The biggest political news in Virginia over the last few weeks has been the emerging primary between Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Well, to a certain degree….that story is slowly being overtaken by talk of the Governor’s agenda for the upcoming General Assembly Session and the upcoming Presidential Primary (though if Virginia will have much impact right now is anybody’s guess).
However, a new survey from Public Policy Polling (a Democrat leaning firm in North Carolina) put the conversation back in the news. Right now, Cuccinelli has a tentative lead over Bolling, 44% to 25%. A few issues with this poll–one, they use automated polling, rather than live interviews. Two, there’s no indication in the toplines that there was any real attempt at geographic weighting. One big issue right now for Bolling is that he simply doesn’t seem to generate much attention from the GOP faithful, despite having been in the limelight for the last seven years, stemming back to his first run for his current job. While his net favorable is +24%, 52% of primary voters don’t have an opinion of him. This compares to Cuccinelli’s net +41%, with 27% not having an opinion. However, Bolling is already attempting to heighten his profile, starting with this WaPo profile on his new role as the state’s “part-time decider” (referring to his new role as the tie breaking vote in the State Senate). Meanwhile, Cuccinelli has fired back at some of the key criticisms of his decision in an email to supporters shared at Bearing Drift.
So all that’s going on….but what about the race for the silver medal? That is to say, what about the Lt. Governor’s race? Right now, the other race ginning up alot of attention is Bell v. Obenshain v. Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk John Frey for Attorney General. Historically, here in Virginia, Attorney General has been the preferred stepping stone to the Gubernatorial nomination, but that all really depends on just how things play out in the general. If your AG candidate lose but the LG wins, then they suddenly find themselves in the catbird seat. Given that Virginia has few statewide offices compared to neighboring states, its not a bad place to be if your aspirations eventually head in the direction of the Governor’s mansion. So, naturally, the position tends to draw stiff competition, even if, statutorily speaking, its pretty dang boring (though most LGs preside over the Senate more actively than their federal counterparts and McDonnell has given Bolling more duties to Bolling than usual, the primary duty is still the macabre responsibility of waiting for the unthinkable to happen).
So, who wants this possible diamond in the rough? Here’s the rumored/announced contenders so far:
Announced On the precipice of announcing, but not quite yet…..
- Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart–So far Stewart is the only announced candidate for Lt. Governor. Corey has been making the rounds for several years around the state and already earned a great deal of cachet through his localities efforts on illegal immigration. He would not be the first local elected to make the leap from county politics to the state level (his predecessor, Sean Connaughton, ran for the position in 2005), but he’s probably the best positioned, coming from a key locality for statewide campaigns. He also carries less of the baggage that weighed down Connaughton in terms of fiscal issues. Furthermore, Stewart is also guaranteed to shake up the debate on localities versus the state in a way that Warrenton Mayor George Fitch failed to do in his quixotic 2005 Gubernatorial campaign. UPDATE: Corey isn’t exactly announced, but he’s definitely way more “in the game” than the rest of the field. So I’ll keep him separated from the rest of the bunch with the caveat that he’s not announced–but he’s more or less running.
- Keith Fimian–Mr. Fimian has twice been the GOP nominee against now Congressman Gerry Connolly (formerly Fairfax County Chairman). Fimian came very close to an upset in 2010, but alas, no cigar. However, he still has a large following and certainly would start out with some strength in 2010–something that would make the roadmap more difficult for Stewart. However, Fimian won’t start with much of a base outside of the 11th unless he really steps up his operation over the next twelve months, and as a two time loser may have an image problem to overcome. Still, he’s a dynamic figure and one to watch at this stage.
- Pete Snyder–Mr. Snyder is the founder of New Media Strategies, an Arlington based social media firm. He recently left the firm to start a venture capital firm, Disruptor Capital, and to head RPV’s Victory 2012 program. Snyder is certainly well known within professional political circles, but less-so-amongst rank and file activists. However, he has strong business ties (ones that will only get stronger with his new venture) and his part in the Victory program will bring him a higher profile over the next year. Again, his NOVA ties are a plus. However, his part in the Victory program could possibly be as much a hinderance as a help, as there will likely be pressure for him not to be campaigning while trying to win Virginia for the GOP.
- Ed Gillespie–Former RPV, RNC, and McDonnell for Governor chair, Gillespie has a long, long history of Republican political work. He’s going to bring not only political expertise to the table but also financial ties and likely a top notch management team. Gillespie won’t likely be able to bank on NOVA ties as much as the aforementioned candidates. He’s one of those Beltway types who lives in Virginia because, well, what professional Republican wants to live in Maryland (Sorry Krystle, but if its any consolation, I still want Crabs for Christmas)
- Senator Jeff McWaters–I’ve gotta admit, I’m somewhat in the dark on McWaters, other than he won a special election for the seat of now Sheriff Ken Stolle down in VA Beach. Also, he’s earned a 92% rating from the American Conservative Union–not shabby. It would be a big jump to go from one and change terms in the State Senate to a statewide bid–right now, I imagine the talk is driven largely by the lack of other contenders from that part of the state. But he’s not a horrible fundraiser and was certainly generous with his money in 2011, so we shall see.
So that’s the field right now. I have them all included in the poll above, so vote away….well, them plus one. Right now, as a wild card, I’m including Delegate Ben Cline. Why? A few reasons. One, although is pretty much assumed that Delegate Cline is the heir apparent to Congressman Goodlatte, Goodlatte is pretty young in Congressional terms–he could conceivably serve another decade or so, so long as he beats off his upcoming primary challenge (and right now that seems like a good bet). Cline has a leadership PAC (although its seen little activity), and he hosted a hospitality suite at the Advance this year. He’s put himself through law school since he started his run in the House. I’d be surprised if Cline, a young comer by any account, sits still for too long–it’d be curious for someone to go from LG to Congress, but hey, stranger things have happened. At just 39 Cline certainly has room to grow, so hey, why not?
I suspect that the field we discuss now will not be the one we end up with in June of 2013. I suspect a Richmond based candidate will pop up, and I would be very surprised in that many NOVA based candidates stay in. In 2005 there were 5 candidates flirting with LG at one time or another but only 2 ended up on the ballot. It’s a big task getting on the statewide primary ballot (ask Emmet Hanger), so we’ll revisit this later. For now, though, have fun, and include any additional rumors you’ve heard in the comments.
The last twenty four hours has put a whole new spin on the Republican Party of Virginia’s annual retreat/conference, the Advance. Certainly spirits were expected to be high, given the GOP’s narrow gain of control of the State Senate and continuing enthusiasm for unseating Barack Obama. Of course, as is always the case, various figures were anticipated to start jockeying for position for statewide bids. Which ones, exactly, we didn’t know…..
Then last night the picture became a whole lot clearer when it was leaked that AG Ken Cuccinelli is preparing to announce a bid for Governor. It was expected that this wouldn’t happen until after the Advance, but, now its all out in the open. Cuccinelli has pretty much made it official, starting with an email to his staff that was leaked this afternoon:
You have likely heard in the media the many rumors about an announcement of a run for governor. While I wanted to wait to announce a candidacy until after the General Assembly session, as the rumors swirl, I find it necessary to put them to rest.
After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to run for governor in 2013. I have always intended to let you know before the media. Shortly after you receive this email, I will be sending a statement to the media announcing my candidacy.
Also of note: Cuccinelli stated that he would buck the recent tradition of AGs who seek the Governorship resigning to focus on their campaign/make sure the citizens have a full-time AG (depending on who you ask). Generally this doesn’t happen until the spring of election year, so I find it interesting the Cooch went to lengths from the start to say he wouldn’t be doing that.
We will continue this work together until the last day of my term. Just as I had intended not to resign as attorney general to run for a second term, I will not resign as attorney general to run for governor. The people of Virginia trusted me to be their attorney general, and I intend to give them their full four years. I also think it is important to see these lawsuits against the federal government all the way through, as they are unprecedented battles for liberty in our lifetimes.
I am committed to you and to the citizens of this commonwealth to leading this office and making this job my priority. I have no right to ask the voters for a promotion if I cannot continue to do my current job well.
Meanwhile, there’s been reaction from all corners, ranging from enthusiastic to downright icy. The only reaction anyone really cared about, though, was Bill Bolling’s, and as expected, he is not pleased:
Needless to say, I am very disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli’s decision to run for Governor in 2013. During the 2009 campaign, and since taking office in 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli had repeatedly stated that he intended to seek re-election as Attorney General in 2013 and that is what I and other Republican leaders had expected him to do. Unfortunately, he has now decided to put his own personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Republican Party.
But that much we figured. Bolling, however, has already been able to get the Governor squarely in his corner:
Virginia is fortunate to have both Ken Cuccinelli and Bill Bolling serving in statewide office. They are dedicated public servants and I enjoy working closely with them on a daily basis. While I do prefer a scenario in which both men continue to serve in statewide office together going forward, I certainly respect the right of the attorney general to make his own decision regarding future races. Since early 2008, I’ve been clear that I will strongly support Bill Bolling for Governor in 2013. Bill is a trusted advisor and a close, personal friend. As Lieutenant Governor, Bill has been a key member of our Administration. Serving as our Chief Job Creation Officer, Bill has been tireless and successful in his work to bring more jobs and economic opportunities to the Commonwealth. I look forward to supporting Bill in his campaign for Governor.
So what about the people who will actually decide this thing–you know, Republican voters? Again, reaction has ranged from enthusiastic to ambivalent to polite but disapproving to downright icy, with many in the comments sections of some of the state’s top right leaning blogs cheering for Cuccinelli but just as many chastising him for upending the “system”. Two bloggers have suggested Cuccinelli back off and run for re-election–one a Bolling supporter who fears a bloody primary will upend the party’s chances and another who specifically wants Cuccinelli around to fight UVA on the global climate records issue (UPDATE: for the record, that author is neutral between Bolling and Cuccinelli). For what its worth, in my extremely unscientific and lightly traveled poll, Cuccinelli and Bolling are tied, although there’s a bit more support for Ken running than not. Meanwhile, at Bearing Drift’s equally unscientific but far more participated in poll, Cuccinelli is leading Bolling 64%-32% (for some reason, they included neither rather than undecided). In the only scientific polling that has been done, an automated poll by PPP last August, Cuccinelli garnered 45% to Bolling’s 21%.
Others are bashing Ken for not upholding his “word”. For what it’s worth, as Chris at Mason Conservative points out, Ken wasn’t party to any agreement between McDonnell and Bolling, though at an AG’s debate in 2009 he said he wouldn’t:
“That’s just not something I would foresee happening.”, says Cuccinelli.
“So equivocally no?”, asks Jay Warren.
“Yes. Correct.”, responds Cuccinelli.
But he was guarded enough to say he didn’t foresee it….so that was then, and this is now. As I pointed out before, Cuccinelli is a darling of the right, not just at home but across the country. Indeed, rather than being at the Advance on Saturday Night, Cuccinelli will be playing a role as a moderator of a Fox News Presidential forum in New York City. (No word on what his Friday night plans are)
So if we’re looking at a Bolling-Cuccinelli match-up for the big job, where does that leave us for the rest of the potential field for other statewide offices? It was assumed that Lt. Gov. would be the only prize open, but now, it looks like that and AG will both be up for grabs. First out of the gate to finalize his plans is my own State Senator Mark Obenshain, who has announced (unofficially, at least) for AG:
Harrisonburg Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain confirmed Thursday he’s exploring a bid for attorney general in the 2013 statewide election as news broke about the future plans of that office’s current occupant.
A more formal announcement from Obsenshain is expected soon — he said he’ll make his intentions clear after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declares his plans for the next election. (Cuccinelli is expected to reveal his plans to run for governor in the near term.)
I won’t be shy about sharing this–I’m with Mark. I’ve worked with him since his very first run for State Senate in 2003 (when we shared the back of a pickup truck following a sudden downpour after a July 4th parade in New Market–he got us all to dry land post-haste–my kind of leader). In his time in the State Senate Mark has been a solid leader on issues like eminent domain reform, auditing VDOT, strengthening law enforcement in the battle against the scourge of crystal meth, and the like. He’s also not too shabby of a lawyer, having been repeatedly been named as one of Virginia Business Magazine’s Legal Elite. He brings both the heft on public safety and the sound legal mind we should be looking for in an AG contender. Obenshain will be hosting a hospitality suite at the Advance for himself on Friday night and as part of the Conservative Caucus with Delegate Ben Cline on Saturday night.
Also on tap, Corey Stewart. For what, though, we don’t quite know yet:
Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart just won reelection last month but he’s already eyeing higher office.
Stewart said he will make an announcement in January about a run for statewide office — an office in Richmond.
Earlier this year, Stewart considered seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate but eventually ruled that out. He recently endorsed George Allen.
Stewart’s made no secret of his ambition to seek higher office. He won’t yet reveal which job he’ll seek, but today Republican State Sen. Mark Obenshain, who had been seen as a leading candidate for lieutenant governor, said he’s exploring a bid for attorney general instead now that Ken Cuccinelli will run for governor instead of seeking reelection.
Stewart has received high praise for his local battle against illegal immigration in Prince William County. Stewart’s biggest obstacle will be his record as Supervisor–not that he has a bad one, as the average tax bill in PWC is actually substantially lower than a few years ago. But past history shows that being a Supervisor always yields a few votes that can be spun as “un-conservative”–both former PWC Chair Sean Connaughton and former Hanover Supervisor turned State Senator and now LG Bolling lobbed charges against each other in the 2005 LG race stemming from their own service on their respective Boards. Stewart will host a hospitality suite as well.
So what about the rest of the field, as it were? Well, we really don’t know yet, but there’s a few names that have been floated already, and several will have hospitality suites at the Advance. Here’s the rest of the names we’re seeing:
- Dave Foster–rumored to be considering a second run for AG, but also noted by some as a potential choice to square off for an open seat on the Arlington County Board of Supervisors
- Delegate Rob Bell–thought to be another contender for AG
- Delegate Bob Marshall–with Radtke floundering and no other challenger picking up speed, combined with coming very close to beating former Governor Jim Gilmore for the US Senate nod in 2008, Marshall is seen as possible late entry to the US Senate race
- Though not listed on the official RPV agenda, Dick Black is said to be hosting one as well. I’m not sure Black is really eyeing anything–after all, he just made his political comeback by securing a State Senate seat this year. I think this is more about securing a statewide financial base for future runs than anything in the near future
- Keith Fimian, who has twice gone up against Gerry Connolly in the 11th (in an open seat in 08 and as a challenger in 10). He came very close in the 2010 wave, but it looks like he may now have his eye on LG in 2013.
- Delegate Ben Cline, a former chief of staff to Congressman Bob Goodlatte, is said to be the heir apparent when Goodlatte retires, but with two potential NOVA based candidates for LG, there may very well be a place for Cline in that race…
- Dumfries Town Councilwoman Kristin Forrester–this is her second go around–she’s up to SOMETHING, but it’s not entirely clear what….
- former Governor and former Senator George Allen–if I have to explain this one….but yeah, he’s running for the US Senate nomination
- RPV Chairman Pat Mullins. Interestingly, this one is billed as Pat Mullins FOR Chairman–could be reading too much into this, but that would seem to indicate that Mullins is likely leaning towards seeking re-election as chairman at next June’s state convention
Also hosting suites: Americans for Prosperity and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with the Senate Caucus. Plenty of fireworks, what with the sudden start to the 2013 campaign and the Presidential Primary which, ironically, may lurk in the shadows to a certain degree….although many will still be gathering signatures, I imagine.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be announcing his bid for Virginia Governor in the coming days, possibly as soon as the RPV Advance this weekend.
It’s been rumbled about for months…well, years, really. After the GOP made their first clean sweep of all three statewide constitutional offices in more than a decade in 2009, it suddenly found itself in an unenviable position–there were now two men on the platform who were viewed as the heir apparents to the Governor-elect Bob McDonnell: AG-elect Ken Cuccinelli and re-elected LG Bill Bolling.
Yeah, yeah, you said “Wha? We just had an election!” That’s not how it works, though–there’s always jockeying for the next time the minute the last votes came in–heck, Mitt Romney was talking 2008 before the first votes were even cast in 2004. It’s all part of the horserace I talked about in my last post. But in the Old Dominion, the stakes are even higher–it’s the only state in the Union that limits its governor to a single four-year term at a time. Governors can come back four years after their successor is chosen, but so far, only one has pulled it off in the modern era. So there’s real incentive, knowing that whatever happens you won’t have contend with the big guy, to go ahead and start planning.
Really, this wasn’t all that new. In 2005, while the top of the ticket in the form of Jerry Kilgore floundered, Bolling won the LG slot for the first time and Bob McDonnell won, though the initial election did lead to a recount. It looked like there would be a repeat of 2001, when LG John Hager and AG Mark Earley squared off at a convention. Earley prevailed but lost the fall election to now-Senator Mark Warner. Many within the party felt the divisive contest led to a weak Earley effort where Warner was able to peel off a good chunk of moderates in rural parts of the state. So all eyes were on the two men to see what would happen. Both held their cards close to the chest, but ultimately in March 2008 Bolling decided not to run, leaving the path clear for Bob McDonnell, who won in 2009 in a landslide along with Bill and Ken.
The word at the time was that Bolling did this with the tentative support of a good chunk of state and local party leaders pledging to keep the path open for him in 2013. But a funny thing happened….the Tea Party. In Cuccinelli, they saw themselves. Even though his rise predates the Tea Party by about 7 years, here was a true, red blooded, take no prisoners conservative–an AG who took on Obamacare and the EPA! Cucinelli very quickly, in word and deed, became a darling of the Tea Party movement. Bolling, meanwhile, has tended to the party vines and been a good soldier for McDonnell as his Jobs Creation Officer, but frankly, he hasn’t captured the imagination of tea party activists. Some are old Republican hands, some are newer to the party–but Cuccinelli has a lock on them in a way Bolling doesn’t.
So, honestly, to me, its no shock that Cuccinelli has thrown his hat in the ring. You may say, again, “GAH! Why so early??” But honestly, Bolling’s decision came in the midst of the last GOP Presidential contest, so we’re really only a quarter ahead of schedule. But Cuccinelli has been laying the groundwork for a while….what other AG has had volunteer liasions for each county in the state? I think, ultimately, this comes down to timing. One, Cuccinelli probably recognizes that, a few months from now, many Tea Party activists may be distinctly unhappy with the GOP Presidential nominee, so he wants to make sure they don’t stalk away from the party, that they stick around knowing that there’s at least ONE good guy with those goofy/power-mad/corrupted (depending on your take) Republicans. Secondly, this weekend is the annual Republican Re….uh, Advance. Republicans never retreat, always Advance, anyways, long story. My point is hundreds of top level activists will be descnding upon Warm Springs this weekend….and right next door in Rockbridge County, the Tea Party will be hosting a major confab featuring a debate amongst several US Senate Candidates. Why let Bolling take all the spotlight and stay in the background hemming and hawing? Strike while the iron’s hot.
One, there’s a narrative that’s already cropped up that the GOP is the “it’s his turn party”, that it always gives the nomination to the guy who has tended the vines, put in the hours. For starters, I don’t think that’s a good way to handle things. We need to go with candidates who are exciting, articulate with their views, and hold strong positions on key issues. Secondly, I think its a flawed view. People point to Dole in 1996 or Bush in 1988–but let’s keep this in perspective. It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for Dole–he lost NH, AK, and LA to Buchanan and DE to Forbes, and did not get the margin he wanted in Iowa. Bush, on the other hand, was 6-7 before Super Tuesday led him to the White House. Here’s what happened: Activists became enamored of new candidates, and were drawn to them. They did well, and for a time it looked like the anointed ones may be knocked off. But then the media spotlight kicked in, and they withered. The difference? The old hands had been through this drill. They were able to keep going and slog through the dark days til they got their momentum back. Republican voters didn’t suddenly decide “No, we have to give it to the old hand”–what happened is the flavor of the month went bad, and the old hats were ready to take advantage because they could survive. Heck, even Reagan lost Iowa in 1980. But this go around–well, we have two good soldiers and two old hands. No, Ken hasn’t been around as long as Bolling, but he has done hard work for the party, and he also has been under the withering attentions of the statewide media. So this won’t be as cut and dry as those affairs…..
Secondly, the SCC has already decided on a primary. It comes down to one day, not a series of mass meetings/conventions that lead into a statewide convention (which, by the way, are not binding and difficult to “win”). Nope, its a primary, one in which any voter can vote (though if the Dems also hold a primary, you can only choose one ballot), plus absentee voting to boot, meaning more people can vote, people who may not be able to make it to a convention. The argument usually is that conventions turn out more conservative nominees, as their activists are more dedicated and more willing to travel long distances for their guys, but…..conservatives can benefit. Christine O’Donnell, anyone? I think the way it stands, Cuccinelli could easily run away with NOVA (which, despite his uber-conservative image, would be happy to finally have a true “one of us” in the statehouse…yes, yes, McDonnell was raised there, but he didn’t come “from” there politically) and the Shenandoah Valley, where Cuccinelli appears to be deeply, deeply popular.
However, don’t start writing the Bolling obituaries yet. Let’s keep in mind that Bolling is not exactly a nobody–that’s what makes this race so compelling. And not being a nobody, he has a full stable of consultants who’ve won before, and he’s got his Richmond base, and he’s got financial backers. He already has a substantial cash advantage over Cuccinelli–about a $300k advantage–and plenty of old party hands around the state who won’t give up on him so easy. There’ll be plenty of ink and bytes spilled on this one….
But for now, have your say with the polls at the top and the comments below.
The snowfall in the Valley today cut my day at Belle Grove short–not short enough for me to catch the RPV Luncheon live, but enough for me to review the tape. Special kudos to the RPV New Media Committee for making this possible. New media has penetrated every aspect of the Advance moreso than any year (although I’ll note that many of the Commonwealth’s finest twitterers and bloggers have been a bit quiet today–though some of them may be fleeing back home to beat the snow). Here’s the feed for your purusal–I’ll note that a good chunk of the video is a a review of some of Tim Murtaugh’s greatest hits and other gootage from the campaign, so you may want to fast forward to catch the speeches from each of our statewide victors.
My thoughts below the fold
The Republican Governor’s Association met this week, and although the caucus may be at its nadir, holding only seats, the mood was rather celebratory, given the amazing wins in New Jersey and Virginia. However, although New Jersey was the tougher contest, it was Bob McDonnell and his blow out win that got the rock star treatment. McDonnell was lauded for both his tone:
“The focus should be on bread-and-butter, kitchen-table, quality-of-life issues,” said Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican who was this month elected governor of Virginia, a seat that had been held by a Democrat, and whose victory is being held up as a formula for Republican reconstruction. “I think that really helped us. We ended up with a two-to-one margin with independent voters because of our focus on the economic problems.”
“Looking at President Obama’s campaign last year, he did a phenomenal job using social media, Twitter, text messaging, any number of other things in order to reach people,” McDonnell said.
More than 30,000 supporters signed on as Facebook friends, and McDonnell aides said they worked to he site fresh and responsive to issues.
The campaign also spent 7.5% of its overall media budget on online advertising – a far higher portion than most political campaigns these days.
That included banner ads on Google, ads overlaying YouTube videos, and even a new tactic of targeting voters throughout the day with ads appearing on their screens at work in Washington, D.C., then later that night on their home computers in the suburbs.
“We bought banner ads on virtually every major site with a demographic that we were trying to reach with the independent voters,” McDonnell said. “You couldn’t go to those sites without having a popup with my name on it.”
A less visible piece of the online strategy came in the behind-the-scenes cultivation of conservative blogs, aides said.
A number of conservative blogs have focused on LL Cool J’s classic line “Don’t call it comeback,” but given this advice to the guvs:
“They are going to face Deeds’s problems, where they really have two options going into their re-election: Do they stand with Reid and Pelosi on issues like national health care and appease their base or do they stand with taxpayers in their states unhappy with this plan,” he said.
I think we should be focusing on the title of the song instead. The Govs races are going to take on a much different hue from the congressional races (with the possible exception of California, where conservatives are rallying around Steve Poizner over the media darling ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman), and the RGA is locked and loaded for action.
Correction: Gill ran for Michelle McQuigg (now Clerk of Court in PW), not Callahan’s old seat. We took back both this year–hence my confusion. Sorry folks, can’t win em all.
Riley over at Virginia Virtucon points out that Corey Stewart will be headlining an event for the Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans and hints that Stewart is eyeing what everyone assumes will be an open LG seat in 2013. Frankly, this is a campaign that has already started–and is being won as I write this.
Astute observers may recall that in early 2008 Stewart started making noise for an LG bid and was more or less an announced candidate. However, Bill Bolling soon thereafter announced that he was running for a second term. In the name of unity, all the potential nominees dropped out (note that this does not include Patrick Muldoon, whose disasterous bid began in reaction to Bolling’s “weak” conservative credentials in late 2009–I hate to acknowledge their rationale even with the quotation marks).
At the time Stewart was being challenged by former State Senator Jay O’Brien, who had the backing of several Delegates, including the Valley’s own Todd Gilbert. Word on the street was that many were not too happy with Stewart’s backing of Faisal Gill in the race for Vince Callahan’s Michelle McQuigg’s old seat (ironic, given that it was really Fairfax where O’Brien lost the thing). However, much has changed since then.
Number one, Stewart has built a solid record of governance. First and foremost, the rule of law resolution that Stewart championed in Prince William, which required law enforcement to check individual’s citizenship status during an arrest and denied certain public services to unlawful immigrants, is working. Additionally, Stewart has worked feverishly to maintain his credentials as a fiscal conservative, cutting taxes and holding the line on government spending. One will recall that this was the issue that doomed the last LG candidate from Northern Virginia, Sean Connaughton, who many accused of backdoor tax hikes by maintaining the same tax rate while assessments went up.
Finally, the environment has changed greatly. The name Gill means nothing now–not only because Gill is no longer even in the Commonwealth, but because Stewart did a bang up job leading from the forefront in helping deliver smashing wins for our candidates in Prince William, in addition to helping take back the aforementioned Delegate seat. Stewart is clearly a team player, and someone the party would be smart to nominate.
Stewart is a smart guy and has already swung through the Valley twice touting his credentials on the immigration issue, one that is sure to rear its ugly head at some point in the next four years, particularly when the Obama administration is talking “reform” while its overreaching on a myriad of other issues. For those of you who think its too early to be talking 2013, the fact of the matter is that races are always developing, and smart politicians weigh their options and figure out where they can do the most good.
2013 is already shaping up to be interesting–there’s talk that Cooch may very well be in a position to run for Governor, despite many members of State Central already giving the tacit support to Bolling for Governor. However, the race has already started for Lt. Gov, and the fact of the matter is that one candidate is already out there who is head and shoulders above the rest and one to keep an eye on.