According to a piece he's written for the Washington Post, Kevin O'Holleran, the campaign manager for Virginia's recently elected Democratic attorney general, claims that his candidate's razor-thin win was thanks in part to strong support for gun safety legislation.
"Political conventional wisdom has it that in a purple state, such as Virginia, support for gun-safety legislation is best played down," O'Holleran writes. "Like much conventional wisdom, this was wrong — and we not only ignored this advice but did the opposite."
In reference to Herring's opponent's gun rights absolutism, O'Holleran writes that he and his candidate saw gun safety issues as "an opportunity...to draw an effective contrast." O'Holleran goes on to note that his candidate benefitted from the support of third-party, pro-gun safety groups like Michael Bloomberg's Independence USA and Gabby Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions. More than anything, though, O'Holleran credits a change in the Virginia electorate's views on gun safety for his candidate's win.
The swing vote began to shift dramatically in our favor at the end. When the ballots were counted in Northern Virginia, Herring not only beat Obenshain there by more than 100,000 votes, but he also increased the total Democratic vote in Northern Virginia for attorney general by more than 124,000 since the last election. A post-election survey of voters in Northern Virginia by the Global Strategy Group indicated that 57 percent of those who voted for Herring in Northern Virginia believe gun issues had a major impact on the way they voted.
This massive increase wasn’t just about the mechanics of campaigning. The painful and numbing record of senseless gun violence — from Columbine High School in Colorado to Virginia Tech to Newtown, Conn., and, during the heart of the fall campaign, the Navy Yard shooting — was the real determinant of voters’ sentiments. Our campaign pointed out the contrast, and voters lined up on our side. Even the NRA’s active opposition in its home state could not change the fact that voters rejected our opponent’s radical position on gun safety. Those perpetuating the conventional wisdom should take notice: In the end, voters were calling out for action on gun violence, and they flocked to the candidate who offered progress and a sensible, mainstream approach to protecting Virginians.