Bearing Drift endorses in the Fifth Congressional District GOP nomination contest: Feda Morton.
Three weeks ago, Feda Morton was riding high. Internal polls had placed her among the frontrunners in the crowded six-way GOP primary contest, her social and fiscally conservative message was beginning to resonate with voters despite a lack of funds, and she was beginning to earn the attention of some massive national heavyweights in the form of Morton Blackwell, the Eagle Forum, and strong pro-life support.
That’s — as they say — when it all came crashing down.
Three weeks later, her campaign suffered a dual hit of not one, but two extremely negative campaign attacks. Charlottesville weekly (and no friend to conservatives) The Hook published the details of her divorce where a judge temporarily had Morton’s children removed from custody. Then one day later, a Daily Progress article found similarities between a rebuttal of a letter to the editor and the writings of one Joseph Sobran on principles outlined in the Constitution.
These two hits were followed by a third: the abandonment of Feda Morton by virtually her entire campaign staff. Steve Waters and John Darden — two of Virginia’s supposedly seasoned campaign professionals on the conservative bench — not only abandoned their candidate to the wolves, but demanded payment in full.
Supporters such as Rick Boyer, Tim Boyer, and Chris Shores all either went cold or demanded public apologies. One group of former Morton supporters even began calling endorsees and asking them to switch their endorsements to challenger Jim McKelvey. They scored in repealing one endorsement, Jerry Fallwell Jr.
Yet Morton is still fighting. Down to the handful of volunteers and supporters who remained true, she has amazingly restacked her campaign effort. Flush with new cash from supporters who deemed the 11th hour attack campaign against her character as unfair, the “Lady from the 5th” is doing more than resisting efforts to get her out — she’s proving she can take the heat in Washington and still stand by her principles.
In fact, Morton is making the renewed case that politics-as-usual isn’t knocking her out. Proven to resist the negative campaign tactics employed in the GOP primary, she has refused to respond in kind. Her campaign has been overflowingly positive, earning the support of those tired of the negative tactics being used in VA-05, but the support of women who see the negative attacks as over the top and baseless.
It is for these reasons, and her strong willingness to stand up for conservative values in the face of negative and nasty political attacks, that Bearing Drift endorses Feda Morton in Virginia’s 5th District.
A view of the field of GOP challengers shows why this is an easy decision to make. Ron Ferrin, Lawrence Verga and Ken Boyd, all good men in their own right, have failed to show voters they can put together a statewide platform to take on incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello.
Former Navy veteran Mike McPadden’s campaign showed early promise from an endorsement of the Republican Liberty Caucus and an early strong financial showing. Support from quarters such as Kurt “Rope Boy” Feigel — who advocated sending ropes to members of Congress as an expression of displeasure — and McPadden’s refusal to both repudiate him and his tactics, instantly turned off a number of sympathetic voters. McPadden’s inability to directly handle the question as to whether or not he was indeed “pro-life” stymied his cause to an unfortunate early demise.
Businessman Jim McKelvey was the prime beneficiary of the negative attacks on Feda Morton, having secured many of her former colleagues and endorsements. Though he has not publicly stated he was behind the attacks, many question whether or not McKelvey has the strength in numbers or the financial backing to carry the fight to GOP frontrunner Robert Hurt, much less to Tom Perriello after the primary. This, coupled with McKelvey’s continued flirtation with third party causes, makes those conservatives committed to the primary process wonder whether the VA-05 race is more about principle? or McKelvey?
This leaves GOP frontrunner Robert Hurt as the remaining candidate for consideration. Both Hurt and Morton share many values when it comes to socially conservative positions. Both will uphold the right to life, both support a marriage amendment, and both believe in families as the backbone of society and oppose many of the intrusive initiatives of the Perriello-backed Obama administration.
The key difference between Hurt and Morton: taxes. Robert Hurt voted both for the 2004 Chichester-Warner tax hike and the notorious HB 3202 tax schematic in 2007.
Though Hurt has run a commendable race thus far, he has yet to reassure voters in VA-05 that his two tax votes are indeed aberrations rather than the rule. An electorate quick to forgive current Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on HB 3202 would be keen to hear an explanation, yet Hurt has refused to offer one.
This leaves the slim chances of a Feda Morton candidacy alive… and perhaps too well for the comfort of some. Though McKelvey has launched into a bitter negative attack campaign against Hurt, the frontrunner has refused to engage. McPadden too is suffering from anonymous, web-based attacks. As the three presumptive frontrunners engage in the last week of negative attacks, many are looking for a positive solution. Political miracles are never unheard of, and while Morton is undoubtedly hovering at 10-15% of likely voters, it is not unimaginable that Morton (or any candidate) could win VA-05 with a mere 21% of the vote.
That is, if those who do not see a dichotomy between fiscal and social conservatism can see past the mudslinging of a few.
Morton has proven she can battle back against the odds. Voters in the 5th District should reward this tenacity with a second look, and their vote on June 8th.