Is Connie Brennan the underdog surprise of 2011?


    ( – promoted by lowkell)

    by Paul Goldman

    In every election cycle for the House of Delegates, both parties tend to find a race or two which presents the possibility of their winning a seat none of the experts thought possible. There is really no rhyme or reason in many cases, it is a combination of a good underdog, a flawed favorite, and local political conditions. By the normal parameters of state politics, the GOP candidate to replace retiring delegate Watkins Abbitt should have an easy path to victory. True, this is a redistricting year, but there is nothing in the reappointment map to suggest a surprise in the 59th House contest.

    But as the saying goes: stuff happens. First, the Democrats nominated a truly qualified candidate, someone who is a first responder, a highly educated nurse, a mom, a family-oriented person, concerned not just about health but education, who has been on the Nelson County school board and now sits on the Board of Supervisors. Her name is Connie Brennan and she is running a very strong race.

    Now, to be sure, the GOP will get out its attack team in the closing days and, unless the state party helps her with funds/mailings etc., all her hard work could evaporate. Many winnable races two weeks out show up as routs on election day because people didn’t do what they should have done because they didn’t think victory was possible.

    However, Mrs. Brennan has it head and shoulders over her GOP opponent by any responsible measure.


    Which of course brings us to the second “stuff happens” moment: the GOP nominated Charles Matthew Fariss for the seat. He has the resume of a guy you’d expect to see on one of those cable shows featuring videos of people having trouble with the law — minor stuff, but constant here and there, driving drunk, not paying your bills, getting sued, hunting out of season, firing off a gun without being careful, a general disrespect for the law in many ways. Rather an odd resume for someone who wants to be a lawmaker in Richmond.

    If he were still a teenager, or just some guy with a chip on his shoulder, all the run-ins, the lack of any real community service (at least anywhere near Connie’s level), some of these things could be dismissed as someone still trying to find his niche. Growing up his hard.

    But Mr. Fariss is grown man, not a college kid running for office as a lark.

    So it is curious why the GOP nominated him, since anyone in politics knows that Fariss really has shown no interest in the kind of things that generally make a good legislator.

    However, like too many in politics today, he has no problems saying whatever he thinks will hurt his opponent and help himself. He has even attacked Connie for providing funds so Nelson County can have a professional first responder’s team!

    It doesn’t matter that Republicans on the Board of Supervisors agreed with her.

    Perhaps the old “canary in the coal mine” on Mr. Fariss is the Tea Party, since he is so bad even they refused to back him, running their own candidate.

    So that was “stuff happens” #3: a three way race.

    Will the third party candidate play a role in the outcome on election day? I have no way of knowing; perhaps Dr. Sabato of UVA can answer the question.

    Thus we have an unexpectedly good Democratic candidate, an unexpectedly marginal GOP one, and this tea partier who figured out quickly that Fariss isn’t one who has shown a lot of reason he should be entrusted with such an important public position.

    In that regard, the race in the 59th symbolizes today’s politics. We have a solid female candidate, good family values, a pillar of the community, working responsibly on local problems, and yet has time to be a first responder, a mother, a wife, now running to serve in Richmond.

    She is a good Virginia Democrat, tough on crime, actually has balanced a budget, can work with Governor McDonnell across the party lines for the good of the Commonwealth.

    So Democrats showed respect for our state by nominating such a quality individual.

    On the other side, we have the GOP, which seems increasingly to want candidates who can make the most noise, not the most sense.

    Mr. Fariss apparently wears as a badge of honor his utter lack any previous pitching-in on important local matters or otherwise trying to set a responsible example. Instead, he is comfortable in the attack dog posture, that arrogance we see today from people who are sure they right, so sure they don’t care about the facts. Mr. Fariss blames everyone else for his troubles.

    As I see it, we could use a trained nurse in the General Assembly, with a real background in the realities of real living, as opposed to another cardboard type GOP guy who blames everyone else for his troubles.

    By any standard of measurements, Connie has the personal integrity, solid Virginia values, first responder experience and commonsense needed to provide exceptional service in Richmond.

    She has worked hard for her community while Mr. Fariss has skated by, only noticed when he had to explain his latest irresponsible attitude to some judge or policeman.

    If the people of the 59th look past the negative campaigning, then Connie has a real chance of winning.

    Democrats don’t always put up the best candidate. But in the 59th, we have someone who is working hard to pull of a big underdog win against a totally unqualified GOP candidate.

    Let’s put it this way: If you were in a tight spot in their part of Virginia, and needed someone you who could count on to respond and save perhaps your life, you would be praying to have Connie show up, not Mr. Fariss.

    That’s also true if you had a smaller issue and needed an office holder to have the knowledge, indeed the interest, to help.

    The Democrats have the quality candidate in the 59th. An underdog yes. But as they say, it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

    Connie is fighting hard.    


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