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The Saga Continues: The AG Race (POLL INCLUDED)

Movie franchises work best in threes. Comedy has its own rule of threes. And here in Virginia, we have three statewide elected officials elected in the year between the presidential and midterm elections. So, of course, I feel like I have to complete my own trilogy of posts about the state of the race for 2013. As has been said by me and plenty others, much is in flux right now, and this isn’t even the biggest race on the radar. Those, of course, are the US Senate Race and the Presidential election, for which the GOP will need all hands on deck next year to prevail in. However, as we recently saw with the discussions over the presidential primary ballot requirements and the “loyalty oath” issue for said primary, these races are definitely coloring how people are approaching the 2012 races. So, since we’ve already gotten a feel for where we’re at for the Governor and LG races, why not go for a threepeat?

A caution–let us not read too much into any results I have to offer. If anything, the only thing internet polls are good for are for giving us a slight idea of who has the best organized and motivated people. That, and just who reads what blogs. (My readers/acquaintances seem to be more Bolling fans than Cuccinelli fans, given that my poll results were the inverse of Bearing Drifts) But, in a number driven business, they’re just fun too, so why not?

Your Contenders

Announced

  • Delegate Robert Bell–Bell is starting his fifth term in Richmond as a Delegate representing a Piedmont based district, with territory in Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and just a chunk of Rockingham Counties. (This makes for an interesting race, as that means two candidates represent parts of the same locality) Bell was first elected in 2001 and has represented a “purplish” district–mostly due to the Albemarle based precincts but has consistently done well. Bell’s ambition has been known for a long time, but this cycle marks his first clear shot at the brass ring. Bell has often been considered one of the “young guns” of the General Assembly (though at forty four, he’s just five years younger than another candidate). He’s married with two young children. Bell has been a pretty reliable conservative in the General Assembly, but some of his legislative agenda has tended towards strengthening laws and regulations–something that may not play well with the current libertarian leanings predominant amongst many Virginia GOP activists. Bell chairs the powerful Criminal subcomittee, which handles a large chunk of legislation that comes through the GA each year. Additionally, Bell is a former prosecutor, something that’s always a plus (though not a necessity) in this race. Bell is also a pretty formidable fundraiser.
  • Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk John Frey–Frey, the three term clerk of the combined Fairfax and Fairfax Circuit Courts, is something of an unknown entity to many activists–even a few in Northern Virginia. However, from what I had learned about Frey, he certainly brings an interesting angle to things. For one, he’s not in any real way tied to Richmond as it is, and I think we can expect him to talk alot about the relationship between the state and localities, a tack that will likely also be taken by Corey Stewart in the AG’s race. Additionally, he brings the sort of executive experience that Bell and Obenshain don’t quite have, running an office of more than one hundred fifty employees with a budget of $11 million. I’m not sure about Frey’s experience as a lawyer nor his fundraising abilities, but it’ll be interesting to learn more, as he’s attempting a path that hasn’t been successful on the GOP side since Jim Gilmore won the AG slot in 1993 (going from local to statewide office).

“Exploring”

  • State Senator Mark Obenshain–Right now Obenshain is said to be “exploring” a run for Attorney General, but he has launched a committee specifically for this race and its said that an official announcement is forthcoming–he’s in. Obenshain is embarking on his third term in the State Senate. Obenshain has twice handily dispatched opponents in this rock solid red district, and in 2011 no one even bothered running against him. Obenshain has been a stalwart conservative in a Senate that was, earlier in the last decade, more under the influence of moderates. Obenshain has a reputation as a fighter but also as somebody who can get things done. Obenshain has been a decent fundraiser, but compared to Bell, he’s never had the real need to raise a huge chunk of coin to get the job done. Obenshain is more closely linked to Cuccinelli than Bell, the two having been close in the State Senate, and therefore may draw many of Cuccinelli’s supporters, but Obenshain has clearly stated his neutrality in the Governor’s race. It certainly doesn’t hurt, either, that Obenshain is the son of a party legend, former RPV Chair and 1978 Senate Nominee the late Richard Obenshain (who died in a air crash during the campaign and was replaced on the ticket by now Former Senator John Warner). I’m not sure but I don’t believe Obenshain has any prosecutorial experience but is regularly named one of Virginia’s “Legal Elite” by Virginia Business Magazine. Obenshain has two children in college, is married, and is 49.

Possible Candidates

  • Former Arlington School Board Chair Dave Foster–Foster ran in 2009 and came in third at the convention to Cuccinelli and Brownlee on the first (and only) ballot. Foster’s primary claim to fame is as a member of the Arlington County School Board (0nce as chair) and is regularly touted as a figure who can break the Democratic stranglehold in that region (although the School Board is non-partisan). Foster raised a decent amount of money in the AG’s race last time but never really gained any traction, squeezed by Cuccinelli’s strident conservative legislative accomplishments and Brownlee’s tough on crime rhetoric. Foster has remained active, hosting hospitality suites at recent Advances. Foster’s biggest appeal was and is as a Republican in deep blue territory–but last time he wasn’t the only one, with Cuccinelli in the mix, and this time he won’t be the only one either if Frey does indeed make it to the primary. Foster may instead make the race to replace now-State Senator Barbara Favola on the Arlington Board of Supervisors, but the guy’s scrappy–if he takes a pass on that, and its looking very likely, then we’ll have a better idea of where he’s leaning.
  • Former US District Attorney John Brownlee–Brownlee could make the race again, having placed second to Cuccinelli at the 2009 State Convention. Brownlee is many a consultant’s perfect storm candidate–a veteran, a tough on crime prosecutor, young, great looks. However, Brownlee, despite his sterling prosecutorial credentials, never really made a strong case against the Cooch and managed to lose a good chunk of the rural counties, supposedly his strongest area as he served in the Western District in Roanoke. Still, Brownlee was a pretty decent fundraiser and pulled in some pretty good supporters, but don’t count him out yet. However, keep in mind that a GOP win in November could lead to different opportunities for Brownlee…..

So there’s your slate, folks. Vote above, with the usual choices (all of the above mentioned plus undecided and someone else). Feel free to share any further thoughts or candidates in the comments below.

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News on Convention Rules

Buried inside of a “catch-all” post from Salem Republican on Roanoke Valley Republicans is this interesting tidbit about the rules for balloting at the RPV Convention on May 29th and 30th:

The RPV Convention rules committee met yesterday. I was the 6th District rep. Nothing too earth shattering. Couple points of interest. Chair candidates will have to declare their candidacy by May 12th and meet with the Nominations committee shortly thereafter. All voting will be done on a single ballot after all the speeches. Speakers get 10 minutes which they can only use for candidate speeches (something I tried to amend but lost 7-6). No “last man out rule” until after the 2nd ballot. That means no one is forced out on ballot 1 but, in AG race, third place finisher on second ballot is out. Should make for an interesting convention. Process was very open and fair with all the campaigns giving input. I was humbled to be invited to participate and I’m proud of the work done by the committee.

If this rule sticks (and again, we could very well see a fight on this or any of the other rules on the 29th, partially as a test of strength and partially due to the ongoing situation with the RPV Chairmanship), then this will signal a major shift in strategy for all three AG candidates. This limits the opportunities for a war of attrition and makes it absolutely crucial that Brownlee ends up near par with Cuccinelli on the first ballot and keeps enough of his people on the second ballot to put him in a position to make a deal with the Foster campaign to carry the day.

AG Forum video on CCC

Crystal Clear Conservative will be featuring video from the YRFV forum of all three candidates for the GOP AG nomination (Dave Foster, John Brownlee, and Ken Cuccinelli) throughout this week. If you haven’t decided who to support and haven’t had a chance to make it to one of the great forums or debates they’ve held across the state, this is a great opportunity to view the candidates side by side. First up: the three candidate’s opening statements.

While Krystle gets the video up, please enjoy my live-blog (I know, I know, so 2006) of the forum.

YRFV AG Forum Live Blog

April 18, 2009 1 comment

Krystle will have video, but the early word from the YRFV AG Forum is below. Highlights: the AG’s moral authority, the 2013 Governor’s race, and the lack of talk on triggerman. 

Moderator: Brian Smith

Format: 3 minutes per answer, 30 second rebuttal

Opening Statements

Ken Cuccinelli: My campaigns have been based on true conservative principles. I was the only NOVA State Senator to campaign for the Marriage Amendment. I have consistently proposed more cuts than spending. I fought against REAL ID, and believe that states need to assert their soverignty on this and other issues. Despite the difficulty of this issue in Fairfax, I have stuck by my guns. I have been involved in criminal justice reform. All of these issues are ones the AG candidate will have to run on.

John Brownlee: I am running for Attorney General: Virginia Top Prosecutor and top law enforcer. Our job is to keep the neighborhoods safe and to protect the children. As AUSA for the Western half of the state for the last seven years, I am the only candidate who has done that. I have gone after dope dealers, murderers, and rapists. I have gone after public corruption and bad corporations. I have run a law office, including criminal, civil and appellate divisions, and been the lawyer for 22 federal agencies. I am a conservative and a veteran.

Dave Foster: Two reasons for me: I can help because I have won in DEEP BLUE Fairfax, the only candidate to win in Arlington in two decades and did so TWICE (albeit nonpartisan School Board race). The economy is number two. I can cut regulation, go to court to fight for our right to work status, and speed up the permitting process.

QUestion 1: : Relay your experiences as a Young Republican and one lesson you learned.

Cuccinelli: I am still a Young Republican! But seriously, over the last 18 years I have worked hard for GOP candidates, and I came to my position as a grassroots leader. We have won our past three races with one of Virginia’s strongest grassroots operations. We did it not because of the candidate but because I brought people to the table with my core values. I learned my work ethic in engineering school. I have been the #1, #1, and #2 targeted Senator in my races.  John Cook won thanks to our work. 

Brownlee: When I was in high school in remember Ronald Reagan running for president in 1980. My mother drove me to Springfield to stuff envelopes for the man. I learned the lesson of public service. This is the first job I’ve ever run for. I don’t come here via politics, but because I believe in public service. I was in the Army Rangers. I clerked for a federal judge. I’ve always been a strong Republican, and I supported George Allen at the convention in 1993. I became AUSA because I was a Republican, and that is important. But I am running first and foremost because I am a public servant. 

Foster: I got my start with grassroots–door to door, phones, yes, even envelopes. I worked for Bob Daniel back in 1974, while my wife was with Phil Crane. After three years we moved to Arlington, and I’ve been a member of the Arlington Committee for 25 years. I chaired John Warner’s campaign in 1996. In 2002 Michael Steele asked me to head up GOPAC Virginia. What shapes me as a public servant? My children. They got me to run for the school board, drive me to want a safe society (which you don’t get by just incarcerating people), and make my focus on jobs. 

Question 2: As AG, it would be your responsibility to judge the constitutionality of proposed legislation, which may be at odds with your public policy views. How will you handle that?

Brownlee: The GA will pass laws, and the AG will be called to defend them. My views may very well be at odds. Hopefully, the House will be in the hands of Republicans. 99% of the laws passed will be constitutional. However, if they are fundamentally wrong (as with the Korematsu decision) I will not defend them. The big question is who has the experience to do that? I have. 

Foster: There is some disagreement here. The AG is the state’s biggest law firm, as former AG McDonnell had on his site. The people of Virginia, through the GA, are the AG’s offices clients. John said he would apply a moral filter on this–however, this is not the AG’s job. For example, Korematsu. In hindsight this was not a good position. However, it was upheld by SCOTUS. Would the AG have the right to reject that? No–you either support the law, or you resign. I have been with one of the world’s largest law firm. I give clients advice, but ultimately they are the client and make the decision. It’s not my job to object.

Cuccinelli: I’m in the interesting position of having actually fought to invalidate the law. I won the right for RPV to choose how it candidates are selected, rather than incumbents. I would argue that someone who’s done this is the best candidate. As AG, its not my job to get involved in public policy. I can lobby the GA–however, once its passed, I will defend the state. Now, if the law is constitutionally indefensible, I will lose. But if it is defensible, I will fight.

Question 3: Economists believe that illegal immigrants could get thousands of stimulus jobs. What are your feelings on this issue, and What do you believe should/can be done on this issue?

Foster: I have had the support of ethnic americans. Legal is the key word. I think that State Troopers should be given the authority to begin ICE proceedings. We need to consider which benefits we should extend. The courts hold that education must be offered. However, what about housing? I don’t believe they should be eligible. We should make it be clear that we are friends of immigrants. 

Brownlee: This is the #1 question I get. We should draw a bright line between legal and illegal immigration. We embrace the diversity of our society and those who follow the law.We should enforce the law. I am the only candidate who has ever incarcerated someone here illegally. We should also shut down the magnets for illegal immigration. We should focus of criminal illegal immigrants (i.e. those who are here illegally but also engaged in other crimes). We should put a retainer on these individuals and deport them once they have served their time.

Cuccinelli: Like other issues, I have a record on this issue. I have passed more legislation on this issue than any other member of the Senate. I have put through legislation to shut down public benefits (outside of education and emergency health care) for illegal immigrants. I have been fighting for this disincentive for years. When you combine this with sincere outreach, you will get support from these communities. Its not guaranteed, but its possible. I have gained the endorsement of every member of RPV’s ethnic outreach council.  Task forces got their authority to deal with boarding houses from a bill I carried. It worked so well after just six months of being quarantined to NOVA that the next session it went satte wide. We need standard practices for troopers. We can advance this issue without crossing the line.

Question #4: Last year LG Bill Bolling stepped aside from the Gov race to run for re-election. In return the State Central Committee endorsed him for 2013. Will you do likewise?

Brownlee: Yes. Bill Bolling did the right and honorable thing, and we should stick to that. 

Cuccinelli: I tell my friends to kick me in the tail if I get out of line. I am a friend of Bolling’s, and I will be in 2013. I am supporting him this year. However, just as I expect that accountability for myself, I demand the same accountability from those I support. 

Foster: He has to confirm he’s running. I endorsed Bill this year, and we share consultants. We can’t even assume anything about this fall. 

Closing (1 minute):

Foster: We have to win. I can help in the places we MUST do better. I talk their langugae, just as Bob and Bill are. I have been working with businesses for 28 years. I know how to talk the talk on jobs. 

Brownlee: Whoever we select will be a good candidate. However, the last five of six Attorney Generals have been 

Cuccinelli: In the last 25 years, no one has won in their first time out for AG. I am the ONLY candidate who has run on the issues the AG must emphasize. My record stands alone in this race. Everyone is a conservative in a primary–however, I am the true conservative. It’s not just my tens of thousands of votes but also the hundreds of bills. Trust but verify, and you can verify I am a true conservative.

AG News Round-Up

In light of a busy, busy week in the AG’s race, and with just minutes to go until today’s forum at the YRFV convention (which I will be live-blogging), I wanted to note and comment on three interesting developments in the race:

-John Brownlee was endorsed by former Attorney General and 2005 Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Kilgore this week. I think the strategic considerations here are rather dubious. Certainly the Kilgore name already carries some weight in southwest Virginia; however, that’s not a part of the state where Brownlee should have any problem, given his former job as Assistant United States Attorney. Additionally, Kilgore is known not only for losing the election in large part due to the misfire of an ad on the death penalty, but also in conservative circles for being insufficiently conservative, particularly on the abortion issue. (It should also be noted that he was a finance chair for the Rudy Guliani campaign) This not only ties Brownlee to the questionable past of the party, but it also exacerbates issues with conservatives in the western part of the state. He has issues in the upper and middle part of the Shenandoah Valley, although he has the backing of law enforcement in many of those localities. The Kilgore endorsement allows conservative leaders to raise those questions while saying “Hey, we have a TRUE and PROVEN conservative over here.” (I’m not questioning Brownlee’s conservatism–I’m simply saying that Cuccinelli has led on these issues). However, it is interesting to note that Kilgore was not a prosecutor was indeed a federal and state prosecutor but was in private practice when he ran–making this endorsement all the more interesting for a candidate who is clearly running a “top cop” strategy for the seat. Perhaps Brownlee wants to signal that he can run a “holistic” office?

-Speaking of Cuccinelli, he sent out the first of “several” issue papers on jobs. Curiously, this issue paper was not on guns or abortion, two of Ken’s key areas, nor on the death penalty, an issue where Ken has taken a beating of late. Rather, it was on jobs. You’ll recall that we’ve discussed here before that Dave Foster has already staked out territory on this issue. Are Cooch’s people hearing that this issue may have traction in the AG’s race after all? 

-Finally, Dave Foster had his own curious endorsement this week–well, not so much an endorsement but a special guest for an upcoming fundraiser. Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, who served under Reagan and continues to be a rock star amongst social conservatives, has attached his name to the Foster effort. Foster has been stuck in third place from the very beginning–for him, the most viable path to victory is being strong enough to be in a position to cut a deal with one of the other two, most likely Brownlee if he fails to stay close to Cuccinelli. Brownlee’s people would be the most likely to cut a deal based on electability. However, by bolstering his conservative credentials, Foster opens up the possibility of drawing from both camps in the event that all three candidates end up near 33% on the first ballot. 

I couldn’t post about this race without talking about the money race. In raw numbers from VPAP:

Cash On Hand
Brownlee $117,894
Cuccinelli $160.844
Foster $22,499

Money Raised First Quarter
Brownlee $105,205-256 Donors
Cuccinelli $86,021-486 Donors
Foster $44,354-164 Donors

Money Spent 1Q
Brownlee $113,629
Cuccinelli $145,173
Foster $75,729

Analysis later

Foster’s Gambit

The conventional wisdom on the Republican AG race is that it is primarily one between Cuccinelli and Brownlee, with Foster struggling behind in third place. Foster has laid claim to a majority in a few delegations, but right now the battle seems to be between Ken and John. By and large, their approaches can be broken down thusly: Brownlee is the certifiably conservative crime-fighter, while Cuccinelli is the true conservative streetfighter who can win in NOVA. Why, just tonight I got an email from Cuccinelli touting the signing of his Choose Life license plate bill, while one from Brownlee called on supporters to call their Delegates and Senators to fight for an override of Governor Kaine’s veto of the triggerman rule repeal. 

Foster, meanwhile, has been vaguely making the argument that since the AG’s office handles more consumer and other state related matters than crime, as a professional lawyer he can run what he dubs “the state’s second largest law firm.” That, and he can win in the deepest blue part of Northern Virginia, as he was once elected as a nonpartisan member of the School Board and in that position was actually able to push some conservative policies. With that message, Dave has been stuck behind in general terms of enthusiasm amongst grassroots and blog types (with the notable exception of Too Conservative’s VA Blogger).

Read more…

AG Candidates: Foster