In 2007 Delegate Paul Nichols took this District against a weak Republican candidate, promising to be a moderate. Two years later, his voting record is somewhat mixed, he hasn’t connected with his district, and Republicans have come up with a very interesting candidate to challenge him in retired Colonel Rich Anderson. This is one of the more interesting races to watch, and the fireworks over the past few weeks have definintely made it one of the more dynamic ones.
Nichols has had sort of a split personality as a legislator, promoting some really strong bills dealing with the immigration issue for which he deserves a lot of credit, but then pushing pretty hard to the left with some of his other votes. His moderate image got further tarnished by the statements he made when opening up an Obama campaign office in Woodbridge last year when he characterized Republicans as “Nazis”, perhaps getting a little more into the moment than would be advisable in this district. Everyone has something to be both happy about and upset about in his legislative record, for those paying attention. At the beginning of this election cycle though, most voters didn’t seem to know he was their Delegate.
Rich Anderson comes off a distinguished career as not only a retired Colonel, but as the Brigadier General who commanded the Civil Air Patrol. His wife has been very active in local politics while he was required to keep a low profile because of his service, and he is very well connected with a lot of the Republican activists in this district who clearly think the world of him. Anderson started early on a tremendous door-knocking campaign and got way ahead in terms of voter contact before the Nichols campaign noticed what was going on, and has been strongly competitive in the campaign finance arena even against an opponent that could self-finance.
The election is perhaps most notable for the dust-up about Paul Nichols getting arrested for assaulting a cop in 2006, and Anderson’s release of his unredacted arrest record which, as it turned out, had Paul Nichol’s Social Security Number on it as his driver’s license number. How a lawyer failed to take advantage of Virginia law to get a different number used as his driver’s license number is beyond me, but this gave Nichols the opportunity to play the victim here and make claims that Anderson broke the law by releasing it. Meanwhile, all the talk in the district is focused alternatively on what Nichols did to warrant being arrested for assaulting a cop and Anderson releasing an arrest record where Nichol’s SSN appears as the driver’s license number.
The Nichols campaign is really making a huge deal of this, which isn’t what an incumbent would typically do if they were ahead. Usually when you’re in the lead, you talk about other things, especially positive ideas, and let the furor about things like assaulting cops die away. That the Nichols campaign is spending so much energy and money on this — even going up on the air with ads where they put an image of Anderson in jail, which seems an awfully big stretch here – tells me that the Nichols campaign feels they’re in trouble here. This just isn’t what incumbents who are leading in their polls tend to do in their campaigns. This lash-back looks a lot more desperate.
The top-ticket dynamic will have some influence in this race that will play out in some of the larger precincts such as Lake Ridge and Old Bridge, were I expect the turnout for Bob McDonnell will be pretty substantial and drive turnout higher than in 2007. Deeds hasn’t caught fire in this district by any means, so if turnout or lack thereof generated by the top of the ticket in typically more Democrat-friendly Occoquan and Rockledge is proportionally lower as I expect, Bob McDonnell will have some pretty sizeable coat-tails that will pull Anderson from being within the margin of error into pretty positive territory.
Anderson could win by about 5% here, but either way these are both good people where the decisions about who voters should support are better based on their policy positions rather than anything happening in the dynamics of this race. Anderson represents a pretty straightforward conservative perspective, while Paul Nichols is a moderate-to-liberal Democrat with a solid record and understanding of the illegal alien issue that considerably redeems him despite some of his votes on other issues. Since the turnout dynamic in this race favors Bob McDonnell, Anderson is in a good position to capitalize on that dynamic since his positions and McDonnell’s are virtually indistinguishable. Voters who bothered to inform themselves and are voting for McDonnell will find themselves pulling the lever for Rich Anderson much more often than those choosing to split their ticket in a race where the incumbent is not well known.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.