The aftermath of the election in the 51st District is prompting some interesting commentary that suggests that in 2009 there’s going to be quite a bit of jockeying for position for the opportunity to challenge Delegate-elect Paul Nichols for the 51st House District. Already, the kool-aid addicts that think that Faisal Gill is a good candidate for office have begun to rally around their humiliated champion, suggesting that as usual, Faisal Gill will dispense with the sound advice he has been quietly receiving to back off from his political aspirations, and is determined to take another shot at this seat at the next opportunity. The fantasy here that some have grasped for is utterly magnificent.
First, let’s take a good look at this district.
The 51st District has been constructed amidst what would otherwise be considered somewhat challenging territory for Republicans in order to establish a defensible district for Michele McQuigg, who until recently was the long-serving Delegate in this district. It’s got some strong precincts for Republicans such as Lake Ridge, which can easily offset lower turnout and more Democrat-leaning precincts such as Mohican, and although it’s not quite as secure a district for Republicans as it once was when last re-drawn. It’s really pretty good “turf” for Republicans.
It also overlaps the political power base for the popular Republicans Chairman Corey Stewart, and Supervisor Mike May. Someone running as a Republican in this District can pretty much count on 40% or more of the vote just for having an “R” next to their name and the capacity to draw breath. McQuigg beat Porta here in 2005 by 54%-46% in what was a match-up between two quality candidates running competent campaigns. I threw a bone here to Gill, referring to this district as a potentially problematic district for Republicans, and he’s not interested in it, so it’s time to label this district as what it really is — somewhere that only pathetic Republican campaigns can lose. And every effort to do that was made here.
In what has become typical fashion, the current PWCRC leadership rigged a convention to ensure that Gill won. It was the most bizarre convention many have ever seen, complete with a mass of Pakistani men arranged in a circle at the end jumping up and down and chanting in Urdu, after shouting an off-key “Happy Birthday” tribute to Faisal Gill. Gill did an excellent job of packing the convention with his Pakistani supporters, managing what happened at the convention, and getting PWCRC Chairman Tom Kopko to try to slap down RPV advice about throwing out over-voted precincts in favor of simply certifying the election committee report without a floor vote (which would probably have certified them anyways) that enshrined irregularities as official results.
Faisal Gill’s fundraising also was an almost entirely Pakistani affair. Now there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with being a candidate promoted by a specific immigrant community, but it’s darned irregular, and raises legitimate questions of exactly whose interests a candidate intends to advance. If a campaign generally can’t raise money outside of a group of its own ethnic heritage, it doesn’t lend much credibility to a broader appeal. Gill’s record in previous leadership positions is pretty abysmal, and his relationships with radical islamists such as his previous employer Abdurahman Alamoudi and current law partner Asim Ghafoor raises troubling questions of how someone could have repeated close associations with disturbing individuals and still be worthy of a position of public trust. The baggage here is overwhelming.
On the plus side, when you listen to Gill as a candidate, it’s pretty easy to come away impressed. Gill definitely has honed his ability as a public speaker, and has a strong grasp on how to expertly present public policy issues. He comes across as a smart, well-spoken man who knows what he’s talking about, comes across as frank in his statements, and doesn’t seem to change his story in order to pander to a specific audience. He has every qualification as a political consultant and has dramatically improved since his stint with the Steve Chapman campaign. Regardless of what one may think about Faisal Gill, his demonstrated personal abilities deserve a lot of respect, and he has demonstrated considerable courage throughout his campaign. It hasn’t been easy for him, and he has had to fight all the way, doing so in a way that is pretty admirable. It’s not bad at all for a foundation for a future for Gill.
In this race however, Faisal Gill ran against an absolute neophyte. Paul Nichols is a good man with many positive qualities, but a political animal he certainly is not. His grasp on Virginia legislative issues is weak, he had little, if any, experience in political campaigns, and is hardly the strong candidate that Earnie Porta was in 2005. He was not much more than a well-financed and non-controversial name with a “D” attached to it, and his campaign was significantly directed by the same out-of-touch DPVA that trashed every other House of Delegates campaign in Prince William County. Every other House candidate in the county got utterly thumped. But Nichols ended up being the sole bright spot in a county where every other Democrat House candidate crashed and burned, despite being the most inexperienced Democrat candidate in the county. With all of this and local Democrats in some disarray, Nichols had the deck stacked against him.
Nichols won not because he was Paul Nichols, but because he wasn’t Faisal Gill. Now he gets a chance to build a voting record, and if he’s relatively non-controversial in his voting record, he’s only going to come back in 2009 a lot stronger. He’ll have plussed-up his understanding of Virginia’s legislative issues, gained experience as a politician, and gotten two years of mentoring on how to run campaigns. It’s likely that all his current deficiencies as a candidate will be resolved by the time he faces election again, and unless he makes some major mis-steps that isolate him from the electorate next time around, his incumbency and experience are going to make his bid for re-election a lot stronger than his bid to initially gain this seat. Novices without demonstrated experience as an elected official need not apply in 2009 for an attempt to knock off Nichols in the 51st District, which is what Gill will ultimately be.
However we have a flurry of postings by Faisal Gill acolytes trying to knock down BVBL’s previous commentary on Gill, which was pretty much suspended after the 51st District Convention that nominated him. If this isn’t an attempt to rebuild the political future of Faisal Gill for a shot at the 2009 elections, it’s hard to see what else it could be. If Faisal was going to take some time off and work on building some actual credentials, this wouldn’t at all be necessary. You take your lumps, let things die down, and start constructively working to build a resume. Given how closely some of these local pundits are with Gill, this is really looking like a directed attempt to quickly rescue his political career after a humiliating defeat, instead. My suspicion is that Faisal Gill is already getting his campaign for 2009 in place, and this is the first salvo.
It’s utter insanity.
Mike May and Julie Lucas will actually be potential credible candidates in 2009. Faisal Gill won’t. They, unlike Gill, have actual positive experience as elected officials, don’t have loads of baggage, and have demonstrated that they can win in a General Election in the 51st. Wasting time now burnishing Faisal Gill’s meager credentials is probably nothing more than an attempt to freeze Lucas and May in place during the next two years and set the stage for another, even more apocryphal shot by Faisal Gill against Paul Nichols, which will probably not yield any better results in 2009 than it did for Jeanette Rishell in her re-match against Jackson Miller in the 50th District. It’s time to start building up better candidates, if the interest here is re-taking the 51st rather than rescuing someone’s defunct political career, and promoting Mike May and Julie Lucas are much more productive endeavors.
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