2013: The year Virginia turned blue -- or not

(WJLA) – Mark Herring’s recount-confirming win last week in his Virginia race for attorney general against Mark Obenshain capped a 2013 political dervish of a year the likes of which the state rarely – if ever – has seen.

It featured, among other things:

Gov. Bob McDonnell being investigated by federal officials for his role in the Star Scientific scandal with previously scheduled felony indictments on hold at least until he leaves office next month;

A closely watched off-year governor’s race between ultimate winner Terry McAuliffe and the ultra-conservative Ken Cuccinelli that was covered nationally in the final couple of months;

• And, with Ralph Northam’s win against tea party firebrand E.W. Jackson in the lieutenant governor’s race, a Democratic sweep of the state’s top three offices for the first time in more than 25 years.

Not only that, but with former Virginia governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, already in the U.S. Senate, 2013 was the year the commonwealth finally certified itself as incontrovertibly blue.

Or not.

That’s the word from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, who in 1990 became the nation’s first black governor.

“It’s not a purple state and it’s not a blue state,” the Democrat said recently over the phone. “It’s a people state. It’s a thinking state, and by that I mean people have come to Virginia, they’ve made Virginia their home and they’ve seen that Virginia’s not hide-bound to the past, and they’ve seen that it’s a new commonwealth – a new Virginia.

“One third of the people who live here now, 30 years ago were not even around. . . So there is no such thing as ‘our’ way, it’s the people’s way.”

Former U.S. congressman Tom Davis (R-Fairfax) told Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney that state Republicans, in their nominating process, “do not understand the changing demographics of the state, and they’re not talking about issues that people care about.

Added former Republican congressman-turned-talk show host Joe Scarborough last week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “Virginia is not tilting left. Their candidates this year jumped off the cliff on the right. Ken Cuccinelli, in many respects, was the most moderate of the people on the ticket.”

Wilder’s road map to success, for either party, is fairly straightforward.

“A candidate in Virginia today, notwithstanding his party affiliation, can win an election if he relates to the people, relates to the issues, presents meaningful solutions to the problems to the extent that his party feels that way and he can articulate that,” he said.

“For those people who are so quick to want to paint colors on the state, this is not a time for Democrats to think they’ve got it made. That is not the case.”