On Friday and Saturday, a few of my fellow conservatives will be travelling down to Roanoke for the Republican State Convention to select a nominee to challenge Mark Warner’s Senate seat. In a year where there’s a pretty pitched battle between establishment moderates and the conservative grassroots, this might be a far more interesting convention than conventional wisdom suggests, as the Bull Elephant so adroitly explained yesterday.
In almost any other year, this convention would be a rather dull Gillespie coronation. Gillespie is well known in Virginia politics, having held the post of RPV Chairman along with a considerable portfolio of national party and campaign office and he’s outraised all of his opponents by about a 100-1 margin. His staff dwarfs all other campaigns, he’s running buses to Roanoke from every part of the state and we’ve been getting all sorts of slick mailers from him for months. Why is there even a contest here?
This is not a usual year for Virginia Republicans. The establishment, having been blindsided by the takeover or party offices orchestrated by Ken Cuccinelli during his run for office have fought back hard - and with an amazing level of blindness towards the visuals of their fight. Eric Cantor and Ray Allen’s effort to slate delegates, Gillespie’s hand-picked choice for RPV Executive Director hosting radical illegal alien open-borders activists in headquarters two days after assuming office, packing unit-level conventions with known Democrats to thwart conservatives trying to run for party level offices — all of this infuriates grassroots conservatives that might otherwise at least listen to Gillespie’s pitch. At this point a sizeable swath of these reliable convention attendees have just shut out everything this cabal might want to say to them and are determined to bury them. They’re outraged.
At one recent unit meeting, the question came up “What would we want for a nominee for US Senate” which was promptly answered from a gentleman in the back row who shouted out “A K Street lobbyist!” to the open amusement of the other unit members. How much money does it take to overcome this pretty durable meme to the detriment of Ed Gillespie? I’m not sure such an amount of money even exists, and such questions don’t apply exclusively towards primary campaigns. Should Gillespie eke out a victory here, Warner is sure to pile on with his considerable resources and prove once again that big government advocates are still more popular than big business and their lobbyists.
Shak Hill has garnered the loyalty of most of those disaffected by Ed Gillespie. In a perfect world, the conservative challenger would have a long record in Virginia government and the campaign apparatus that would develop, but as usual we don’t live in a perfect world. Hill has some elected experience at the local level, but not in this state, and his campaign organization is what you might charitably characterize as being in a “building phase.” Given that, he’s made a much stronger effort than any of the other challengers and racked up enough committed delegates to pose a challenge to Gillespie, which the others have not. He’s no Goliath, but he’s been doing a pretty decent impression of David so far, and that’s just enough to garner the interest of the grassroots.
If issues matter, if philosophy matters, if a person’s substance matters, this convention matters. John McCain gave us President Barack Obama. If anyone can point out to me the substantial difference between John McCain and Ed Gillespie, other than that Gillespie is not a veteran and war hero, I can’t see much of a difference between them. McCain’s “Build the dang fence” became “let’s give illegals amnesty” in the blink of an eye, and there’s little reason to expect Gillespie would be any different.
I’ve been friends with Shak Hill for many years, dome some paid work and a bunch of volunteer work for him as well. I’ll be in Roanoke this weekend to vote for him, and I hope many of you will be as well. It’s worth the trip.
UPDATE: James Atticus Bowen’s article over at Deo Vindice is a must read on this race. Gillespie’s platform is about as milquetoast as it gets, when it isn’t confusing what federalism is.
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