Start the Year Off Right, and End the Mudslinging in the VA LG Race

Everything old is new again.  Even mudslinging.

Welcome to 2017.  I don’t need to explain why 2016 was an annus horribilis, especially in Virginia.  Bitter primary fights, a bitter general election fight, forced judicial redistricting leading to a lost house seat, and yet more internal Virginia Republican squabbling.  But the year ended, surprisingly, with Republicans winning an unexpected and welcome national victory, and that – at least for most of December – seemed to smooth the waters.

It was too good to last, and it didn’t.  A few hours into 2017, the Washington Post let loose the first salvo of the Lieutenant Governor’s race, which is shaping up to probably be the nastiest of the three statewide primaries this year.  The story, which I won’t bother recounting here, wasn’t something new – it was kicked around for a while last year. Fortunately, nobody was paying attention because of the presidential race.  If you aren’t familiar with the allegations, Shaun Kenney wrote a succinct review at our sister publication (more on that in the coming days) the Jeffersoniad.

Anonymous attacks have become a stock in trade in Virginia Republican circles.  Despite the efforts here and in other more reputable corners of Virginia’s online community, there are still plenty of credulous, willing patsies who have no problems publishing anything fed to them by candidates they like or candidates who are at least willing to sufficiently stroke some of the less professional in this business to get what they want.  The only way this will stop is if folks demand it stops.  This means not reposting rumors, not sharing the stories on Facebook, and campaigns not walking “the inside story” around as if everybody is as easy to dupe as, well, you know.

As Shaun noted in his piece, Bearing Drift had all these allegations in August and didn’t run them.  We wish others had chosen not to as well, but c’est la vie.

Do any of these fights move voters?  Not enough to make a difference.  These are the kinds of fights designed by insiders for insiders, and while they may have some efficacy in a convention battle, this election will be decided by a primary, not by a convention.  That’s why I expected all of this nonsense to go away after RPV’s August selection of a primary for the nomination method for 2017 statewide elections.  Yet here we are in January, and the story is still alive.

The Lieutenant Governor job is one of the least important in the Commonwealth.  It pays next to nothing, is the only part-time statewide office, and the only power the office has only comes into play when the body is split 20-20, which it isn’t, and isn’t likely to be, unless Republicans shoot ourselves in the foot in the on-going shenanigans in the 22nd Senate District special election.  So why are both candidates rolling in the mud to win it?  Is it really worth the kind of winning-at-all-costs attitude that some have adopted?

I’m not taking sides in this fight because it’s not my role, and, frankly, I understand the anger on both sides.  Anonymous attacks are frustrating because it’s almost impossible to decide what the best play is to counter them.  You can respond, but that can backfire by giving more credence to the attacks (“why did he respond if it’s not true?”) than if you ignore them.  But if you ignore them, you open yourself up to more criticism (“if he didn’t do it, why didn’t he say he didn’t do it?”) and more rumors.  Plus, one thing you can be sure of is that if you telegraph that something bothers you, the folks who did it will keep doing it – or somebody else will start.  There’s no easy way out.

The worst part, at least for voters, is that this whole business has absolutely nothing to do with who would be a better Lieutenant Governor – although that question is a bit like arguing over Coke or Pepsi, as it’s almost entirely subjective and not based on any real criteria besides partiality.  Given how little this job actually does, it’s up to the folks running to put together a convincing case of what they want to do with it, how they’ll govern given the lack of authority, and how they’ll beat the Democrat in November.  They can’t do that when they’re too busy filing law suits and forwarding indignant responses to anonymous emails that only a handful of activists will ever care about.

It’s not too late for the candidates to wash off the mud and get back to something that might actually be of value to primary voters come June.  That’s going to require all of the campaigns to be mindful about staying out of the mud.  The temptation of easy, anonymous attacks is one that every campaign has to deal with, but it’s not too late for everybody to wake up and realize this campaign should be important enough not to throw away their dignity for.

We have a chance to start fresh now in 2017 and it would be nice to see these campaigns dial back the mud and focus on constructive campaigning.



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  • Richard Statman

    Mr. Schoeneman is on the mark with this post.
    Is this news ?
    Does anymore need be said , or written or posted ?

    ” this campaign should be important enough not to throw
    Away their dignity for…”
    True …but are these candidates listening ?

    It makes the person who holds the office look good…..
    Not what Virginians need …..

    • Chris B

      one candidate is being accused of creating false email accounts to send out accusations that their opponent had an extramarital affair and might be lying about it,

      Yes, this is news.

      • It doesn’t have to be. But if we make it news, then we are encouraging thus kind of nonsense in the future.

        • Turbocohen

          Why are Vogels reportedly opposed to hiring a 3rd party investigator? Only reason I can imagine is they know the answer wont favor them..

          • I don’t know if they are and I don’t particularly think it matters in the long run. This whole issue isn’t going to be what this campaign turns on. At least, I pray to God that it isn’t.

        • Jerel C. Wilmore

          If it were a third party that did it, then it wouldn’t be a story, but if one candidate is spreading false rumors about the other, then that goes to character, doesn’t it?

          Likewise, the accusation, if true, goes towards character as well. Plenty of politicians, Rs and Ds, have been brought down by allegations of infidelity.

          I think you are right that it was unfortunate to have happen, but now that it has, someone will have to get to the bottom of the story so as to punish the guilty and clear the innocent.

      • Stephen Spiker

        That sort of “news” transforms into side-taking entrenchment so goddamn quickly.

  • mark Jawsz

    This is a simple matter to resolve from my perspective. Whoever has the safer Senate District will get my vote, which I think is Vogel’s 27th District. Reeves district is pretty purple, and if he goes to be Lt. Gov (which is assuming a lot), then the seat is more vulnerable in 2019. Just something to think about.

  • Dave Webster

    If the Vogels sent out emails under a false name accusing Reeves of having an affair (he has filed a defamation complaint attaching the email as an exhibit so there appears to be no need to dance around the issue) and if the Vogels’ defense that their iphones and WiFi were hacked turns out to be false it is a rather significant story.

    • Not really. In the long run, it has nothing to do with this campaign. All it is really is salacious gossip.

  • David Eggleston

    Maybe, just maybe, if someone wins a lawsuit in an “anonymous” attack case, folks will be a little less likely to slander opponents. This could have a salutary effect on Virginia politics.

    • Define “wins.”

      • Max Shapiro

        Indisputable evidence of culpability. I think most people fail to even try to figure these things out because they don’t understand computers. Once a lawyer/law firm runs one to the ground, more people will start doing it and it will get relatively easy.

        • Is there ever indisputable evidence short of a confession?

          • Max Shapiro

            Indisputable was perhaps too strong a word. If they submit their phones to 3rd party forensic investigators and no evidence of hacking is found, that’s about as indisputable as it gets.

          • There is zero way, even in a case like this, that I would ever consent to turning my phone over to somebody else to go digging.

  • Richard Roberts II

    Does anyone really believe the idea that a very successful law/lobbying firm handling very sensitve client data allowed a managing partner to use an unsecure network? This is highly doubtful and would be catastrophic to the firm if it were true as the Vogel campaign claimed.

    • old_redneck

      Does anyone believe that a republican . . . any republican . . . would not stoop to the lowest of the low to get elected?

  • Fitzgerald Chesterfield

    Yes, yes, but what if I told you John McCain fathered a biracial child?

  • Sbn

    Smut sells papers (and clicks). You’re fighting a fire in flip flops. It’s just another round of Republican self immolation.

    Although I’m not very optimistic for your success, good luck on the crusade.

  • Lawrence Wood

    Straight from the traditional Virginia State Republican candidate’s election manual ” Fifty Shades of Stupid” but there is an easy voter solution to all the nonsense just vote for Glenn R. Davis for Lieutenant Governor since all he only wants to drone on about is just employment opportunities in the state.

    • Lee Pillsbury

      ” I’m not them” doesn’t sound like a compelling argument for Davis as a candidate. But it seems to be the only one anyone is offering.

      • Lawrence Wood

        This appears to be more of a “repelling” rather then “compelling” issue but to each his own regarding how much sewage they are capable or willing to stand in to place a vote in an open contested election with other options available.

  • Downstater

    What is this state? – Louisiana? Never let a sex scandal go to waste.

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