By John Cannon
On May 24th, Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-HD67) wrote an article for a local news site to let his constituents know what he’d been working on during the last General Assembly session. The article struck a friendly tone, as LeMunyon discussed progress he had made addressing issues of bipartisan concern: transportation, education funding, government transparency, and the opioid crisis. LeMunyon also noted that he had had more bills signed into law since the last election than anyone else in the legislature. The article painted a picture of a reasonable, moderate legislator -the image LeMunyon has carefully promoted as he runs for reelection against Democrat Karrie Delaney in the 67th District.
The reality, however, is quite a bit different. In fact, Del. LeMunyon has stood with GOP leadership on voter ID laws, restricting abortion rights, blocking Medicaid expansion, and preventing cities from raising the minimum wage or enacting gun safety measures. Sure, Del. LeMunyon will cross the aisle on occasion, but on the most contentious issues and consequential bills, he stands firmly on the right.
It’s important to point out that LeMunyon’s initial foray into politics was heavily supported by the right wing of his party. During his first campaign in 2009, he received nearly $120,000 from Middle Resolution PAC, an organization backed by conservative super donor Robert Bailie. Middle Resolution, which also provided a $50,000 low-interest loan to LeMunyon’s 2011 campaign, endorsed Corey Stewart in his 2013 bid for lieutenant governor and, after Stewart bowed out, donated $28,000 to far-right nominee E.W. Jackson. The PAC lists stopping the Medicaid expansion as one of its primary goals.
Once in Richmond, LeMunyon represented the right wing of his party in 2011 as the chief sponsor of the so-called “Repeal Amendment,” a top Tea Party priority at the time. This bill asked Congress to call a constitutional convention to consider an amendment that would allow the repeal of any federal law or regulation by a two-thirds vote of state legislatures. LeMunyon rejected suggestions that it was an adapted form of nullification.
More recently, LeMunyon supported the infamous 2012 bill that would have required unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds before abortions and another bill, introduced by Del. Bob Marshall (R-HD13), that defined life as beginning at conception. LeMunyon also voted in favor of voter ID restrictions on multiple occasions and voted to advance another bill that would allow teachers to teach students that evolution and climate change were just “controversial” theories. Finally, LeMunyon has actively opposed the Medicaid expansion that would have meant billions in funding for the state and health care for hundreds of thousands of Virginians.
As far as legislative scores for the last session, LeMunyon earned a 10% grade from NARAL, an F from the Sierra Club, and a 50% rating from the Virginia Education Association, in part because of his support for a school voucher program.
However, he got a 100% grade from the more-extreme-than-the-NRA Virginia Citizens Defense League, 64% from the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation (down from 88% in 2015), 80% from the anti-choice Family Foundation, and an 85% rating from the American Conservative Union.
LeMunyon may not be a culture warrior in the mold of Bob Marshall, or a belligerent neo-Confederate like Corey Stewart, but for all his bipartisan handshaking and sensible columns on transportation funding, he largely stands with the right wing of his party when it really matters. That’s why it’s not at all surprising that LeMunyon has shown no particular discomfort with the incompetence, corruption and bigotry of the Trump administration. In fact, LeMunyon’s most notable statement on Trump seems to be an accidental tweet he sent mocking people who have protested his administration.
LeMunyon was unopposed in the 2015 elections and won by nearly 10 points in 2013, but this year’s election will likely be a tougher challenger for the four-term incumbent. He faces a strong challenger in Karrie Delaney and is defending his seat in a district that supported Hillary Clinton by a 22-point margin. LeMunyon may highlight his selective bipartisanship and pen a moderate tone in his columns, but his voting record reflects a different political profile, and his time as a delegate may be up on Tuesday as a result.