8th Senate District GOP primary may go nasty – and quick

Yesterday, the Jeff McWaters’ campaign for State Senate released a very interesting campaign email that seems like they might know something the rest of us don’t.

Chris LaCivita (who recently aided Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli and was the media advisor for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) appealed to voters about potential negative campaigning from Rosemary Wilson.

“In her most recent campaign update, Rosemary attacked Jeff McWaters with patent falsehoods. While I won’t bore you with the poorly written fiction, I will tell you that she claims Jeff supported tax increases and that he supports government controlled health care,” writes LaCivita. “Rosemary Wilson is resorting to desperation and to printing and sending out outrageous falsehoods.”

LaCivita goes on to appeal for assistance from voters to report to the campaign any “attack mail”, “attack phone calls”, “attack radio”, and “attack emails.”

While I’d like to think this is merely a reaction to the Wilson update, I sense LaCivita is too smart to be reactive and that this mailer is preemptive.

Which led me to look for potential pitfalls for McWaters.

I discovered via Google two potential story-lines McWaters may have to respond to, if Wilson pursues them (I have no problem sharing them because if I can find it, Wilson already has and McWaters already knows it).

First, McWaters, as CEO of Amerigroup in 2007, was embroiled in a legal proceeding that resulted in liabilities of more than $300 million and a civil penalty of more than $190 million against the company and its affiliate.

At the time, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber said the companies’ actions “constituted a several years long, institution-wide goal to fleece defendants’ pockets at the expense of the government, the Medicaid system and the avoided pregnant women” and others with expensive health conditions.

The lawsuit was filed against Amerigroup because the company was accused of not paying healthcare costs for individuals, including pregnant women and those with “expensive health conditions.”

Second, McWaters’ church, Trinity, which he helped found and where he is an elder, does not permit women to hold the position of elder.

As an elder, McWaters’ helped write the church’s official position:

“In searching Scriptures, we found that both men and women were integrally involved in various leadership positions in the church, including the teaching ministries. But it also seemed plain that the qualifications for Elders/Pastors presumed that those roles would be filled by the men of the church while the roles for Deacons and other leaders were not limited in that way.”

The potential argument is this is not an inherited interpretation from a long-standing church; it is a “modern” scriptural interpretation that relegates women in the 21st century, despite no precedent to do so.

I am not saying that either of these issues is devastating or damaging to McWaters, but Wilson may attempt to use them to her advantage.

There are less than two weeks remaining in a campaign that will be decided by name recognition and voter turnout. Will negative campaigning also become part of the equation – from either campaign?

Needless to say, McWaters hiring LaCivita in the waning weeks strikes me as a manager bringing in the most intimidating “closer” he has in the bottom of the ninth – you know, the guy who throws strikes, but isn’t afraid to put one in your ear from time to time. (Ed. update: according to the McWaters campaign, LaCivita has been consulting the campaign since before July.)

If this campaign does go negative, we will find out very soon. With next week being the Thanksgiving holiday, and the following week being the last few days before the election, we may find out as early as this weekend.

With the Democrats effectively abdicating this race, there is the potential for this primary to go nuclear…and in a hurry.