Bearing Drift Endorsements for State Senate Republican Nominations

Bearing Drift is written by friends.

Every day, we collaborate and discuss how politics affects Virginia and her citizens.

We all have some degree of experience in the political realm, and all bring our collective energy and enthusiasm for the process to our discussion and our writing.

But Bearing Drift is also full of freedom-loving, independent thinkers who feel that their particular views of particular candidates or issues are the right views.

Bearing Drift is also unabashedly conservative. Let’s be honest, the day we endorse a Democrat over a Republican is going to be a very interesting day indeed. Therefore, it makes the most sense for us to wade in when there is an intramural contest.

In Virginia, we are in the midst of just such a contest.

Come late in the evening on August 23, there will be seven more Republican nominees to join the already 29 conservatives who are putting a full-court press on Democrats to defend their slim 22-18 seat majority in the State Senate.

While we would like almost all of the candidates running to serve, as they all bring significant, positive attributes to the table, we know that you, the voter, can only choose one to be the nominee.

Ultimately, all Bearing Drift contributors know that we aren’t going to agree 100% with the Republicans who are elected to the State Senate and retake the majority, but we would like those serving to be as close to our brand of conservatism as possible.

We also know that we won’t internally agree 100% on the candidates who are going to be listed below as our “endorsed” candidates. I am certain some contributors will offer their dissenting opinion in the comments section.

However, after fierce debate among the contributors, response to questionnaires by some of the candidates, and an ultimate decision made by Bearing Drift board members, what follows is our recommendation for Virginia Republicans in these districts to select the candidate who will take a pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-life, pro-Virginia approach to the State Senate.

It’s important to remember though, come August 24, “We are family!

3rd — Minority Leader Tommy Norment
The voters of the 3rd District are blessed to have this senior Senator who is looking out for their interests in Richmond. However, Leader Norment has proven in the past that he can deviate from the conservative course to the detriment of the fundamental principles that we at Bearing Drift support. We ask voters of the 3rd District to keep Leader Norment honest during his continuing service. We know that we will do our part.

Mr. Frechette is noble to throw his hat into the ring and give voters a choice, but he neither offers the experience nor the ability that the voters of the district deserve in a representative.

13th –- John Stirrup
In the GOP primary for the nomination in the newly drawn 13th State Senatorial District, Bearing Drift endorses Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup.

Clearly this race has no shortage of heavily credentialed conservatives: Stirrup, former Delegate Dick Black, and Bob FitzSimmonds all will cast reliable votes if elected to the Virginia State Senate.

However, in our view, John Stirrup has the slight advantage because he has proven to be an effective legislator at the local level, which should translate into a solid tenure in the Senate. Additionally, Stirrup is the most likely to be elected in this newly drawn and largely Republican district.

A Stirrup victory on August 23 will have ramifications across the state. He is likely to receive significant business support for his general election campaign, which will free up critical campaign funds for other close races in the Commonwealth. This savings and re-distribution for the GOP could very well tip the balance towards Republicans in their efforts to win back the Senate. The ride to the majority is much smoother with Stirrup in the saddle.

Additionally, only FitzSimmonds and Stirrup mention on their websites the tremendously important growth issue in the Loudoun and Prince William suburbs. Normally, on that issue, it would be a tie. However, Stirrup has campaigned on it when he first won his Supervisor race and has effectively governed accordingly.

Yet FitzSimmonds and Black both have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

FitzSimmonds is quick to remind Bearing Drift that he has served as a legislative aide to Del. Scott Lingamfelter and played a crucial role in developing the legislation to audit the Virginia Department of Transportation – an idea that ultimately saved Virginia taxpayers over $1 billion. He also was then-State Senator Ken Cuccinelli’s legislative director and was able to work across the aisle with liberals “in areas that are not politically polarizing, like mental health.”

FitzSimmonds clearly exhibits strong conservatism though. His views on life, tax reform, school choice, and spending we agree with.

“Virginia government spends too much,” he writes in our questionnaire. “Due to the economic downturn, Virginia cut its budget dramatically for the first time in modern history. Virtually no one noticed. Legislators and lobbyists have called for the “restoration” of these funds, but I believe that the cuts were so unnoticed that we should make another sweep at limiting the size of state government and put limits on the ability of future legislatures to grow government too rapidly, as occurred during our last period of economic expansion.”

Bearing Drift also appreciates the very specific reforms Black is proposing for VDOT, education reform, tax reform, and spending cuts. It is apparent to us that if he is elected, he will have no trouble quickly submitting specific and important legislation on those issues. We also admire his considerable service to our country and do not overlook his service to the people of Loudoun County (of which more than 70% of the district is comprised) for four terms.

However, we see no reason for the state to remain in the liquor business.

“I do support the state-run ABC liquor stores and do not think it wise to sell off this asset for both social and financial reasons,” he tells Bearing Drift.

For those truly interested in paring down government involvement in our private lives, there’s no justification for government to sell booze.

In the end, all three candidates will serve the 13th very well, but John Stirrup is not only a solid conservative. but will help the GOP elect more conservatives at the same time.

21st — David Nutter
The 21st Senate District, which encompasses the City of Roanoke, and all or part of Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke Counties in southwestern Virginia, has long been “unwinnable” for the GOP. While two good candidates are pursuing the Republican nomination in this district—both of whom would be, by far, better than the longtime incumbent Democrat John Edwards—we believe that Dave Nutter is the best choice for 21st District Republicans.

After the Senate approved its redistricting plan earlier this year, Republicans had a glimmer of hope for a district that had been untouchable. When other Republicans with higher name recognition (reportedly) declined to run, Roanoke insurance agent Tripp Godsey, at the urging of the Roanoke Tea Party, agreed to challenge Sen. Edwards. Godsey is to be commended for stepping up when so many others stood down. His energetic campaign has touched on a host of critical issues, ranging from the economy and taxation to zoning and land-use planning. Godsey truly embodies the spirit of the citizen-legislator, and we at Bearing Drift hope to see more of Tripp Godsey in the future – his conservatism and tenacity would be assets to the Roanoke Valley (particularly in the city’s upcoming municipal elections).

With a share of the vote equal to that of the city of Roanoke coming from the New River Valley (NRV)—an area which Dave Nutter represented in the House of Delegates for nearly a decade—Del. Nutter is the candidate best positioned to make this race competitive. NRV voters know Nutter, his work ethic, dedication to his constituents and his largely conservative voting record in the House and have reelected him by large margins term after term. Nutter already has a strong base of support in the NRV and, through his position in the economic development office at Virginia Tech, is known to business leaders throughout the Roanoke area. When facing an entrenched incumbent, having these established organizational and fundraising networks is a significant advantage.

Furthermore, Del. Nutter’s experience in economic development would be an asset both to the 21st District and the State Senate as a whole. While Virginia’s unemployment rate remains lower than the national average, parts of our Commonwealth suffer from chronically high unemployment; Nutter’s experience could greatly assist Gov. McDonnell and the state government in nurturing an environment conducive to job creation in these most economically depressed regions.

Admittedly, Del. Nutter’s record in the House of Delegates is imperfect: he voted for the Warner tax increase seven years ago, a move which, he laments, seemed the best option at the time given the available revenue data. But he has still cast more that 20,000 votes and has earned a 95% rating from the Family Foundation. Since his ill-advised vote, Del. Nutter has been an advocate for keeping Virginia’s tax burden low, even voting to sunset the state’s tax laws. While we regret his vote in 2004, we believe he has learned from his mistake and seriously doubt that he will become a tax-and-spend liberal if elected to the state Senate.

Again, both Dave Nutter and Tripp Godsey would be better representatives of the district than John Edwards, but Del. Nutter possesses the name recognition, organizational advantages, campaign experience, legislative experience and economic development skills necessary not only to take the fight to the Democrats on their own turf, but also to appeal to a wide segment of the electorate. Given the current electoral environment, John Edwards is more vulnerable in 2011 than ever before and perhaps ever will be again (besides, after the drama of the past year in North Carolina, who wants to drive around with a John Edwards bumper sticker, even if it isn’t that John Edwards).

It won’t be an easy race, but Del. Nutter presents the GOP with its best opportunity to unseat the incumbent, move the 21st District’s representation significantly to the right and give the Senate some much-needed insights on job creation and economic development. To that end, Bearing Drift endorses Dave Nutter in the 21st Senate District primary.

22nd — Mark Peake and Bryan Rhode
In a rare double endorsement, two candidates have proven themselves to be the positive campaigners as well as competent fundraisers needed to beat exterminator Bert Dodson in the general election. Mark Peake of Lynchburg and Bryan Rhode from Goochland have both earned the respect and admiration of the Bearing Drift editors.

Peake’s pro-life convictions are more than just heartfelt — they’ve been tested and lived. As the father of quadruplets, the Peake family was instructed to “reduce” the number of children during their pregnancy. Rather than select which child should die, the family left for Arizona where, in one of the few hospitals that would guarantee not to do an elective abortion, four healthy and wonderful children were brought into the world. This, plus a remarkable professionalism and an ability to communicate conservative principles without offending made Peake an early favorite.

Rhode was not expected to be a frontrunner in this race. Yet unlike many of the candidates who pledged to raise six-figures out of the gate, Rhode was the only one who did so, and convincingly. Rhode’s humility is rare among elected officials, and though Rhode has been compared as being rather green when it comes to the politics, Rhode has proven himself to be a genuine and consistent leader on conservative values. Though his Sorenson credentials concern a few conservatives, Rhode’s impressive campaigning and personal touch have won converts.

The other candidates in the race bear some mention. Claudia Tucker, the one-time Vance Wilkins aide who became caught up in the eavesdropping scandal in the early part of last decade, fizzled on both her fundraising promises and her campaign efforts. Brian Bates, the long-time Buckingham supervisor may surprise folks on how well he may do, but his long-standing record of multiple tax increases and questionable position on life have scared off most conservatives in this race.

Tom Garrett burst onto the scene in the 22nd without much background. Does he live in the district? This still remains unclear. His record stands on one professional accomplishment alone — turning Louisa County into the pedophile capital of Virginia. In some instances, his zeal for prosecuting these cases has resulted in the victim not even being consulted before the case went before the judge. Tom Garrett’s one-man crusade — while laudable in its own right — has often made it very difficult for Garrett to discuss his record on pedophilia among pro-family groups (or crowds involving children). Garrett’s speeches on the “four branches of government” strike the Tea Party-attuned ear as odd.

Lastly, Garrett’s history of not paying bills — including a $2,000 bill for child care services where Garrett was found liable — renders Garrett easy prey for DPVA researchers. Garrett can be lauded for this though — repairing his marriage. If the money Garrett spent on the State Senate race was the catalyst for reuniting his family on the campaign trail, Bearing Drift sincerely wishes him all the best. That story — under reported and personal –is probably one of the best stories of the Virginia primary season.

Conservatives in the 22nd District would be well served to consider alternatives without the baggage and all the enthusiasm for conservative values. This was not an easy decision in the 22nd, but both Mark Peake and Bryan Rhode have chosen to shine. We wish them both the best of luck.

36th — Tito Munoz
Tito Munoz is the embodiment of the American dream.

His catch phrase is “Born in Colombia, but Made in America.”

The small business owner has experience first-hand in what it means to build a business from scratch and be successful, in spite of the challenges he’s had to face not only adapting to and learning a new culture, but also having to deal with the burdensome and overbearing regulations of government.

Munoz has taken those experiences and will apply them directly to his issues’ advocacy as a senator.

“Anything and everything the private sector can do should be left there and not assumed as a government role,” he tells Bearing Drift. “Things such as debt collection, business assistance (there are actually government agencies that instruct businesses how to obtain government entitlements – we need to axe that) and liquor sales – even the DMV has certain services it could privatize. Every function beyond licensing could be performed privately.”

Munoz added that he supports school choice and feels that “parents and students should be empowered to control where and how their children are educated.” He said that charter schools will improve public education by providing schools an incentive to compete.

His policies are true to allowing the individual keep more of what he or she earns, and to getting government out of the way. And, it is precisely those policies, and his American spirit, that have brought him support from State Senator Mark Obenshain and former Governor and U.S.Senator George Allen.

As for Jeff Frederick, we are happy to see that he has recovered from his ouster as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and that he has returned to the political scene.

Frederick has proven that he can win elections and has garnered the support of many conservative people and organizations we respect, including the NRA, Scott Lingamfelter, Keith Fimian, and Tom Davis.

If the past is any indicator of future performance, he should make a fine conservative senator – just don’t let him near any mobile devices to tweet or any leadership positions where he can spend money.

When Frederick was a legislator, quite often on matters near-and-dear to conservative hearts, like tax and education reform, he wasn’t just a solid supporter in the House of Delegates, but an active and sometimes canny one as well. As a legislator, Frederick sometimes hit the wrong notes. But, just as often, he was the one legislator conservatives knew would be on their side, even if the rest of the House GOP caucus was indifferent.

Believing that either candidate will serve the residents of the 36th well, Bearing Drift contributors are split on this race.

But Bearing Drift leadership is not.

As a leader, you are expected, if not required, to uphold the highest standards of your organization.

Your goal as a leader is to think first of your organization over yourself. Therefore, the leadership of Bearing Drift endorses Tito Munoz for state Senate. Whether it has been leading his business or in his community, his first thought has been to service. We find that admirable and refreshing.

37th — Steve Hunt
The voters in the 37th Senate District have a rare benefit – two solid, conservative choices for the Republican nomination for State Senate. In any other year, Jason Flanary would make an excellent choice for State Senate. Jason Flanary has run an energetic campaign, knocking on thousands of doors in his district. But in a year as compact and tight as this one, in our view, Steve Hunt’s many years of experience as a Northern Virginia activist and elected official give him the edge in this race. He has name recognition, and thousands of voters in the 37th have already cast a ballot for him once. In a race against Dave Marsden, not having to start from zero will matter come November 8th.

We have also been surprised at the tone of the attacks coming from the Flanary camp on Hunt’s record of winning campaigns. It seems a bit odd for a candidate who has never been tested at the polls to accuse another of losing too often, especially when some of the “losses” include races Hunt never actually ended up running.

We received a response to our questionnaire from Steve Hunt but did not receive one from Jason Flanary. Given their speeches on the stump and the mailings we’ve seen, neither candidate appears different in any meaningful way when it comes to policy. The case both make to primary voters hinges on experience and the ability to win the general election. Steve Hunt has proven he can win elections, even if he was unsuccessful in his last race against Dave Marsden – one that was lost by the slimmest of margins and mainly because of the lack of a robust absentee ballot program. It’s unlikely that either candidate would make that mistake in this election.

Overall, the voters in the 37th will be well served by either candidate, but given the dynamics of the district and the short time frame, Steve Hunt has the best chance of winning this seat in November and he has our endorsement.

39th — Miller Baker
Bearing Drift’s endorsement for the 39th District Republican Senate Primary goes to Miller Baker, a constitutional attorney and veteran GOP activist, with the kind of resume that candidate recruiters dream about. His self-effacing manner belies his significant accomplishments.

Miller has wrapped up local endorsements from Delegate Tim Hugo, Keith Fimian, Mychele Brickner, activist Alma Jackson and even former Attorney General Ed Meese.

Miller has what it takes to defeat George Barker in November, and, with the elections behind him, to translate his courtroom experience into legislative victories.

Miller is rocking the grassroots politics in the district, speaking with constituents and sharing his plans to allocate transportation dollars for congestion relief and reduce income taxes in order to attract new businesses to the area. His solid conservative credentials translate into activist support and his reasonable demeanor is appealing to voters who are fed up with negative politics.

Miller’s opponent, Scott Martin is a professor at George Mason University and a conservative grassroots activist with deep roots in his Springfield community.

As an educator, we were particularly interested in what Martin had to say in our questionnaire regarding higher education reform:

“Higher education needs a major financial overhaul. All boutique academic programs (like Queer Studies) that don’t meet enrollment projections to fund them should be eliminated, and not subsidized by taxpayers. Enrollment acceptance rates for Virginia residents needs to be increased to 85% of available freshman classes. Administration costs should not exceed 10-12% of overall budget. Higher Ed. is extremely top heavy, even more so than K-12.

“Lastly, I will propose transparency for the admissions process for Virginians, so everyone knows what criteria is required to gain admission at each of our public universities. The admissions process has been a vexing and unfair process for too long for Virginia citizens.”

While Bearing Drift prefers Miller Baker in this race, Scott Martin is a fine Republican leader and a candidate we would be proud to support in the future.