Republican Greg Habeeb kept the Salem-area 8th House of Delegates seat in Republican hands tonight with a win in a special election to fill the vacated seat of former Majority Leader and now-U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith. The details are at the Roanoke Times, here. His win keeps the GOP majority at 60-39 with one seat open (91st district) due to former Delegate Tom Gear's sudden resignation.
Our sister organization, Family Foundation Action, has printed and put online voter guides for the January 11 special elections to fill the Virginia Senate and House seats vacated by the Congressional election victories of Republicans Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith, respectively. The elections are in the 19th Senate district and the 8th House district. The Senate district includes Danville, Franklin, Pittsylvania and part of Campbell County. The House district includes Salem and part of Roanoke. (Click here to find out if you live in either one.) The candidates for the Senate seat are Republican Bill Stanley and Democrat Hank Davis. The voter guide for that election can be viewed by clicking here.
The candidates for the House seat are Republican Greg Habeeb and Democrat Ginger Mumpower. The voter guide for that election is available here.
Both voter guides may printed and distributed or linked to social media sites or forwarded to friends via e-mail. To get hard copies, contact The Family Foundation at 804-343-0010. In addition, you may share or forward this link via social media sites or via e-mail.
According to Ben Pershing a little while ago at the Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog, Virginia freshmen GOP Representatives Morgan Griffith (VA-09) and Robert Hurt (VA-05) will land on two key committees: Energy and Commerce and Financial Services, respectively. While liberal soon-to-be former Representative Rick Boucher, whom Griffith defeated, served on Energy and Commerce, no Virginia member currently sits on the equally powerful Financial Services committee, making that a huge score for Hurt. On the downside, he'll have to put up with Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who will assume the position of ranking member (see Housing Wire) after four disastrous years as its chairman. Freshmen appointments to both committees is unusual (even Boucher had to wait a few terms before his gig started). The news especially was welcome for Hurt who made national headlines last month at the every-two-year-ritual House office lottery for freshman, where he had the misfortune of drawing the highest number and, therefore, the least desirable office space (see Jake Gibson at FoxNews.com). He needed the office karma of Kirk Cox. As for Virginia's other freshman GOP House member, Scott Rigell (VA-02) is awaiting, but expected to get, a spot on the Armed Services Committee, an assignment Virginians from either party from that district almost always get because of the large military presence in Hampton Roads.
When news broke Monday that Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights), not unexpectedly, was elected by his House GOP colleagues to Majority Leader, we offered that the real suspense of General Assembly insiders is where his new office will be. As majority whip, he had a basic corner office in the General Assembly Building. But last session, when he ascended to vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he gained one of only two prestigious ninth floor perches. As the Majority Leader, would he move to the sixth floor where the leadership of each party and chamber has a suite of high profile space? Who would get the newly vacated space he would not use? These are the questions that buzz around Capitol Square. Now, we are the first to report the answers.
According to reliable sources, Delegate Cox will keep both! As one observer said, the sixth floor office has no windows, so it makes sense to keep the ninth floor space as well. Another said the windowless Majority Leader's office was perfect for its most recent inhabitant, newly elected Congressman Morgan Griffith, because of his nose-to-the-grindstone persona. Besides, the sixth floor office is right at the entrance to the GAB stairwell, which, for all practical purposes, is a fire lobbyist escape.
But not only will the new Majority Leader have the two GAB offices, he'll also have, we forgot to mention last time, an office in Mr. Jefferson's Capitol — as do the Speaker and the Minority Leader. He's accumulating more real estate than Donald Trump, but he will need it. With so much on his plate, the offices will serve as hideouts to secure himself from and misdirect the special interests who are sure to hound him. As well as we know Delegate Cox, we're confident he'll handle all of his new responsibilities with great grace, equanimity and humility.
Yesterday, the Republican Caucus in the House of Delegates elected Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) to majority leader and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) to majority whip. The election was necessary (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog) after current Majority Leader Morgan Griffith was elected to the House of Representatives from Virginia's 9th congressional district, defeating 28-year incumbent Rick Boucher during last month's Republican wave. Cox was the majority whip. Both were unchallenged (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Statements from the principles include this from Speaker Bill Howell (R-66, Fredericksburg) (see entire statement, here):
Both of these individuals are trusted allies and talented lawmakers with remarkable backgrounds that they’ve used to help House Republicans offer practical solutions and deliver real results.
Kirk is an outstanding member of the House who I rely on . . . for thoughtful analysis and strategic insights on the important challenges and opportunities facing taxpayers, families, businesses and Virginia. Not only is he a widely acknowledged "go-to" person on the state budget, education, military and natural resource issues, but Kirk also has done a superb job as House Majority Whip counting votes and building support for our ideas.
Likewise, Bill is an engaged and detail-oriented delegate who contributes so much to our Caucus and Commonwealth. His service on key House committees has provided Bill with a firm understanding of the issues and how they impact people of all walks of life. I’m confident that he will continue helping to identify policy goals and forge coalitions in support of sensible legislation that will improve the quality of life for all Virginians.
We have many challenging years ahead with tight budgets and a need to grow private sector jobs. I look forward to working hard with House Republicans and all of my legislative colleagues to address these challenges and the aspirations of the people of Virginia as the next House Majority Leader.
I relish the opportunity to serve as the new House Majority Whip. Together, we’re going to help put Virginians back to work by promoting legislation that fosters an environment conducive to more job growth, more economic opportunity and more prosperity for all Virginians.
Okay, the formalities are out of the way. Now, the question is, what will happen to some very valuable General Assembly Building real estate? Delegate Cox — now one of the most powerful delegates ever outside of a speaker as majority leader and vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee — already has a large and prestigious ninth floor GAB office per his role on Appropriations. But as majority leader, he also will have a large and prestigious suite on the sixth floor where the leaders of both parties and chambers have offices. Which will he choose? Or can he keep both? If he chooses the ninth floor, will Delegate Janis get the sixth floor office (whips don't have offices there)? If he chooses the sixth floor, who gets the ninth floor office?
These are the intriguing questions that drive the General Assembly. We'll keep you posted.
Another annoucement regarding the November Speaks! rally on November 15 on Capitol Hill in Washington: Americans For Prosperity launched a new Web site for the event which includes a page where you can participate in a virtual rally if you can't make it to the nation's capital (click here). The rally is designed to raise awareness of, and put pressure on, the lame duck Congress to stand down from any grandiose schemes for still larger government, higher taxes, debilitating regulations and crushing debt, all of which amounts to more control from Washington and less freedom everywhere else. Ignoring the recent election results, Nancy Pelosi yesterday brazenly threw a celebratory party to laud her "accomplishments." But she's not done yet. Starting Monday, she is reconvening Congress, while she still wields the Speaker's gavel, for one last attempt to ram through the big-government takeovers that remain on her leftist agenda. It's already being referred to as the "Zombie Congress" since so many members are the walking politically dead. Rejected overwhelmingly by the voters, they should not trample on the will of the people and leave quietly, having done enough damage.
Among the speakers at November Speaks! are U.S. Representatives Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) (see Paul Bedard's U.S. News Washington Whispers blog), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) (see the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog) and newly elected Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) (see the Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog), as well as AFP President Tim Phillips. Other partners in staging November Speaks! are 60 Plus, Let Freedom Ring, Institute For Liberty, Tea Party D.C. and Smart Girl Politics. For more information about attending in person, click here.
Representative-Elect Morgan Griffith (Roanoke Times) will make his Washington debut at the November Speaks rally on Capitol Hill on November 15 (click here for more information). Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), The Family Foundation Gala keynote speaker and a potential presidential candidate, also has committed to speak at the event. They will join previously announced Representative Michele Bachman and Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips. The event will call the public's attention to the lame duck Congress' attempts to sneak unpopular legislation through, now that many of them have been retired by the voters, as well as send a warning signal to the new Congress to live up to its promises.
This just in, via Jim Hoeft at Bearing Drift: Fifth District Republican Chairman Bill Stanley will seek the party's nomination for the 19th district Virginia Senate seat that will become open once Congressman-elect Robert Hurt officially resigns to assume his new office. Governor Bob McDonnell will call a special election at that time.
Bill Stanley, Chairman of the GOP’s Fifth District Congressional Committee, will be running for the State Senate to replace Congressman-elect Robert Hurt. It is our understanding that the Democrats are not fielding a candidate at this time (Update: Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Davis may be interested . . . more to follow).
However, Bill is expecting at least one, if not more, names to come out for the R nod, where they expect a three week nominating process.
He also quotes sources citing Republican Delegates Danny Marshall, Don Merricks and Charles Poindexter, as well as Danville City Councilman Fred Shanks, as declining to run for different reasons. Another special election will be called to replace House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith who was elected to Congress last night from the ninth Congressional district.
The results of yesterday's elections are historic in many obvious ways. Unlike 1994, Virginians participated in making that history by turning over three liberal incumbent members of the House of Representatives (see Washington Post), including a 28-year veteran previoulsy thought unbeatable, someone who hadn't had a competitive race in years. So we congratulate three friends of The Family Foundation who won their races yesterday and are on their way to Congress:
» Congressman-elect Morgan Griffith (Newsweek's The Gaggle blog), a 100 percent TFF voter as a member of the House of Delegates;
» Congressman-elect Robert Hurt (Danville Register & Bee), a 91 percent TFF voter as a member of the Virginia Senate; and
» Congressman-elect Scott Rigell (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot), a donor to our organization.
In the 11th district, liberal incumbent Gerry Connolly has a narrow lead over conservative challenger Keith Fimian, a vote likely to be recounted (Wall Street Journal Washington Wire blog). Pending that outcome, eight of Virginia's 11 Representatives are Republican. We were pleased to participate in the voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts in these districts. Some of you may have received our GOTV phone calls over the weekend.
In some ways, though, the elections went beyond politics. While the national and state media focus on Congressional outcomes, something happened a bit below the surface that is even more historic — and perhaps longer term.
For example, at least 19 state legislative bodies, including those in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio flipped partisan control to Republicans (John Hood at National Review's The Corner blog and Ryan Beckwith at CQ Politics' The Eye blog). In fact, the North Carolina Legislature is Republican for the first time since 1870. The Alabama legislature is Republican for the first time since 1876.
I don't tell you that to trumpet Republicans, but because our sister family policy council organizations inform us that many of those elected yesterday support pro-family policies. These organizations ran campaigns similar to our Winning Matters 2009 program and saw pro-life, pro-family candidates win across the board. More important than simply electing people of one particular party, citizens in these states elected pro-family conservatives.
Possibly more telling, voters in Iowa defeated three Supreme Court judges instrumental in imposing homosexual marriage on that state against the will of the people via judicial fiat (New York Times). It is the first time since judges have been on the ballot in Iowa (1962) that they have been defeated on Election Day. Once again, when the issue of marriage is put to the people, traditional marriage wins.
Now, the question is, will the message sent by the voters yesterday carry over into next year's crucial Virginia Senate elections? Will party leaders get the message that motivates voters and give us candidates that are unapologetically pro-life and pro-family? Will Virginia follow the lead of other states that brought wholesale change to their legislatures? Will party leaders endorse incumbents for the sake of "party unity" or listen to the voters? Time will tell if they truly got the message.
Republican House candidate Morgan Griffith, the House of Delegates Majority Leader, continues to gain momentum Virginia's 9th congressional district race. Starting off 20 points down in its first poll a few months ago, the last News7/SurveyUSA poll released a week ago shows a change in the numbers between long-time incumbent Rick Boucher and Delegate Griffith (see SurveyUSA for analysis).
Just a few weeks ago, Boucher appeared to be cruising to another term with double-digit leads. Each subsequent poll showed Griffith making progress until he was within striking distance, and now, possibly poised to a major upset. According to the poll, the race is too close to call as independents have shifted their votes to Griffith, and Boucher's lead among women has evaporated.
Morgan Griffith (R): 47 percent
Rick Boucher (D): 46 percent
Jeremiah Heaton (I): 4 pecent
Undecided: 3 percent
Margin of error: 4.1 percent
But there's more to the story. The independent, Mr. Heaton, isn't only a wild card, he's more like a wild man. In the most recent debate, he relentlessly attacked Griffith on personal matters, including his wife, while nary a complaint against the incumbent. That's particularly odd, since since elections are referendums on incumbents. But the out of left field attacks on Delegate Griffith's family were over the top. It led to much suspicion in the local media about not only why Mr. Heaton made the attacks, but who put him up to it (see Roanoke Times). Adding to the intrigue was Mr. Boucher's "good cop" approach, which was strange considering his perilous position in the polls. But why do the dirty work if a rapid dog is willing to do it for you?
But it wouldn't be the Fightin' Ninth if not for still more controversy. The Washington Examiner's David Freddoso recently reported that Mr. Boucher, on top of buying a new Fordwith campaign cash (see Not Larry Sabato), he's been vacationing in plush Rocky Mountain ski resorts on lobbyists money. Seems Mr. Boucher has parlayed his sellout of the coal industry into some influence among the special interests, basically flaunting it in a district that is seeing some of the worst economic conditions in the country.
It's all a Winter Wonderland to Mr. Boucher who seems more and more out of touch with his constituents. Will he be out of a job late tonight?
Will it only snow . . . or completely avalanche on Rick Boucher and the Democrats tonight?
All signs are pointing to a large Republican victory on November 2. But how large? Will Virginia play a role? It's prediction time. Tell us how many of Virginia's six seats held by Democrats will flip to the GOP column in this mid-term election. Then, please post your comments on the campaigns and which specific candidates you think will win. Will there be a surprising upset? Will the close elections break one way or the other? Will Morgan Griffith, Keith Fimian, Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell sweep? Will Patrick Murray or Chuck Smithpull shockers? Who will win the biggest and who will squeak by? Any recounts? Give us percentages and predictions of all types. We ask. You tell us.
Although Family Foundation Action released a voter guide only for the 11th Congressional District campaign, we thought we'd bring your attention to some information about the candidates running in the 5th and 9th Congressional districts. Voters in those districts can get information about the Democrat incumbents, Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher, by referencing their scores on the FRC Action Scorecard, which we wrote about recently (click here). Then, you can compare where they stand on the issues with their respective Republican challengers, Virginia Senator Robert Hurt and House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith on TFF Action's General Assembly Report Card (click here). In sum, here's how it adds up:
FRC Action rates 5th District Congressmen Perriello at 12 percent for the last two years in the House of Representatives while TFF Action scored Senator Hurt at 91 percent for the last two sessions of the General Assembly.
FRC Action rates 9th District Congressman Rick Boucher at 25 percent, while TFF Action rates Delegate Griffith at 100 percent.
We report. You decide. Messrs. Perriello and Connolly received low marks on economic issues, as well, from The Club For Growth: 11 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
For direct, side-by-side comparisons of the candidates' positions on the issues, the Faith & Freedom Coalition is issuing voter guides in the 5th and 9th districts. They will be made available online next week, although copies are available now. For more information, click here.
Of the four Congressional races targeted by the Republican Party of Virginia this year, the one in the legendary "Fightin' Ninth" seemed the most difficult. Incumbent Democrat Rick Boucher has held the seat for 28 years and GOP challenger Morgan Griffith, the House of Delegates Majority Leader, got a late start in the campaign and wasn't nearly as well funded. But anyone who knows Delegate Griffith knows he's a tenacious worker and despite the pile of money spent against him by Mr. Boucher and outside left-wing interest groups such as NARAL, he has methodically made his way back into the race. Starting from 20 points down, to eight, then four and now . . . according to a poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee . . . it's even at 44 percent.
The poll was one of many House Republicans conducted to gauge which campaigns around the country are now in play for them. The field is expanding, where even long-time lefties such as Barney Frank and Jim Oberstar have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money this late into the game (a sign that even Dems don't want to go down with them). The news comes from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's The Fix blog, where he keeps readers up to date on races across the country. The question in the Commonwealth is whether Virginians in the great Southwest want to to spend years 29 and 30 with Rick Boucher (see YouTube).
They say you can judge one's character by the company he or she keeps. Not surprisingly, Virginia 9th District U.S. Representative Rick Boucher is keeping company with the nefarious, abortion-at-all-costs liberal pressure group NARAL, which works hand-in-hand with the equally devious Planned Parenthood. Not one satisfied only to guarantee so-called "abortion choice," NARAL works to make partial-birth abortion — a procedure that kills a baby near full term and able to live outside the womb — legal. Now it's come to light that NARAL is throwing in with Rep. Boucher's re-election campaign. Mr. Boucher tries to position himself as a moderate despite his voting record (he received a 25 percent rating on the FRC scorecard and a 22 percent rating on economic issues from the Club For Growth), and the status as one of one of Barack Obama's favorite members of the House. Not calling off NARAL and the extremism it propels won't help counter that way-left-of-center record he's accumulated, nor his out-of-touch persona developed in 28years of holding office in Washington. (Did you hear about his car purchase with campaign funds?)
Recent polls show Rep. Boucher's opponent, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, who is pro-life, closing fast, which may be a sign as to why NARAL has joined the fight on Mr. Boucher's behalf. That's usually a sign, anyway: when the cover of an ally is blown, or when he or she is in desperate straights, the radical group figures it has nothing to lose and comes riding in hard and fast. The voters of Virginia's 9th Congressional district must decide how much it has to lose by having a representative from NARAL as their congressman.
In 1994, a year after George Allen led a historic landslide Republican victory in the Old Dominion, Virginia was, for the most part, left out of the national limelight in the even more historic national Republican wave that won the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for the first time in more than 40years. Oliver North lost a hotly contested Senate race to Chuck Robb and the GOP picked up only one House seat (the 11th, Tom Davis) while Republicans were winning in all corners of America. Was reason given by pundits at the time was that Virginians had gotten the protest out of their system in 1993. This year, following last year's more-impressive-than-1993 Bob McDonnell-led-landslide, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins has been fond of saying that to take back the House, the GOP needs to gain 40 seats; 10 percent of that is here in Virginia. Now, as Jim Geraghty of National Review's Campaign Spot blog writes today, polling information shows those victories may be within reach: Three Republican challengers in those four targeted districts are leading their Democrat incumbent rivals, with a fourth closing fast. Here's the breakdown:
» In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Scott Rigell leads Democrat Glenn Nye, 48.6 to 34.5 percent.
» In the 5th District, Republican Robert Hurt leads Democrat Tom Perriello, 51.1 to 34.7 percent.
» In the 11th District, Republican Keith Fimian leads Democrat Gerry Connolly, 42.2 percent to 36.7 percent.
» In the 9th District, Republican challenger Morgan Griffith is down to Democrat Rick Boucher only 42.6 to 39.7 percent. However, one poll had Boucher up by 20 points about a month back, then by only 8 points a couple of weeks ago. The recent fallout over Mr. Boucher buying a brand new Ford with campaign funds while Virginians in the Southwest part of the state are suffering particularly hard during this recession could easily factor into a quickly narrowing gap.
The rest of the respondents in each poll were undecided. Tellingly, though, the poll, conducted by ccAdvdertising, does not include independents or third parties. Although not a top tier polling outfit, the snapshot does provide a glimpse of what directions the campaigns are going and who has momentum.
Not all landslides are the same and electorates can swing back from whence they came in a very short time. But this year, Virginia Democrats have much going against them, much more so than in 1994. Many of the circumstances that drove people to the polls and to the GOP in Virginia and in blue New Jersey (and deep blue Massachusetts in January) last year are still around: Primarily, as in the case of Congressman Boucher, this:
This love is going to last, but that might not be a good thing.
He's doing fine, representing liberal special interests rather then his constituents.
This tone-deaf, out-of-touch, slap-in-the-face political elitism from Virginia's senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, Rick Boucher, who represents the Commonwealth's "Fightin' Ninth" district in the great southwest of our state . . . from an alert reader via Red State's Moe Lane via Not Larry Sabato (this is what the experts call "viral"):
Via . . . Not Larry Sabato, who cannot be happy about the fact that his fully-justified anger at seeing a 14 term Democratic Congressman use campaign finance money to buy himself a nice, new car is now showing up as yet another reason why to vote for Rick Boucher’s opponent Morgan Griffith, who is not using special-interest money to buy himself shiny new automobiles. I know this because I just called to check; and the sound of their laughter at the very thought . . .
PS: For extra giggles, Boucher sabotaged his own administration’s fiscal policies by buying a Ford. What, Government Motors wasn’t good enough for the Democrat? Didn’t the government buy that company for our own good?
PPS: Morgan is also campaigning on the idea of cutting Congress’s pay by 10%.
By the way, of the four races targeted in Virginia, this was probably rated the fourth. However, an in-the-know source told me yesterday, Griffith, the House of Delegates Majority Leader, is behind only by eight points, after starting down 20. The car purchase may be good for Mr. Boucher's comfortable rides, but my guess is that it's also good for another two-three points in the polls for Delegate Griffith.
Republicans need to gain 40 seats in November's midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives. Ten percent of that goal is in Virginia, where targeted incumbent Democrats Rick Boucher (VA-9), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Glenn Nye (VA-2) and Tom Perriello (VA-5) are being challenged by House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Keith Fimian, Scott Rigell and Virginia Senator Robert Hurt, respectively. Connolly, Nye and Perriello all are freshmen and Perriello may be the number one GOP target in the entire country given his razor thin victory in 2008 and the 5th's generally conservative leanings (Charlottesville Daily Progress). Perhaps no House win pleased liberals more. Now, according to a poll released yesterday by SurveyUSA for Roanoke television station WDBJ, Representative Perriello may be toast (see American Prospect's Tapped Blog and the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog). It shows the 5th to be a blowout already: Hurt up by a 58-35 margin (see National Review Online's Campaign Spot Blog).
While many GOP House candidates are polling well, few have the numbers that elicited a "WOW" from NRO's Jim Geraghty. Of course, polls this early can mean anything and the pros will say SurveyUSA is not a top tier pollster on the lines of Mason-Dixon or Rasmussen Reports. But, SurveyUSA was the first to poll Virginia last summer (51 weeks ago, to be exact) and it had all three statewide races right from the beginning to the very end, including double digit leads when all the more "reputable" polls showed it closer. In fact, one political pro told me the SurveyUSA results were "embarrassing," but the only people embarrassed last November were the doubters and the Democrats.
The numbers are even more astounding considering a hard fought Republican primary, a Libertarian candidate and some TEA Party dissatisfaction with Senator Hurt. (SurveyUSA breaks down its research here.) It admits it has factored Republican turnout to be much greater than Democrat turnout (not surprising since when comparing the U.Va. student drop-of from 2008, where Perriello benefited from a large Barack Obama student turnout, to 2009). However, SurveyUSA says even if it factors in a 50-50 Republican-Democrat turnout, Hurt still wins by 11 points. At this point. (Which would allow the GOP to focus on the other three seats.) But, if the trend holds, it's a remarkable sign for House Republicans — and one down and 39 to go.
According to Anita Kumar of the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog, Delegates Tim Hugo (R-40, Fairfax) and John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico), are running to fill the House Republican Caucus chairmanship, vacated by the soon-t0-resign Delegate Sam Nixon (R-27, Chesterfield), who is leaving the House to become the new director of the troubled Virginia Information Technology Agency. She reports that Majority Whip Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) is supporting Hugo, while Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg) and Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) are neutral. The vote, among Republican members of the House of Delegates, will take place April 21, before the General Assembly reconvenes for its veto session.
This is the second and final installment of an interview with nationally known political scientist Dr. Bob Holsworth. The former Virginia Commonwealth University dean is a regular commentator on Virginia and national politics. His writes for national and state publications, as well as on his widely read blog, Virginia Tomorrow, and is a frequent guest on television and radio. He also is an in-demand public speaker and heads his own consultancy. In yesterday's first installment, we covered the current session of the General Assembly and touched on national politics. Today, we look at Virginia's version of health care legislation, the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections, discuss U.S. Senator Jim Webb's 2012 prospects, and examine the Tea Party movement in Virginia. FamilyFoundationBlog: Which is the most interesting GOP Congressional District nominating contest — the 5th, 2nd or 11th — and why? How do you see those campaigns playing out?
Dr. Bob Holsworth: All of these races are very interesting because each of them is competitive. The number of entrants indicate that Republicans believe that 2010 may be a once in a generation opportunity, a year that could potentially rival 1994 in terms of GOP success. At the moment, the battle for the 5th District nomination to challenge Tom Perriello might be the most fascinating, if only because of the number of forces that are, or potentially are, in play, including ones that may have national implications.
There's Robert Hurt, a highly respected member of the Senate who has considerable support from the party's national establishment, but who is also being challenged largely by a set of conservative activists who maintain that Hurt has not been sufficiently supportive of low-tax, small government principles. One question that is being raised is whether the anti-Hurt forces will actually coalesce behind a single candidate or divide their vote in a primary? Recently, things have even gotten more complicated. At least one of the candidates currently in the nomination contest says that he is considering dropping out and running as an independent.
Moreover, Virgil Goode has said that he has not made up his mind about a possible challenge and could even run as an independent Republican. A poll out today says that in a three way race between Hurt, Perriello, and Goode, the former Congressman is in a tie with Perriello with Hurt running third. In any event, I think that a lot of national media will be looking at the 5th to see if the GOP can negotiate its internal tensions productively, something that will have to achieved if a candidate who is hard working and energetic as Tom Perriello is to be defeated.
FamilyFoundationBlog: Is there a credible Republican candidate in the wings to challenge Rick Boucher in the 9th Congressional District? Is Representative Boucher vulnerable?
Dr. Holsworth: It is usually very, very difficult to defeat a long-term incumbent such as Rick Boucher who has been widely applauded for his constituent service, even if a number of his votes may not be consistent with majority views in his district. But if there is a year in which Boucher is vulnerable, 2010 may be it. The problem for the GOP here is very different than in the 2nd, 5th and 11th — it's not clear that the Republicans can recruit a strong challenger. Terry Kilgore and William Wampler have said no, though Eric Cantor was in town yesterday to see if "No" really means "No." Morgan Griffith has said, however, that he is seriously considering entering the contest. If he does, he'll be a formidable challenger — he's tough, politically very skilled, and a very hard worker. But even with Griffith, this would be a tough race, because Boucher has built up a lot of support in the localities that make up the district. But if Morgan enters, it'll be a great race.
FamilyFoundationBlog: How do you see the Tea Party movement in Virginia? Are these people disgruntled conservatives who normally vote Republican showing displeasure at the party (and who may have sat out in 2008) or are they new people getting involved for the first time who can make a difference in upcoming elections?
Dr. Holsworth: I think that it's difficult to say that there is one kind of person attracted to the Tea Party. I think that there are a number of Republican conservatives disgruntled with what Glenn Beck calls "Progressives." I also think that there are many of the same kind of independents who were initially attracted to Ross Perot in 1992 — "the government is broken, we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." And I think that there are also some people who may not have been very much involved in politics before, but have become mobilized by what they consider to be an inappropriate and ineffective response by the federal government to the economic downturn. It seems to me that they represent sentiments that are fairly broadly distributed at the moment throughout the general population and political figures would be foolish to ignore their perspective in 2010. At the same time, it is not so clear how their influence inside GOP nomination battles will play out and whether this will be positive or negative for the GOP in the general elections. This is one of the reasons why I'm watching the 5th District very closely since it has what appears to be a large and relatively organized set of Tea Party activists.
FamilyFoundationBlog: Are you surprised at how quickly and smoothly the Health Care Freedom legislation has moved through the General Assembly, especially in the Senate?
Dr. Holsworth: Yes. At least until you see that the five Democratic legislators sit in districts where (Governor Bob) McDonnell ran strong and where their own seats could be in jeopardy.
FamilyFoundationBlog: Speaking of health care, as well as all the new government spending Tea Party activists abhor, do you think Senators Webb and Warner have endangered their re-elections by voting for these programs? Will the new conservative movement stay active that long?
Dr. Holsworth: 2014 for Warner is a long, long way off. Webb will obviously have a serious Republican challenger. Webb will not be easy to pigeonhole because there will be numerous instances in both foreign and domestic policy where he will part company with the administration and the Democratic congressional leadership. A big question regarding Webb is how his progressive economic populism be viewed. Will he seen as too liberal for Virginia economically or as authentic guy willing to stand up for the voiceless?
FamilyFoundationBlog: Dr. Holsworth, thank you very much for your time. Your thoughts are always informative and I know our readers have learned a lot.
Four years ago, only a few weeks after taking office and proposing (against his campaign promise) the largest tax increase in Virginia history, Congressional Democrats chose then-Governor Tim Kaine to deliver their party's response to then-President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address. Yesterday, it was reported (see Washington Post), that Congressional Republicans have chosen newly sworn-in Governor Bob McDonnell to give the GOP response to President Barack Obama's January 27 State of the Union. How about that for asymmetrical karma? But there's more.
Yesterday, House Republicans brought to the floor Delegate Bob Brink's (D-48, Arlington) HB 1155, legislation that would enact former Governor Tim Kaine's proposed income tax increase (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee, which alone has the authority to report bills to the floor without recommendation. Thus it did with HB 1155 in order to put Democrats on the spot — vote against their friend and national party chairman or be on record for higher taxes in a recession. Delegate Brink requested that the bill be pulled, normally a pro forma request that's granted at the will of the patron. Not yesterday!
Instead, it was put to a vote while Democrats vehemently protested. As if they couldn't have anticipated it. Remember, last year Republicans did the same thing on a bill that would have repealed Virginia's Right To Work Law (see post here and video here). They forced a vote by bringing that equally controversial bill through a no recommendation vote on the Rules Committee. The Democrats reacted by abstaining, but through a parliamentary procedure that says if a member is in his seat but not voting, and another member points that out, the vote must be recorded in the negative. Thus, Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) forcibly recorded no votes against the bill which put Democrats at odds with their Big Labor allies.
With this as background, certainly they knew something was coming with a monstrous tax increase bill, and they knew they couldn't abstain. On the first day of session, when the rules package is adopted, Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) said as much when he objected to the Rules Committee exception. As it turned out, it was a unanimous blowout, with the House voting 97-0 (with Delegate Brink abstaining) to reject one last Tim Kaine tax increase, sending it down with all his others, this one posthumously, in the political sense.
So, the question is, why file the tax increase bill to begin with? Only Delegate Brink knows for sure, but we suspect some members of the General Assembly like to give a peek of their colors to satisfy certain constituencies, but seek to conceal them altogether from the greater electorate. Increasingly, however, these lawmakers get found out.