Delegates going to the Republican Convention in Richmond this weekend are still reeling under all the direct mail, phone calls and email messages the seven Lieutenant Governor and two Attorney General campaigns have been putting out in earnest over the past couple of weeks and having a hard time sorting it all that information out. To make matters even more complicated, a lot of folks are going to see their preferred candidates get knocked out during the process so it’s not just a matter of settling on one candidate and figuring the exercise is over. It’s quite likely that as the process evolves a lot of people are going to be scrambling to figure out how best to vote among candidates they might not know very well at all.
With hopes this will help some of you, here’s my take on the candidates and who I’m going to be supporting.
Scott Lingamfelter has a pretty unique mix of practical experience and an authentic conservative vision that easily makes him my first pick. We’ve seen how he’s acted in office for over a decade and that record is almost perfect. When he has made mistakes, he’s been unevasive and honest about admitting them which is pretty much unprecedented among these candidates. There’s only one man who was perfect on this earth, and unlike some others in the race, Scott doesn’t confuse himself with Him. Match that extensive experience with a very clear and unapologetic conservative outlook and you get someone who knows how to get things done and wants to get the right things done. This isn’t someone who is going to surprise anybody by what he’ll do when in office, he runs a solid campaign and knows how to win in districts that aren’t considered the best territory for conservative candidates. Scott has picked up tremendous support from Tea Party in Prince William County (at the notable expense of Corey Stewart), VCDL-PAC, and quite a number of blogs, which are a strong voice for the grassroots activists. Scott is the real deal and a pick you can make with confidence.
Bishop E. W. Jackson is an amazingly inspiring candidate who can cross demographic lines with a solid conservative, free market, pro-liberty message that is electrifying to listen to. Seeing a black conservative rise in Virginia politics is heartwarming and this is one of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet. Unfortunately Bishop Jackson has been spending the past few years chasing offices he had no chance of winning instead of shooting for something more achievable and building experience in government and a record. Experience matters a lot in an office this high in the Commonwealth and an on-the-job learning can be fraught with peril, especially in the Senate where there are a lot of very experienced political brawlers on the liberal side of both parties who could easily outflank a political newbie with some rather disastrous results. Knowing the process and the minutiae of Virginia government is almost as important as knowing the right direction to go in, and unfortunately Jackson just doesn’t have that. Still, he’s a good pick with the caveat that he’s going to need to lean on other folks with more experience a lot and would have to fend off their inevitable efforts to guide him towards policy positions that he might not otherwise take. The impact of being the only black candidate from either party for any of the top three spots could be quite interesting as a political dynamic as well.
Susan Stimpson has a very interesting conservative record in Stafford County that’s considerably better than any other county-level executive in the race, and she definitely is knocking the conservative talking points out of the ballpark with her campaign. That gets tempered a bit by her taking a little too much credit for the good things that have been happening in Stafford and the fact that she’s hasn’t even completed her first term before shooting for the #2 spot in Virginia government. Her understanding of the process and mechanics of Virginia government is rather weak and might not grasp all the intellectual arguments of conservatism as much as I’d like, but she’s moving in the right direction. I’d like to see Stimpson run for something like this after serving two or three terms on the Stafford board where she’d have the chance to make her record a bit more extensive and gain more experience. She might do an amazing job as a Lieutenant Governor, or maybe not. There just isn’t enough depth to her record to really predict that yet, but she is far from a bad choice at the convention and having a bit of gender balance on the ticket might not be a bad thing.
Steve Martin has been a conservative member of the Senate who has been a bit more mistake-prone than Scott Lingamfelter but without the refreshing humility to explain what those mistakes were or what he learned from them. While he has experience and knowledge in spades, he’s notoriously ineffective at campaigning which has left him at or near the bottom of the polling data and fundraising numbers. Martin is sort of a “meh” candidate, without anything to particularly excite anyone nor anything to make them not like Steve. I’m not sure why he hasn’t dropped out of the race yet, as there’s not much chance he’s going to survive the first ballot. Still, he’s a fairly safe pick who would probably govern no worse, but with hardly any reasonable expectation of doing much better than they last bunch who were elected to office.
Pete Snyder is another newbie candidate who got picked to run Virginia Victory for the Romney campaign as his first actual entre into Virginia politics, and not too surprisingly he failed pretty badly at his first political swing. Groomed by Bill Bolling and the establishment machine to be Bolling’s running mate this time around, Pete morphed into a candidate spouting conservative talking points while delivering world-class barbequeue after that plan utterly fell apart. Pete’s campaign has been creative and quirky, complete with “big ideas” that are apparently so big they can’t fit into any venue he’s speaking at so we never hear actually them. If we were electing a new Chef for the Governor’s mansion to replace the crook who was working for McDonnell, Pete would be an excellent pick. If we’re talking about the number two spot in Virginia government, Snyder just doesn’t have the credentials or demonstrate the wisdom to merit consideration. I like the guy a lot, but he’s quite clearly in over his head here. Pig Rig, absolutely. Lieutenant Governor, no.
Corey Stewart probably would have made a fantastic candidate up until he started “coveting” statewide elected office, at which point the wheels came off his governance style and he began morphing from conservative champion to Minnesota-style machine politician. His campaign has been fraught with scandal, his campaign communications chock full of rather disturbing exaggeration and mistruths, and he quickly fell quite far from being the early front-runner. His campaign over the past month has been abysmal, with almost all of the discussion focusing on failures in Prince William County government and whether Stewart has broken the law or not during his campaign rather than would he be a good Lieutenant Governor. Stewart hasn’t gotten the support of any taxpayer protection groups or Tea Party organizations in the county where people know him best, which is rather telling. There is absolutely nothing left to recommend his candidacy at this point while grave concerns have been mounting about the degree of damage he might do to to the rest of the ticket in a general election where he would be an easy target for Democrat sniping. This is not a good pick at all.
Jeannemarie Devolites Davis easily wins the prize for worst candidate of the bunch. In her last election, which she lost by about ten points, she decided to jump on the gun control bandwagon and bring Michael Bloomberg down to campaign for her against Chap Petersen. Now she runs around the state pretending that loss never happened and how she’s somehow a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights while her husband threatens people who donate money to other campaigns that they’ll never, ever do business with Deloitte again. Her pitch nowadays is that she can bring “ethnics” into the Republican fold. Please. Just go away, Jeannemarie. We simply cannot ever trust you ever again.
Rob Bell has been a solid conservative performer in the House of Delegates who has real insight and interest in helping make reforms in our criminal justice system. He goes back to bringing a prosecutor background to the office rather than being primarily a civil litigator, which could provide a very interesting mix when Ken Cuccinelli might likely end up being Governor. The two would compliment each other very well in ways that might make our efforts to fight back against federal overreach in the courts particularly effective. Rob has been campaigning very well as the underdog with an emphasis on the building the grassroots, which would mesh rather well with the rest of the ticket in the general election campaign. He’s well spoken, highly personable and fully qualified. I’m giving Rob a slight edge of the two candidates as my pick, but both would serve admirably in the position.
Mark Obenshain has been the conservative stalwart in the Senate when so many of his colleagues have regularly gotten it wrong in that body. The biggest issue in my mind about what would happen if Mark Obenshain is elected as Attorney General is not what would happen in the Attorney General’s office, but what would happen in the Senate in his absence. That body is chock full of Republicans who have no idea what that word means if Mark Obenshain isn’t there to remind them. I hate to turn Mark into the “indispensible man” and consign him to forever being in the Senate, but the way the Republican caucus has acted in the Senate they’ve made him exactly that by being a group of collectively rudderless, self-conscious, “moderates” who are afraid of their own shadows. To recommend him, Mark has done more to help other conservatives and fought for more conservative policy goals than almost any other member of the General Assembly, so he’s earned the chance to run for higher office. It’s just that I have no idea what would happen in the Senate if he left it.
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.
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