The deadline for candidates submitting their petitions and other candidacy documents was today and among the first to officially announce their candidacy was Jeff Frederick, who will be running in the 36th Senate District. After Jeff clears the hurdle of securing the nomination against Tito Munoz, which shouldn’t prove all too difficult, he will move on to taking down incumbent Toddy Puller which will be considerably more challenging, although well within the realm of possibilities.
The 36th District was essentially the sacrificial lamb this year of the Fairfax County senate districts under the plan drawn by Senator George Barker whose district was largely based in Fairfax County. Because of relative population shifts over the past ten years, the redistricting plan unavoidably had to move someone’s district partially out of the Fairfax democrat stronghold. Dave Marsden very narrowly avoided getting defeated by Steve Hunt last time around, so pushing his district into Prince William County would have invited the loss of a senate seat when the democrat majority only had a two seat advantage. Barker was drawing the lines and he wasn’t about to hurt himself in the process, so the only district left to move was Toddy Puller’s 36th District which picked up a lot of Prince William County and extended all the way into Stafford County.
Toddy Puller didn’t draw an opponent four years ago and apparently the prevailing logic within the Democrat leadership was that it was unlikely she would again. When Tito Munoz started making noise that he might run for something it is unlikely that the Democrats thought he posed a real threat to this Senate District. After all, someone in the development business who enjoys calling Democrats “a bunch of socialists” (and alienating potential swing voters in the process), who has a penchant for exhibiting a temper that can get the best of him, and who hasn’t ever run for office before isn’t going to be regarded as all that serious a threat. Puller hasn’t alienated the Latino community, so she’s simply not that vulnerable to a “Tito the Builder” type whose whole strategy would seem to hinge on getting minorities to get out and vote against a Democrat.
Munoz fought really hard to ensure the Republican nomination in this district would be made in a primary rather than in a convention, one of the dumbest moves one could imagine. When one of Jeff Frederick’s allies on the 36th District committee quite easily agreed to a primary, you have to wonder whether that sunk in or not. I guess it didn’t, as Munoz was really happy about the decision and eagerly announced his “victory.” Guess what, Tito: who has actually run in most of that district before and won? It’s not you, buddy. It’s like watching a novice chess player waltz right into a discovered “check.”
What Democrats certainly didn’t envision was someone like Jeff Frederick getting into this race. Frederick represented a number of the precincts within this district as a member of the House of Delegates, has extensive community ties and is known as being a ferociously dedicated and smart campaigner. His record of fiscal conservatism and challenging the Republican establishment as a Delegate when they departed from principle not only offers an opportunity to become a darling of the Tea Party, but for independents as well who aren’t all that enamored of bad compromises in the name of party unity. Add on to that that Frederick owes nothing to the Republican establishment — he’d probably be more happy to set fire to it and burn it to the ground and have it rebuilt — than compromise with it. Thus he becomes compelling not only to disaffected Republicans that despise what the minority has been doing in the Senate but to independent swing voters as well. Not many more people can critique the Republican Party establishment with more force and vigor than this guy.
The contrasts between Toddy Puller and Jeff Frederick are tremendous. Puller is a grouchy old party-line hack who isn’t fun at all to listen to. Frederick is a young engaging maverick (the real kind, not the McCain BS kind) who is funny, warm, friendly and engaging. Puller isn’t physically able to knock on doors while Frederick attacks doorknocking with the single-minded purposefulness of George Patton. Frederick’s campaign literature will feature him and his cute family while Puller’s campaign staff will desperately try to keep Toddy’s picture from appearing anywhere unless it’s at least fifteen years old. Puller may be the incumbent here but a lot of people in the district, even those who were in her district previously, don’t know who she is or care much about her.
This race will be one to watch. The 36th District along with the rematch in the 37th between Steve Hunt and Dave Marsden are two races that could decide the majority in the Senate. Each of these are quite winnable by Republicans, if the right candidate is running and the campaign is run well. That execution of a campaign plan is precisely what sets Jeff Frederick apart, and he’s going to give Toddy Puller one heck of a fight.
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