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26th District Update

Well, it’s official–and really has been for days now–that Tony Wilt, President of Superior Concrete, will seek the Republican nod for the special election in the 26th District. Word is that Wilt was the only candidate who seemed to be really working the crowd at last week’s Lincoln Day Dinner, and sources tell me that he’s already lined up key activists and is actively working the party vines. The smoke has definitely cleared, and I think we can downgrade a few candidates. Other than John Elledge, no one else on my initial list seems to be making much noise. It should be noted, however, that at least one potential candidate, Ted Byrd, has a difficult call to make, as the Republican Mass Meeting is coming up in which he would most likely seek re-nomination for City Council.

An important note: the timing is still very much up in the air on this. What we do know is that it will not be in May or June, due both to the timing of Matt’s exact resignation (which also means Lohr will serve in the reconvened session) and state code prohibiting primaries and special elections being on the same day. What will be interesting to watch is if Governor McDonnell calls the election before November–this could give us some hint as to a) if the two special sessions on government reform and transportation are in the works and b) what his support looks like in the House on these issues. Right now, though, the House is not where the big questions are–it’s the Senate where any proposals by McDonnell live or die. The fact that Delegate Sam Nixon was also picked off signals that McDonnell probably isn’t all that worried about the House, but from the looks of it there likely won’t be any Democrats for him to be able to pick off in exchange for cushy appointments–not with the current political atmosphere being so black and white.

According to the DNR, Democrats in the County have gone with a caucus, and the city seems likely to follow. My money for the GOP? Convention. But after my list of potential contenders in the 26th, you might want to look elsewhere for your political betting insights….

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26th District Update–Potential Candidates

March 17, 2010 9 comments

Well, it looks like Rockingham and Harrisonburg is settling in for its first special election since 2008 and the first one for the General Assembly that I know of (feel free to chime in if anyone has history on this). The timing is still very tentative on all this, as under state code it is the Governor that calls special elections for the House of Delegates, unlike with local vacancies where all sorts of timelines are dictated by law. Before anyone accuses me of jumping the gun, let’s face the facts:

  1. This special was triggered by a happy event, not tragedy, and Delegate Lohr has made clear his intention to leave the House
  2. Rockingham and Harrisonburg have very active and vocal committees
  3. Given the redness of the county, there are a large number of Republican elected officials who could conceivably run, to say nothing of former officials and candidates.
  4. Given recent performance by the Democrats in Harrisonburg, this seat will be viewed as at least somewhat in play by DPV, particularly given that redistricting will likely move the district inwards towards Harrisonburg and take away some of the most Republican territory in the district

If you still think I’m jumping the gun, forgive me. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself when it comes to intra-party intrigue. So what will the process look like? Well, from my reading of state law, primaries CANNOT be held in the event of special elections, so the nominee is going to be chosen using one of three party-run mechanisms: a firehouse canvass (which is essentially a primary except run by the party and generally not for the full 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. timeframe of public primaries), a convention (in which Delegates are elected by the units {in this case Harrisonburg and Rockingham} and the number of Delegates elected by each are determined by the unit’s relative strength in the District), or a mass meeting (in which all Republicans may participate but again is run for a much shorter period of time and according to the rules of parliamentary procedure). I think a mass meeting is highly unlikely given the district comprises two units. We may see some wrangling over the method itself–however, the vote on the method will fall to just two men–Dave Huffman, Rockingham County Chair, and Tracy Evans, Harrisonburg City Chair. A nominee must be selected either a) within five days of the writ being issued if the election is to be held less than 35 days from the time it was issued or b) no less than thirty days before the special election. The method of nomination may very well dictate who gets in and who doesn’t given that some methods will clearly not favor some candidates.

We will have continuing analysis of the district throughout the week, including the interplay of deeply red Rockingham and purplish Harrisonburg, along with the effect redistricting will have on the district as well as the campaign. However, for the time being I want to start by discussing the candidates in play. Again, this may seem to be jumping the gun, but let’s be honest–the jockeying has already begun. Additionally, the announcement comes just days before the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the combined Republican Women’s Club, so there will definitely be some jousting going on by that time. Below the fold is a blow by blow for the names floating around. For right now we’ll start with the Republican side for one simple reason–I know the players.

Read more…

BREAKING: Lohr to become Ag Commissioner, Leave House

Just was alerted to this by a friend of mine who works in the General Assembly–nearby Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26) has been appointed as Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Lohr has not yet resigned from the House and will not take the job until May 1st. However, from the tone of his letter (click read more below for the complete letter) he has decided to resign (and almost certainly has to under state law), meaning the move will surely trigger a special election in the district, which comprises Harrisonburg and parts of Rockingham County.

Lohr is a familiar face to those in the Valley, including Shenandoah County, as he often appears on WHSV, the main station for the area. Lohr previously served as a statewide FFA officer and runs his own family farm and pick your own pumpkin patch. I’ve worked very closely with the Delegate on several campaigns and worked with his staff during his first year in the House (he and Delegate Gilbert were both members of the class of 2005). Lohr is definitely an excellent pick for the position, as he brings both extensive knowledge and passion to the position. His letter to supporters is below the fold.

Of course, even with this happy news for the Lohr Family, this does mean that a special election will be triggered in Harrisonburg and creates practical political concerns. The seat went heavily for Lohr in the fall, scoring 73% of the vote and even carrying the city proper, which was the first time a Republican Delegate candidate had since 2001. However, Democrats currently control city council, and they won in 2005 (Kaine only), 2006 and 2008. The city makes up a slim majority of the district, so it could be in play. Still, the overwhelmingly Republican nature of the district makes me lean towards making this a likely Republican hold.

The field may already be cleared, but names to watch as the election develops, on the Republican side:

Chaz Evans Haywood, Clerk of Court
Tom Mendez, City School Board
Mike Meredith, former GOP Chairman
John Elledge, former LA to Delegate Glenn Weatherholtz
Tracy Evans, former city council candidate and City GOP Chair
Kerri Wilson, former City GOP Chair and City School Board Member
Pablo Cuevas, Board of Supervisors member

On the Democratic side:

Kai Denger, Mayor
Gene Hart, Democratic nominee in 2009
Lowell Fulk, Democratic nominee in 2003 and 2005

Wild cards (independents):
Rodney Eagle, 2003 State Senate candidate and former Mayor
Carolyn Frank, 2005 Independent Candidate for Delegate and Councilwoman
Myron Rhodes, local political gadfly and blogger

We’ll track this story as it develops. This may even be enough intrigue to convince me to attend the Rockingham-Harrisonburg LDD this Friday.

Read more…

Tea Partiers continue to flex muscle

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I find the tea parties that sprung up around the country last spring an absolutely fascinating exercise in political involvement. Though the media and left-wingers are quick to denounce it as “astroturf,” but the fact of the matter is that, regardless of who came up with the term and who puts what events together, run-of-the-mill activists across the country have made it into something much bigger than anyone could imagine. Right now, many groups are getting involved in congressional primaries to turn out a candidate close to their values. Indeed, in our own backyard tea partiers are promising to have a series of debates in Virginia’s Fifth District.

“Our intent is to make the process fair and accessible to all viable candidates and give them the opportunity to prove themselves to the citizens of the 5th District,” Lynchburg TEA Party leader Mark Lloyd said in the release.

Lloyd noted that many TEA party members are independent from the GOP. “…Nevertheless, as Americans we intend to make our voices heard and we intend to be part of the political process.”

Lloyd points out correctly that the are a number of independent conservatives in the effort–however, in speaking to some of these people I find that many are former Republicans who just couldn’t tolerate the party’s full fledged support for certain types of candidates. However, these people appear to have still come out in droves for Bob McDonnell this past year. Therefore, they are drawn to the Tea Parties first as a way to get involved then jettison again if they get burned. The label is so potent that Rasmussen did a poll that discovered that an actual Tea Party would beat the Republican Party in a congressional match-up:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

Obviously, dissatisfaction with the Republican label remains so high that nearly a third of people who call themselves Republicans would consider a third-party. No wonder state Republican parties, such as Colorado and Virginia’s, have taken great care to listen to the tea party movement and co-opt its focus on individual liberty and fiscal issues.

I still maintain that the Tea Party is more of a re-branding and re-ignition of a staid conservative movement that became unprincipled early in the decade. The Republican Party can defuse the threat of conservative independents bolting or staying home by a) keeping leaders like Sarah Palin from seeing hope in a third party and b) by not only promising but delivering on issues key to the identity of tea party activists.

As Norm pointed out over at TQ:

It may indicate that Republicans, if they hope to be successful in 2010, would be wise to pay attention to the activists back home who are protesting, organizing, forming PACs, lobbying for legislation and more under any number of tea party banners.

Or they could ignore it. In which case, they had best hope they packed along an extra pair of socks…because it gets mighty cold and damp in the political wilderness.

Beating a Dead Horse

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Some people just can’t escape criticism. One of those unfortunates is Creigh Deeds. First, there’s a scathing editorial from Doug Wilder, who many waved off as a has-been when he predicted the inevitable. From the RTD:

Candidly, though, I will state that Deeds’ inability to resonate with the base of the party was not his only failure, as some have claimed. He also failed to connect with the overall root base of Virginia voters of all persuasions — particularly independents and crossover Republicans. If a candidate cannot attract the votes of a broad-based coalition, it becomes extremely difficult — if not impossible — to win any statewide election in this commonwealth.

That is Virginia Politics 101, but sometimes it does us all good to refresh ourselves about the lessons these past few decades of elections have taught us.

…..

With the concerns of the base about job losses, under-employment, health care, and resources for infrastructure improvements mounting on an almost daily basis, Democrats will have to start showing that the base — which has been so essential to so many of us having been elected and put into positions of leadership — has real reasons to believe that its votes matter, and that it will see tangible results, notwithstanding the present dilemma of the party.

Meanwhile, outgoing Governor Tim Kaine shows that a little loss like that on November 3rd is no cure for arrogance. From the Politico:

In an interview in Monday’s Danville Register & Bee, Kaine, who’s also chairmen of the Democratic National Committee, said that he would have run for re-election if Virginia governors were not limited to one term and that if he had run again he “probably could have won pretty easily.”

So you really think that the voters of Virginia would have just ignored your billion dollar deficits? Indeed, there was one candidate on the ballot that worked with the Governor and defended his fiscal policies tooth and nail only to get whomped just as bad. Can’t poor Creigh catch a break? Just like the incoming Governor he’s still got a job to do, and I’m sure he’ll be glad when session comes. Will he become a leading critic of the administration? Time will tell.

Of course, Tim Kaine also threw himself a lavish party at the Hat Factory in Richmond with over 1,400 guests. No word if this was on the government kitty….but its clear that His Excellency would rather us remember “the good times” like a boyfriend desperate to get back with a girl he mistreated.

Money Talks

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

VPAP (h/t WaPo) has comparisons and figures out for this year’s House and Statewide races. Despite a slumping economy, records were still set: the Wekheiser v. Albo race was apparently the second most expensive race in Virginia history for a seat in the General Assembly. The only race to ever beat it: 2007’s legendary affair between Democrat Chap Petersen and Republican Jeanmarie Devolites-Davis. Two parallels: both were in Northern Virginia, an extremely expensive media market, and both produced a lopsided outcome despite the money spent (43% for Wekheiser, 44% for JDD), except this time the incumbent prevailed.

There were a number of other races that broke into the top ten. Though the WaPo is counting ten races breaking the million dollar mark, VPAP only counts nine (as I did too). This is about on par to 2007, when there were ten $1M+ races for the House and seven in the Senate. It should be noted that no one candidate broke the million dollar mark, although Albo came close with $933k.

Other interesting numbers:

  • Although the general election for the Gubernatorial race did not break the record, when the money is factored in for the two losing Democratic primary candidates a record $52.8 million was spent. It should be noted that this was the first seriously contested nomination fight for the Governor’s mansion for either party since, arguably, 1993, when George Allen beat off Earl Williams and Clint Miller. 1985 was the last time the Democrats had a primary.
  • Spending on the Attorney General’s race was actually down from over $11k to about $7.2k. This figure includes the ultimately non-affair of the Republican nominating convention in May. The Washington Post, though, points out that in 2005 the race went into overtime with the recount between Deeds and McDonnell.
  • Only two of the top nine races were outside of either Northern Virginia or the Beach/Hampton Roads: Rob Bell’s re-election bid in Albemarle (a blowout win) and Dr. Scott Garrett in Lynchburg (a squeaker). Two other races that almost made the list were Greason in Loudon and Villanueva in the Beach.

Lots of great information for those who are really into the money race, and plenty of nauseating details for those who bemoan the influence of money in Virginia politics, what with its unlimited donations and expenditures.

Three Must Reads

December 6, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m not entirely sure how to categorize all three of these posts, but I do know this: any conservative who is serious about their principles not only in politicking but in governance should read them.

First up–Part one of Shaun Kenney’s ongoing series about his jump into the wild world of elective office:

This will be the first in a series of observations I will offer for my friends and readers as I start explaining my personal observations during the orientation process.  It’s an education, and it hasn’t been without it’s political lessons.  Like anything, there are honest brokers and turf-seekers, there are folks with whom you agree and folks whom you disagree.  The two sets often mix and match… and naturally the omnipresent factors of miscommunication, laziness, and old fashioned human nature conspire to create the bureaucratic haze so common in any large organization.

The second: RedState’s call to action to get involved, somehow, ANYHOW in the coming election season:

Well, we’re 27 days away from a new year.

The year.

The year we’ve been talking about for 14 months.

I have a question for you. What are you prepared to do?

Are you going to just sit by, worry, be anxious and complain about how everything is being messed up in our country?

Or are you going to do something about it?

…..

We are not all called to be the candidate. We are not all called to finance the campaign. We are not all called to traipse around the countryside and put up signs in the craziest of places. And we are not all called to make phone calls and stuff envelopes.

But, I do believe that we, as people interested in and passionate about this thing called liberty, do have a responsibility to be involved in some way.

And finally, but of most interest to political professionals, Virginia Conservative’s ongoing tale of his time in the 93rd, with these words of caution to any field organizer, paid or volunteer:

So where is a good place to look for volunteers?  How about the city and county Republican committees?  After all, these people have shown at least a marginal level of interest and commitment.  Sadly, committees are not a good source of volunteers.  First of all, the average age of committee members are much higher than your average age of volunteers.  Once you reach seventy years old, you’re much less likely to be physically able to go door-to-door.  Second, some people have the mistaken impression that committee membership is sufficient involvement to elect like-minded candidates.  How many undecided voters can you reach in a committee meeting?  Now don’t think that I must hate committees just because I can’t wring them dry for volunteers.  Certainly not!  They are indispensable and many committee leaders are the hardest working, most motivated, and most dependable people you will ever meet.  Seek out the committees for help, but if your search begins and ends there you will be woefully short of help.