Home 2015 elections Should Virginia Dems Root for Tea Partier Susan Stimpson over House Speaker...

Should Virginia Dems Root for Tea Partier Susan Stimpson over House Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell?


That headline may seem to have a simple answer – yes, of course we should want to see a right-wing, corporate tool like Virginia House Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell defeated. I mean, Howell’s been a huge obstacle to Medicaid expansion and any other progress in this state, so good riddance, right? Except for a few hypothetical downsides I’ve heard bandied about by Virginia Dems I’ve chatted with recently.

1. Obviously, a Tea Partier like Susan Stimpson would be no better than Howell on policy. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s possible she might even be a smidge worse in some ways. Although, basically, we’re choosing between horrible and awful here, so it’s not exactly much of a choice from a progressive perspective.

2. The defeat of Howell, or even a close call for that matter, might push Virginia Republicans even further to the far right (yeah, I know, is that even possible?!?), as more “mainstream” (yeah, I know, are there any of those left?) Republicans become yet MORE terrified of being primaried from their right.

2a. A related point – this would make Virginia Republicans even less willing to compromise than they are now, taking them from “0.00001% chance” to “absolute zero chance.”

3. Howell’s likely successor as Virginia House Speaker would be Kirk Cox, who some Dems tell me would be even worse than Mr. ALEC. I’m not buying that one. I mean, Howell’s so awful, I just can’t imagine Cox being any worse.

Now, having listed a few potential downsides to a Susan Stimpson primary win over Speaker Howell, here are some positives I can see.

1. We’d no longer have to deal with ALEC tool Bill Howell, along with this enormous fundraising machine (see VPAP for the details on the nearly $11 million Howell’s PAC has donated to Republicans over the years). Both of those seem like VERY good things to me!

2. This would play very well into the (factually accurate) Virginia Democratic messaging that the Virginia Republican Party has gone off the far-right-wing deep end. We already saw an example of Democratic messaging earlier today, from DPVA Press Secretary Morgan Finkelstein, who wrote: “[Virginia Republicans are] sprinting to the far right with the likes of David Brat and Susan Stimpson. Bill Bolling said it best himself – ‘If Bill Howell is not conservative enough for you, you’ve got a problem.’ And it’s clear that the Republican Party of Virginia has a problem.” Yeah, this could be fun for Virginia Democrats in 2015, 2017 and beyond. 🙂

3. To the extent Stimpson’s challenge of Howell causes utter chaos/civil war/ugliness in Virginia Republican ranks, that can only help Democrats right? Also, to the extent this encourages other Tea Partiers to primary Republican incumbents, it seems to me that it could open up targets of opportunity for Democratic pickups in certain districts (probably not Howell’s, but you never know).

4. I’d love to see Howell bogged down in a primary, having to spend money to defeat Stimpson, and not being able to focus on beating Democrats, even if it’s just for a few months.

Considering all these factors, it seems pretty clear to me that Virginia Democrats have no reason to root for Bill Howell over Susan Stimpson, and numerous reasons to root for the opposite. So…unless I hear some strong, sensible reasons to the contrary, that’s probably what I’ll be doing in 2015. 🙂

  • NotJohnSMosby

    Republicans in the House of Delegates will have to get so bad that voters will finally be willing to vote them out of office.  Knocking out Bill Howell will speed that process along.

  • runbmc

    McAuliffe lost this district by 5%, Northam won it by 2%, Herring lost it by 4%, Kaine won it with 51%, and both Romney and Obama tied with 49% here in 2012.

    If Democrats ever want to try and take back the House one way we do that is by expanding the playing field. This situation is similar to Tricial Stall, Marty Williams, and John Miller back in 07. A Stimpson primary win could help deliver the seat for us in a general.  

  • campaignman

    As bad as Speaker Howell is, there are some upsides to having him as Speaker as long as the GOP are still in charge.

    1)  According to the article, Howell helped Warner and McDonnell pass essential legislation that included tax increases.  He may well be needed again to pass rational legislation someday.

    2)  According to the article, Howell is a personable guy who runs the Chamber without acrimony.

    Yes, it’s true that he is adamantly opposed to Medicaid expansion, but so would Kirk Cox and Susan Stimpson be, so there is no upside there.

    As well, I doubt he will stop raising money for the GOP even if he loses his job.

    While we may have less of a chance to win his seat, we have a long way to go before that seat matters.