Can Kirk Cox Rescue the Virginia GOP?
Virginia Republicans [picked] a new party chairman Saturday. The hope is this chairman will be able to end the party’s death spiral — and maybe even spark a return to statewide relevance.
That’s a hope. The reality remains as grim as ever. As long as President Trump defines the GOP, Virginia Republicans will suffer. Change will not come from an unpaid chairman trying to manage an unruly clubhouse.
Real change must come from a candidate. And on that score, Republicans just might have a real opportunity in 2021 in the guise of former House of Delegates speaker Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights).
Cox let it be known he’s seriously considering running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. In his statement, Cox assailed Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for various leadership failures, blaming the incumbent for failing to show a steady hand in the face of a global pandemic, an economic downturn, street protests and much more.
Putting aside this view of an indifferent and absent Northam with the competing GOP narrative of a Generalissimo Northam who runs a dictatorship from Capitol Square, what could Cox possibly do to revive Republican fortunes?
Unlike others rumored to be considering bids — Pete Snyder and former state senator Bill Carrico, for example — Cox is an incumbent lawmaker who did something they haven’t: win in a radically redrawn district that, on paper, should easily elect a Democrat.
That feat alone makes Cox a rarity in Virginia politics. He seems to be one of the very few officeholders who can thrive outside a gerrymandered cocoon. Does it make him a statewide force?
No. Much more is required, including a demonstrated ability to raise money. Cox checks that box easily, having raised more than $2 million for his 2019 race and more than $2.3 million for his leadership PAC.
He’s raised paltry amounts of money this year. Perhaps it’s a sign of the coronavirus times. Or maybe an indication his heart just isn’t in another race that, if successful, would see him remain part of the minority.
Still, it’s safe to assume Cox would be able to raise all the cash he would need for a statewide run. That’s especially so considering the only declared GOP gubernatorial contender right now is Sen. Amanda Chase (Chesterfield), who manages to make 2018 GOP Senate nominee Corey A. Stewart look positively Churchillian.
Unlike other Republican wannabes, Cox has a commanding grasp of state finances, a talent that’s been lacking in the Executive Mansion for a very long time.
All of these things should make him a formidable, even prohibitive, favorite for the GOP nomination.
But there’s that whole Medicare expansion thing from 2018. Cox captained that effort in the House of Delegates. In the boggy wastes that pass for the GOP base in Virginia, this marks Cox as both heretic and traitor.