How many Republicans on the Board of County Supervisors are going to face primary challenges? That’s becoming an interesting question as rumors about regarding PWCRC Chairman Tom Kopko likely challenging Marty Nohe in the Coles District contine to race around, and as there’s now a possibility that former PWCRC Treasurer Bob Pugh may challenge Wally Covington in Brentsville. At this point I’m starting to expect rumblings that Maureen Caddigan may get a challenger.
The obvious theme running here is that “moderate” incumbents, those who had been on the inside when former Chairman Sean Connaughton was running the show, are now on the defensive. Granted, they haven’t often been on the forefront of many of the issues that seem to be gaining all the attention these days, such as controlling growth, and fiscal conservatism, and often their voting records are more consistent with the Democrats on the board than the Republican chairman. There are reasons to take some of these incumbents to task. I’m just not entirely sure this is the way to do it, however.
Perhaps most importantly there’s the consideration of whether this is the battle that needs to be fought right now. I think just about everyone feels that if we’re going to engage in primary battles, the Virginia State Senate is where it’s most important to do so. The intransigence of the Senate far exceeds any complaints we can levy at some of the PWC BOCS members, and it will require a dedicated and focused effort which will not be delivered in the midst of an intra-party fight at the county level. I’d love to see the money that would be dedicated to fighting this battle instead directed to defeat folks like Chichester, which would yield far more significant results.
I think it’s also worth noting that many of these “moderates” have learned that the political landscape is shifting and are recognizing significant constituent concerns about taxes, development pressures, illegal immigration and other important issues. A quality county committee with stable leadership and strong membership can make a big difference in how local legislators represent our interests and to the degree we’ve actually engaged in these issues this year the record of success is pretty encouraging. Winning with strong arguments can work, especially when backed with the credible resources which can be provided, or witheld if necessary in those cases where a little more than solid ideas is needed to encourage a recalcitrant legislator. While that approach has clearly failed with the Senate, within the board it might actually work, although subject to the degree which the county committee actually can deliver on what it says it will do.
I’m always reluctant to consider casting off experienced legislators who would be clear favorites in a general election, even if they don’t entirely govern the way I might want them to. I can accept policy disagreements with the expectation that if my arguments really are as convincing as I think they are, those with whom I might disagree might end up realizing I was right and become more of what I would hope they could be. Only when that has entirely failed is it time to challenge them in a primary, in my view. We’ve clearly reached that point in the Senate, but on the county board I’m not convinced that’s the case.
I suppose soon we’ll see if I’m missing something here, as some announcements should be coming out fairly soon given the timeline for this election cycle.
UPDATE: Bob Pugh weighs in in the comments section with a pretty substantive explanation of why someone would challenge Wally Covington. This is going to be a fascinating debate with really strong arguments on either side of the “should we or shouldn’t we primary” question.
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