Well, that was interesting. Here are the collective musings of the Bearing Drift Editorial team of Brian Schoeneman, Jim Hoeft, Norm Leahy, Shaun Kenney, and Scott Lee regarding yesterday’s 2015 Virginia Republican Primary results:
1. Speaker Howell – It goes without saying that the Speaker did exactly what he needed to do. Not only did he win, he did it in a classy way that didn’t involve taking cheap shots at his opponent, and he was gracious in victory. Acknowledging Susan Stimpson by name and thanking her for running, the Speaker demonstrated the best the Republican Party has to offer. His win was commanding.
2. Amanda Chase, Siobhan Dunnavant, Emmett Hanger – The perils of multiple candidates in a three and four way races showed themselves again last night, with one unexpected victory (Chase), one victory in a race that could have gone either way (Dunnavant) and one victory in a race that wasn’t ever truly close (Hanger).
3. Mark Dudenhefer, Chris Head, Chris Collins – Both the Head and Collins races were extremely close – within four points as of this writing. Former Delegate Dudenhefer won a convincing victory and, given the open seat race on the Democratic side, should be heading back to Richmond next year.
4. Republicans Who Want to Govern – The one thread that ties most of the races together from yesterday is that when paired against Tea Party or other “grassroots” candidates with no records, Republicans who have tried to govern, have a record and experience, or who took tough votes that could have landed them in hot water came out okay this time around. The Speaker survived despite shepherding Governor McDonnell’s historic transportation plan through the House and others who opposed that plan (like Mark Berg) were defeated. At least in this primary, the voters chose those who were willing to govern and make tough choices over those who only brought criticism and talking points to the table.
5. Republican Women – Republicans could conceivably (and quite reasonably) be sending a women’s caucus of Nancy Dye, Jill Vogel, Siobhan Dunnavant, and Amanda Chase to a new, and, if it happens, expanded GOP majority in the state Senate. So, President of the Virginia Senate, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, about that “war on women” thing you wanted to use for your gubernatorial run in two years?
Lynn Mitchell – A shout-out for former Bearing Drift contributor Lynn Mitchell who ran Senator Hanger’s campaign.
1. Susan Stimpson – What was a promising political career is now officially a cautionary tale of what not to do in politics. Having run a scorched earth campaign from start to finish, she ended her campaign mocking the House leadership on Twitter and sending out a passive-aggressive thank you email. Where Stimpson goes from here is anyone’s guess, but her chances of rehabilitation seem remote. As Omar Little said – “come at the king, you best not miss.”
2. GOP Unit and District Chairs who Endorsed Stimpson – After multiple lectures about how the “establishment” of the party was ignoring the “grassroots,” it appears that the voters have made it clear that, at least in this primary, they are standing behind elected officials and candidates who want to get things done, and not willing to jettison them just because they don’t say the right buzzwords. Unit chairs always take a risk in endorsing in a primary and they now have to justify to their units why they took independent action, didn’t represent the will of the broader Republican party, and how they are going to fight for the candidates they once opposed.
3. The Bull Elephant – Good Morning!
4. Republicans Who Hate All Taxes – While economic issues remain front and center in what it means to be a Republican, even in today’s splintered Virginia GOP, last night shows that conservative politics is cyclical and local. The primaries demonstrated that Virginia Republicans still believe in keeping taxes low – but not in ending all taxes or allowing our infrastructure to crumble because we don’t have sufficient resources to fix it. Prudence and pragmatism still matter.
5. Ted Cruz and Laura Ingraham – we love you. We really do! But, please, believe in what you preach about limited government and let those of us who live in the district actually choose our local representation. Stick to what you know – federalism.
6. Negative campaigning – Call this a win for the good guys. The candidates who ran the cleaner campaigns, for the most part, won yesterday. PACs that are trying to make a name for themselves, particularly the National Association of Gun Rights, who ran vile tripe against good conservatives, were overwhelmingly rejected. One caveat is the Stosch-like tactics that seemed to work for Dunnavant – they were disturbing and wrong. While we are glad to see, potentially, more female representation in the senate, how she went about it remains deplorable.
In a nutshell, yesterday’s Virginia Republican Primary shows that the party faithful are focused on governing, diversity, and, yes, even conservatism. But most of all, doing what’s right. Now it’s on to take that message to the broader electorate. It’s a new day for the GOP!