7 things conservatives learned this year in Virginia politics

1. Never take a gift. Ever.

mcdonnell rolex

The McDonnell case proved that the bar for convicting elected officials of abusing their public office for accepting gifts is rather low. While former Gov. Bob McDonnell did accept gifts (which he probably shouldn’t have – a question of ethics) the government never proved that McDonnell returned any favors to Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific. In other words, there was plenty of quid, but no quo. The best we have is a failed, brief meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a party at the governor’s mansion. No legislation. No fast-tracking the drug to market. No use of the governor’s opportunity fund.

What does this mean for conservatives? Well, we’re already accused of being Scrooge anyway; so, why not embrace ethics reform? So, “Bah, humbug” to all of you!

2. Never piss off a judge who you might someday have to stand in front of.

The laundry list of requests the defense made for McDonnell only to be rebuffed by Judge James Spencer is long: a separate trial from McDonnell’s wife, Maureen; throwing out the case before trial; having former Attorney General Mark Earley testify as a character witness, and others – all denied by the judge. Not to mention a juror being thrown out and the instructions to the jury to convict being quite low.

It’s been reported that Judge Spencer might have had a grievance against McDonnell for his past actions as a legislator towards Spencer’s wife, Judge Margaret Spencer. Shaun Kenney reviews the merits of such speculation and there is a little smoke.

Lesson learned? Yep. See point 1.

3. Spending time in your district on constituent service and public appearances is still pretty important.


Who would have thought that former Majority Leader Eric Cantor – someone who not only routinely aggravated President Obama and attempted to embrace the Tea Party in 2009 – could lose in such dramatic fashion this past June?

Well, the reality is that this was privately discussed among several of us, but we didn’t really believe it to be possible.

Everyone has a theory. And there are plenty of people who want to take credit for Brat’s win (I prefer to actually credit Congressman Brat). But whether you think what doomed Cantor was immigration, banking, “slating”, etc. – it still all comes down to turning your people out at the polls. Cantor didn’t. And that means he lost his support in the district.

4. If you can’t win a vote at a mass meeting to defeat parliamentary maneuvers – or you were caught off-guard – it should probably tell you something.

Everyone can claim that slating is bad or a nuclear option. Which it is. But it is still very much preventable. Simply put, get your people to the mass meeting.

For everyone who claims these meetings don’t matter or are perfunctory – they are until they’re not. So, show up. Unless…

5. A convention in Roanoke? Seriously?


~sigh~. With all due respect, conventions need to be in the population centers. If Republicans really are interested in growing and getting people to participate, conventions cannot be held where a good chunk of your grassroots will not be able to attend. It’s one thing to constrain party growth by having a convention in the first place (and there is a time and a place for them), it’s quite another to almost suffocate it entirely by choosing a location that stifles participation.

6. It’s better to be in the majority – at least when trying to pass a state budget. But be careful about what you wish for.

Phillip P. Puckett :: Criminal At Large

After months of self-imposed constipation by our friends on the left regarding the commonwealth’s budget (you know, pay for teachers, first responders, and even legislative staffers), it took the resignation of State Sen. Phil Puckett to get things moving again, breaking the 20-20 tie and giving Republicans the majority.

The howls and laments from Democrats could be heard all across the commonwealth. There was a phone call to Puckett to intimidate encourage him not to resign by the governor’s office. Even a “brainstorming” session with Mark Warner. They even managed to get the justice department involved.

In the end, it was just a budget that conservatives are complaining about…again. RINOs.

7. If you haven’t won a statewide election since 2009, that should probably tell you something too.


Not to mention losing in 2006 and 2008 as well. While conservatives all across the country are celebrating a conservative surge win, we maintained congressional status quo (with the notable exception of losing the majority leader in a primary and two senior congressmen due to retirement).

I would humbly suggest my post-election analysis as a step forward:

Virginia is now a modern state. The economy is attractive. The port is bustling. And even Warner and Kaine (begrudgingly), recognize the need to tap into our energy resources.

God, gays and guns just isn’t going to cut it in modern Virginia – and I’m not saying that Gillespie ran that sort of campaign (his loss by only 15K votes is testimony to it) – but all Republicans are still running into serious headwinds in the urban environment where the liberals have done a good job of convincing the population that the GOP has nothing to offer.

There is only one way to change that – time and a concerted effort at addressing the difficult urban issues; offering practical, proven, conservative solutions that improve lives.

Republicans do best when we demonstrate a concern for social justice and a fanatical commitment to freedom for all – where a person can make the most of the opportunity afforded to them.

We do this, and these margins will fall in the cities. And if we stay united as a party (which is possible when we are committed to our principles), as we generally did this cycle, we will win elections.

If Barbara Comstock, David Ramadan, Tim Hugo, etc. can win in Northern Virginia, they have a pretty good model for others to win there too. The same goes in Hampton Roads with Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell, Jeff McWaters, John Cosgrove and, yes, Frank Wagner. Instead of antagonizing these folks at every turn, it might not be a bad idea to figure out what they’re doing that’s working?

Nah! It’s much easier to throw stones from Facebook! RINOS!!!

Addendum: NBC US Senate Exit Poll and VPAP Election Map


J.R. Hoeft is the founder of BearingDrift.com.

Twitter: @jrhoeft | Facebook: http://facebook.com/jrhoeft | Past Posts

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