Chapter Three: The Cast of Characters – Four Front Runners

UPDATE 4/11/2021: I had a call from Senator Chase on my article which was most polite asking for a correction on my statement that she was removed from the Virginia Senate Caucus. Senator Chase says she was not removed but voluntarily chose to leave because of failed leadership, and proposed legislation which involved tax increases and others not in keeping with Republican values.  She made it clear that if Senator Tommy Norment led the caucus again that she would leave, which she subsequently did.

The Senator also spoke to an endorsement from former Senator Dick Black which is not included in my article, but apparently this past week that endorsement was withdrawn. Senator Chase referred to this on a radio interview (WNAL) on Friday at 3:25 and did not learn until much later that day he had withdrawn his endorsement in favor of Pete Snyder.

In Chapter Two I conveyed how we arrived at the oddest and most complicated Republican convention in the history of the Commonwealth.

However, before we take a look at the candidates, a comment made on that installment by one of my readers named Codetalker is well worth considering:

“As everyone knows — well, as everyone who PAYS ATTENTION knows — primary elections in Virginia often are DUAL PRIMARY elections. That is, two separate elections on the same day, same place.

“At the polling places are two sets of ballots — Republican ballots and Democratic ballots. When a voter checks in at the pollbook station and shows ID, the voter is then asked ‘Do you want to participate in the Republican Party Primary or the Democratic Party Primary?’ The voter is then handed one ballot, either Rep or Dem.

“In my little county Trump received around 7,000 votes while Biden picked up about 3,000. That’s 7,000 Republicans. However, the county Republican Party gets only 30-35 at their monthly meetings, which means there are about 6,970 Republicans who do not attend the monthly meetings and wh0 likely do not know squat about this disassembled convention, have no idea where to go to vote in the primary, don’t know they must register as a delegate, don’t know anything except that there’s a primary on June 8.”

Including this comment seemed appropriate, not only because I know our electoral board chairman in Caroline is anticipating the same set of issues, but also because this commentary is not authored by your typical “Talking Head.” My definition of Talking Head can be a candidate, a consultant, a writer on a blog, or someone in conservative leadership similarly unconnected to reality.

This comment is from someone on the ground in Virginia who deals with elections in real life and what actually happens there. In all the issues presently before state Republican leadership, there is too little respect for firsthand experience and way too much bloviating on things about which they have limited knowledge.

More about Talking Heads

There is more here than a lesson to be learned about why every Virginian should have been offered an opportunity to vote in a primary. If any of our candidates honestly want information to address the topic of voter fraud, look no further than “Republican Electoral Board Members,” a shamefully forgotten resource who had to stand by after the last election and watch high profile groups from all over Virginia and elsewhere request documents through the Freedom of Information Act that had nothing whatsoever to do with real voter fraud.

They milked this for the media coverage resulting in zero about how and where our Virginia elections are manipulated in the weeks leading up to the election with early voting. Talking Heads really were at their worst here.

For those that do not know and are besotted with “poll watchers,” local Republican committee chairs already appoint these eyes and ears in the form of their member of the electoral board. How many Republican gubernatorial candidates have actually consulted that resource? My guess is zero.

But I digress. Let’s take a look at the GOP candidates for Governor and their campaign styles in 2021.

Senator Amanda Chase

For eighteen months, Amanda Chase, a six-year incumbent Virginia Senator, has actually been doing what Republicans used to do a decade ago, and that is visiting communities all across the Commonwealth, talking to people and promoting name recognition around the state. She was polling late last year and in early 2021 fairly clearly as the winner in a primary.

With little money, Chase’s ground game is not small and is based on personal contact. She realized early on that making endless rounds of visiting GOP committees doesn’t grow a base, and visited “communities” and small events instead, patiently adding to her numbers a few folks at a time. She probably won’t like the reference, but it’s otherwise known as “The Handbook for Successful Campaigning” by one Bill Bolling.

This method is the reason Bolling was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 in spite of lackluster candidate Jerry Kilgore who lost the Republican Governor’s bid. This gave Republicans the ability to keep a strong, conservative hand in a key office, not to mention Bolling’s masterful command of the Virginia Senate. This set the stage for Bob McDonnell’s win in 2009.

Those were the days of strategic planning.

Chase is diametrically different in character from Bolling, but she actually knows real people not associated with committees, remembers names, and keeps phone numbers, again of real citizens deeply concerned with where the state and country are headed.

Chase also wasn’t focused on the support and endorsement of local activists, which can be a blessing and a curse among inner circles, and understands how little they mean to regular folks. She delivers her message consistently and unapologetically and goes her own way. If she was indeed the reason for this year’s convention rodeo, it is the height of irony, and I would hardly write her off in a convention as the heightened awareness has helped her.

A Word About Committees

Before I consider the Senator further it’s time for a word about the strategy and style of the candidates who are not Amanda Chase. The hallmark of a behind-the-eight-ball candidate is an insistence on visiting “committees,” where a handful of dues-paying meeting attendees are already voting Republican. This is especially true with an eye on the general election and even applies to conventions, so the smart candidate gets “committee visiting” out of the way early on, and not when he or she needs them to sign up as a delegate.

It’s also statistically iffy to count on committee members who have “been there and done that,” signing up in large numbers to be delegates, giving up a Saturday at an expensive convention where the base price on fees is normally $35.00 plus gas, food and, as mentioned before, possibly a hotel room. That $35.00 gets you a lanyard and a program to take home, if you are lucky.

In a further word about the desperate trek to “visit committees,” the way they are structured presently by the party plan means many will never be strong enough, stable enough, or big enough to provide a really effective tool to win elections long term. There is no reward or impetus to “belong to a committee,” and for those executive committees doing it right, keeping all the records, begging for volunteers, and making the machine move, it’s a lot of damn work, especially for those with a day job.

While some committees have been able to forgo the in-fighting, drama, and soap opera scenario, many committees wax and wane, good and bad, depending on who can wrestle control, and are only as good as the individuals currently running the show. This can range from really good, honest folks to criminals.

Maybe you have disagreed with someone in the committee and soon they insist you be removed for missing x number of meetings, as the mission of electing conservatives recedes and the bylaws become a tool. Committee members have learned that the time they have put in means nothing when it comes to having a place as a delegate. They can watch real time those who have worked against Republicans for years sign a pledge and all is forgiven.

A member may work his hump off faithfully for 20 years for Republican candidates and initiatives, and run for Chairman only to see a stranger or “registered voter” come and take his place. A fully functioning and great functioning committee can be “taken” as a lark over some small personal insult and ceases to function for years. Such is the structure of the Party Plan.

Given that committees are really necessary only as the bones of the local party processes, perhaps the Republican Party of Virginia will wake up one day and realize the rules for these need a major overhaul, and stop the silly “grow-the-committee” contests. It’s about numbers not committees. The concept of community (a broad view) vs. Democratic committees (a limited view) is what gave Barack Obama his success, if anyone cares or dares to read his journey.

I emphasize all this because Chase was polling as the winner in a primary for a reason. She put her foot in the path and did the work in Virginia, sans committees, showing the RPV she did not need them to run a conservative campaign.

The Downside

While I admire her work ethic, Chase is a highly controversial figure who bills herself as “Trump in heels.” In 2019, she made headlines at a run-in with Richmond Capitol Police, a version of which can be found here. More controversial public comments during that year led to her removal from the Virginia Republican Senate Caucus.

In the 2021 session, when she refused to comply with General Assembly COVID safety measures and commented about the events of January 6 in Washington D.C., she was stripped of her committee assignments by her colleagues from both sides of the aisle. Chase spent session behind a Plexiglas wall.

She tends to consistently favor conspiracy theories claiming some entity or another is always trying to stop her movement, which is unfortunate, unnecessary, and distracting since her core message, which includes strong support of the 2nd amendment and voter integrity, resonates with many. In recent Facebook posts she blamed county committee chairs for the debacle at state central telling her supporters that committee chairs would try and shut them out, when in all reality they had no voice in the process.

A week or so ago she posted a long account of her attendance at a church in Loudoun and took what many thought to be a huge shot at a local beloved minister on her Facebook page. Another recent article pointed out her lack of accomplishments legislative wise for the past six years, and claims her campaign has tanked.

While her 100 percent pro-life and second amendment ratings are well known, I could not find any legislation authored by her that stood out or made a difference in the lives of Virginians, and she herself does not point to any on her various platform venues. The platform is all strongly worded but general in nature without any reference to specific accomplishments while a Virginia Senator.

On her platform venues, Chase deals in blame tactics as if already apologizing and making excuses for a loss. Winners traditionally don’t do this. Her mail pieces are rife with harsh terms and verbiage, with the words “hate” and “fear” appearing routinely. The most recent mailer in describing herself loudly conveys the following, “Liberals Hate Her. The Establishment Fears Her, and The election was rigged against her,” all before an opportunity to actually win the convention and gain support in the General Election. This negativity heaped upon one’s self will remain one of the many oddities of 2021.

While Virginians are certainly concerned with the 2nd amendment, the right to life, voter fraud, and more, they also have to get up in the morning, go to work, and live life. So, they are concerned with jobs (business), roads (transportation), schools (education), as well as services (taxes). Chase is not the only candidate ignoring these lackluster but necessary issues so I’m not here to beat her up on those.

Her appeal remains to the party’s right and especially to hardened Trump voters, but the problem for her is they are a finite number. Even without anomalies in last year’s election with third party voting dumps and early voting in general, without some considerable addition in numbers, it’s not in the cards to put a Trump spin off into the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.

I spoke to one SCC member off the record, normally a primary person who said, “I’m tired of losing and the loss is a foregone conclusion with Chase.” The collective school of thought seems to be her numbers in the General election would be less than Corey Stewart’s in 2018.

Personally, I am not convinced the loss would be that great, but a loss nonetheless. Chase’s negative and constant drama, delivery, and scorch-the-earth rhetoric is way too harsh to inspire confidence in potential middle and center right voters which Republicans must have for victory.

Core activists will vote for her, but the numbers of suburban moms supporting a gun toting “Lady Trump” are not sufficient to carry the day, even if a few are living secretly and vicariously through Senator Chase. With all that the country endured last year, there is a strong yearning for a hero or, in this case, a heroine, someone who will stand strong – but you must get elected to take that stand or it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Cheering her as she strides down the street, gun on her hip, is not the same as the trust factor and deciding come election day she would make a good, measured, fair, reasonable, and responsible Governor … and in the end it’s about numbers. Those pesky numbers.

In Chapter Four we will look further at the Cast of Characters and see who can answer those questions about improving the quality of life for every day Virginians.

Previous chapters in this series:

Chapter One: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction – Convention Season 101
Chapter Two: Strange Bedfellows

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