff worked late into the night Friday organizing her announcement, suggesting they were not aware Moran was about to resign.”

Post Election

Brian Moran lost that primary to Creigh Deeds. Out of a job, Moran then went to work in the private sector and was widely criticized for working with a private organization that lobbied on behalf of for-profit colleges, which are notorious for leaving students, particularly returning veterans, saddled with mountains of student debt and no job prospects. Around the same time, Moran was also elected chair of DPVA.

Moran was ridiculed for his disastrous handling of the 2012 Virginia Democratic Convention, which dissolved into chaos when the convention was moved at the last minute from a large venue at George Mason University into one far too small to handle the crowd.

Delegates to the convention could not be heard from the balcony, the vote was widely believed to have been rigged, and protests were filed afterward. As the drumbeats for Moran’s head sounded, Terry McAuliffe began searching for a new DPVA chair, someone he could control.

The Hunt Begins

Beginning in the late summer of 2012, a series of non-publicized meetings were held between Terry McAuliffe’s camp and Charniele Herring. Charniele agreed to become Chair of the DPVA and Terry sought Senator Mark Warner’s approval. In mid-November of 2012, Brian Moran resigned as Chair of DPVA and Charniele was named the new chair and officially “elected” in December. Charniele then did Terry’s bidding.

In short, she did nothing to rock the boat. When she resigned in March of 2014 to run for the 8th CD seat being vacated by Jim Moran, she was under heavy fire from activists in the 8th for continuing to be both DPVA chair and a candidate for Congress from January through March, giving her free access to voter information for which all the other candidates for the 8th District Congressional seat had to pay.

She eventually dropped out of the congressional race, having raised hefty sums of dollars but never having spent much of it and never having run any sort of real campaign. Alexandria Democrats spoke openly of the suspicion that Herring’s congressional campaign was a ruse to raise money for Herring’s eventual run for Attorney General of Virginia, or even Lieutenant Governor (Herring is an attorney).

Herring’s campaign manager told people a few days before she dropped out that she would not announce her withdrawal until her “California fundraisers were finished. She has a dollar goal she wants to hit before she quits.” Some Herring supporters were further angered when Herring endorsed Don Beyer. It was widely believed that Beyer promised Herring money and other support for her statewide race. One Arlington Dem described Charniele as “aggressively stupid” for her handling of DPVA and her lackluster performances in the early 8th CD debates.

A few Herring supporters disowned Herring entirely and swore off Beyer, with some turning their efforts toward electing Patrick Hope, a delegate from Arlington and a few others voting for state Senator Adam Ebbin. Those supporting Patrick Hope did so not only because they saw Hope as the most progressive of the 8th CD candidates, but they also saw him as an outsider to what they felt was a rigged system in Alexandria.  Others remained loyal to the Alexandria establishment and threw their support behind Ebbin. As we learned last night, Hope finished second to Don Beyer, with Ebbin coming in third.



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Mark Brooks

Independent Journalist/Photographer --- Retired Land Surveyor originally from Colorado. USN Veteran. Involved as a citizen and journalist in politics and open government locally and sometimes statewide. Interests: photography, music, justice and equality for everyone.

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