The Virginia GOP’s Post-Stewart Future

There’s not much mystery left in the Virginia Senate race. Incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is comfortably ahead of GOP nominee Corey A. Stewart in the polls and looks likely to win Nov. 6.

The question is what Virginia Republicans do after Election Day. Time is short — the entire General Assembly is up for election in 2019, and with it, GOP control of the Senate and House of Delegates.

I asked a number of political observers what they believe needs to occur.

Here’s what they had to say.

Clean House

Former Republican Party of Virginia executive director Shaun Kenney said Republicans must publicly shed “anyone with any affiliation with the alt-right.”

“You can’t have a big tent in citronella and torchlight,” Kenney said.

“This myth that fear of the opposition will be enough to hold us together is precisely that,” Kenney said. “Kaine and [7th Congressional District Democratic nominee Abigail] Spanberger are going to demonstrate how thin that myth truly is.”

Former Del. David Ramadan shares the sentiment, saying the party must “fire staff who went along with [Stewart’s] messaging.”

Ramadan also said the party’s rural base needs to be better informed about the political realities and changing demographics elsewhere in Virginia.

“A Republican Party that blocks me and people like me on Twitter is a party that alienates those who represent the true demographics of today’s Virginia.”

Reach Out

Building on Ramadan’s concerns, former House of Delegates candidate Matt Walton said Republicans “need to be aggressive in running candidates in districts that may not seem winnable based on demographics.”

Walton said this helps build the party, and engages “communities that may not have been exposed to our message.”

GOP district committee member Stephen Spiker said the party needs to cultivate and support new leaders.

“We need leaders who are close to the people,” Spiker said, “who aren’t so easy to paint with the Washington D.C. brush, and who represent the future of the party after 2020 (or 2024).”

“And most importantly,” Spiker said, “we need wins, to show that positive conservative leadership is still viable.”

Everyone I spoke to agrees the GOP needs to bring millennials into the party as voters and candidates.

“I cannot tell you the number of times when I ran for the House of Delegates at 29 the people looked at me in the party like I was nuts for wanting to run for office,” Walton said.

The Trump Card

There’s no question the president cast a large shadow over Virginia Republicans. Tucker Martin, former communications director for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), said Trump “eclipses the sun and dominates everything. That’s terrible for Virginia Republicans in the short term — no way around it.”

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