Doug Wilder’s Prescription for the Virginia GOP

Virginia Republicans are getting some good advice about what they need to do, say and avoid as they regroup from the Nov. 3 elections and get ready for the 2021 statewide races.

Among those offering counsel: former Virginia governor and Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder (D). In a post-election interview, WRVA’s John Reid asked Wilder what advice he had for Virginia Republicans. Wilder said that if Republicans were “smart enough,” they might see they need to reach out and engage on what he called “people’s issues” — a “fair shake” on jobs, assistance, education and more.

It’s difficult to see any Virginia Republican following this advice, at least in the near future. Rather than looking to reach out, too many GOP officials are circling the wagons, spouting bizarre theories about the presidential vote while swearing loyalty to President Trump.

Granted, these are the loudest voices, not necessarily the most numerous. One is the voice of Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield), who is (so far) the only declared candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Other candidates will enter that race — not the least formidable of which is likely to be former House speaker Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights).

But as Cox knows all too well, the discordant voices are sometimes not just the loudest but also the best organized. He, and everyone else, witnessed that in the 2019 nomination battle between then-Del. Chris Peace and challenger Scott Wyatt.

The issue dividing them was Medicaid expansion. Peace voted for it in 2018, becoming one of a handful of Republicans who crossed the aisle to give Gov. Ralph Northam (D) an early and very significant policy victory.

Peace’s public preening and Wyatt’s promise to “never waver” on conservative principles helped fuel a surprisingly nasty race that became a kind of proxy fight between Cox and his Senate counterpart, then-Senate majority leader Tommy Norment. Peace lost, and Wyatt went to the House.

The loudest voices were the most organized and, in that nominating contest at least, successful. They were decidedly unsuccessful at holding back the Democratic wave that swept Republicans out of power in the General Assembly and handed Democrats trifecta control of state government for the first since Wilder was governor.

The lesson for candidates like Cox: Be prepared (and whatever you do, don’t quote Cicero unless your real aim is to be president of the GOP’s Latin Club).

Candidates like Chase may seem too outlandish to mount a serious statewide bid, but experience and election results tell a different story. There’s a market for what Chase and her ilk are pushing. If we need another reminder of that, we need look no further than 2018 and the Republican Senate nominee that year, Corey A. Stewart.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

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