GOP Senate Leadership Challenge: More To FollowNov 21, 2007
More to come on this after the holiday, but for now:
Despite the Republican loss of the Virginia Senate earlier this month, the number of conservative Republicans actually increased. There were six: Ken Cuccinelli (Fairfax, 37th district), Steve Martin (Chesterfield, 11th district), Mark Obenshain (Harrisonburg, 26th district), Steve Newman (Lynchburg, 23rd district), Ryan McDougle (Mechanicsville, 4th) and Jay O'Brien (Clifton, 39th district). O'Brien lost. But add Senators-elect Robert Hurt (Chatham, 19th district), Jill Holtzman-Vogel (Warrenton, 27th district) and former Roanoke Mayor Ralph Smith (22nd district). That brings up the total to eight — out of 19 — versus the six out of 23.
One is left to wonder how many more conservatives would be in the senate come January had former U.S. Senator and Governor George Allen not come to the rescue of embattled moderate Senators Walter Stosch (Henrico, 12th district), the current Republican leader, and Emmett Hanger (Mount Solon, 24th district) with endorsements enhanced by massive media buys in their hotly contested primaries. Each barely squeaked out a win, angering conservative activists — and at least a few General Assembly Republicans — at Allen, many of whom worked years for him and gone to the mat for him despite his ill-run 2006 re-election bid.
This, in addition to battling the effects of liberal cross-over voters in Virginia's open primary system, have many conservatives scratching the heads at an Allen betrayal. Otherwise, Joe Blackburn and Scott Sayre most likely would have given conservatives a working majority within the caucus.
Nevertheless, emboldened by larger numbers and frustrated at years of harsh treatment by their own caucus' leadership and its ineffective campaign this fall, conservative senators will mount a challenge to Stosch. Word is Sen. Newman will stand for election as Republican Senate Leader. He has the confirmed backing of Martin, Holtzman-Vogel, Smith, Cuccinelli and Obenshain who wrote a severely critical letter to Stosch last week asking him to step down as Republican leader, and rejoin combined campaign efforts within the caucus as well as with House Republicans, all of which was broken off by Stosch and the "Gang of Five," which ruled the senate since the GOP gained its first majority in the 1990s.
With six votes, Newman needs to add Hurt and McDougle for sure. Then he needs two more. Hanger is being targeted as is Senator-elect Richard Stuart (Westmoreland, 28th district) who owes his narrow election to a last minute courting of values voters on the Northern Neck, despite having retiring Senator John Chichester as his major backer. Also supposed possible defectors from Stosch are, believe it or not, Senator Fred Quayle (Suffolk, 13th district), as well as Senator Frank Ruff (Clarksville, 15th district). Quayle and Hanger may be especially upset at losing the majority because of long-awaited chairmanships to which they will not ascend.
For those conservatives who want to see senate Republicans act like Republicans, it starts November 26, when the Republican caucus meets in Richmond to elect its leaders. Although no one but caucus members can vote, constituents certainly can voice to their Republican senators what they think of their current leaders. Richmond Radio hosts (WRVA/1140AM) The Lee Brothers are working on getting either Senator Newman or Senator Obenshain on their show this Saturday morning, 6-8:00 a.m. (also Webcast at www.wrva.com). They also are subbing for Doc Watson Friday from 3-6:00 p.m. and may have some news at that point or at www.theleebrothers.com.
Action doesn't end with the campaigns. Conservatives and values voters have a role in influencing public policy once candidates take office. Here is an opportunity for conservatives to let Senate Republicans know of their displeasure at the senate's performance in recent years, much of which has been indistinguishable from Democrat policy.