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

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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. 🙂