The embers of the 2014 elections are still smoldering, but that’s no reason not to look ahead to the 2015, 2017 and 2018 elections.
For 2015, we see what has long been rumored, if not fully expected: Susan Stimpson challenging House Speaker Bill Howell in a primary. The Speaker would enter such a contest as a heavy favorite. But as history reminds us, no one is invulnerable in Virginia politics. While such a contest may add some spice to the election cycle, it will not change the numbers: Republicans will still be the dominant party in the House.
Looking slightly further ahead, we see Jeff Schapiro stirring up what could be a possible alliance, however tenuous, between Ed Gillespie and Mark Obenshain. The aim, as Jeff sees it, is to give Virginia Republicans a make over. But only just. The image Jeff sketches is essentially a refurbished version of the old McDonnell coalition.
2018 is where we might see Ed Gillespie again, running against Tim Kaine for the Senate. Possible — and far enough away for Gillespie to build an organization that is both formidable and well-funded. But it’s also too far away to be of much relevance.
Of more immediate concern — the acid test for what comes in the future — is which Republican operative rises to take over the position of party chairman. This is a thankless position, presumed to be more powerful than it is at the head of an organization that plays a supporting role in elections, but only when the candidates allow it to do so.
Still, it is a useful symbol, and even more so as the GOP holds no statewide elected office. Jeff names some possible contenders for the job:
Among them: John Whitbeck, the 10th District Republican leader; 1st District chairman Eric Herr, a retired Air Force colonel; Chris Stearns, 3rd District leader; Del. Ben Cline of Rockbridge, a stubborn anti-taxer; and Pat McSweeney, a former chairman who thwarted Gov. George Allen’s effort to commandeer the party apparatus.
Make of the list what you will. What is interesting is who is not on it.
Our own Shaun Kenney, the current executive director, and a name that really should be on any such list: Pete Snyder.
Looking at this from a purely political stance, the better case is or Mr. Snyder. Not only has he been indefatigable in his support for Republican candidates, Snyder would also bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the task…not to mention his ties to the business community, which have been badly frayed in recent years. Snyder is the new face the GOP needs to succeed in Virginia, and it contrasts very well against his would-be counterpart, Richmond Mayor and current DPVA chairman Dwight Jones. A sadder, sorrier, more conflicted and vaguely corrupt party chairman has not been seen in Virginia in some time.
Taking the chairman’s role would give Snyder another benefit: cementing his credentials for another statewide run.
He would have to do far more than take a gavel to make such a possibility reality. But it would be the first, big, step forward. And even if he decides against a return to the ballot, Snyder as chairman could serve as the ideal person to make Jeff’s Gillespie-Obenshain alliance work.
That leap may not happen because Snyder and his wife are expecting their first child. One can easily be forgiven for putting that event over and above politics.
But it would be a grand chance for him, and Virginia Republicans.