Here is the text of the speech I gave on Tuesday, at a press conference in Harrisonburg, to launch my campaign against Mark Obenshain (and against his Party of Trump). Video from the event, which attended by roughly 50 supporters (who asked unusually good questions in the Q & A part of the event) will follow soon.
Many of you will remember, I expect, that I ran against Mark Obenshain for the Virginia State Senate in 2015. I’m here today to announce that I am challenging Mr. Obenshain once again.
It would be reasonable for you to expect that my new campaign will be much like the previous one. In some ways, that’s true.
But there’s a vitally important way that this one will be quite different. That’s because the political situation in America today is so different – so dangerously different — from what it was in 2015. Or, indeed, different from anything ever seen before in America.
In 2015, I ran because I could see that Mr. Obenshain was not serving the people of this district. I could see that he was serving other masters – those with the big money – at the people’s expense.
- Obenshain has blocked efforts to get the corrupting influence of money out of our politics. I ran to support our democracy where the voice of the people, and not the dollar, is supposed to have the ultimate say.
- Obenshain has consistently served the fossil fuel interests of his big donors – like Dominion Energy, and the Koch Brothers — by supporting their lies about climate change, and blocking Virginia’s moving into clean energy. (Knowing that Obenshain is willing to side with those willing to sacrifice the future for our children and grandchildren for their own short-term profit should be all anyone needs to know about him.) Four years ago, Obenshain indicated that my efforts to protect the stability of our climate ran counter to his “conservative values.” What kind of conservatism is it that opposes passing along to our children the healthy climate that has been passed down to us?
- And then there’s health care. Until the bitter end, Obenshain did everything he could to prevent the extension of Medicaid so that hundreds of thousands of Virginians would have the right enjoyed by the citizens of every other advanced nation: to have reliable and affordable access to the health care they need. Mr. Obenshain stuck by his Party’s overriding purpose of making their political opponents fail – even if that meant hurting all those vulnerable Virginians and squandering billions of Virginia tax-payer dollars. A case of Obenshain putting his Party ahead of the well-being of Virginians.
All that remains true, and about all those issues I still care passionately. And all remain good reasons for the people of the 26th District to have me, and not Mark Obenshain, represent them.
But – to tell the truth – if those failings of Mark Obenshain that were visible in 2015 were all the reasons for challenging him again, I probably wouldn’t do it. I might have figured “Been there, done that” and gone on with my life.
But not now. Not with the new, dangerous emergency that’s arisen in our nation’s political life. Not with the attack underway on the heart of America – threatening the constitutional order our founders gave us, and undermining the national security of our nation.
And, for all we can see, Mark Obenshain is on the wrong side of this historic battle.
It is his Republican Party that has given us a President who almost daily, right before our eyes, is putting himself above the rule of law, while Obenshain’s fellow Republicans have chosen to be that President’s accomplices.
It is this same Trump Party that, just days ago, backed up this President in advancing the interests of the Putin regime in Russia, rather than defend the United States against the ongoing attack from our main adversary in the world.
And from Mark Obenshain, we have heard not one word – have seen not one sign – that he objects to any of that. Once again, it seems that Obenshain puts Party ahead of nation.
Even more, that Obenshain puts Party ahead even of his own sacred oath.
As a Virginia state senator, Mr. Obenshain has taken an oath of office that includes a sacred pledge to “support the Constitution of the United States.” While many conservatives are alarmed about the ongoing attack on our constitutional order, Mr. Obenshain has done absolutely nothing to full that solemn pledge he has taken with his hand on the Bible.
At this extraordinary moment in American politics— as a battle is being fought for the soul of our nation — every political battle must be seen in the context of that larger battle. Even a race for the Virginia State Senate, when the incumbent seems to be deeply tied into the very Party that is attacking our nation’s most fundamental values—like the rule of law, like freedom of the press, like leaders not lying to the people, like defending the United States against its adversaries.
Every politician must answer this question: “Where do you stand?”
When I look at this gathering national crisis, I think of my parents. Both my parents were good, lifelong Republicans. And I feel certain, my parents would never be supporting what the Republican Party has become.
My Mom and Dad believed in a set of values – they considered them “conservative” values – like honesty, integrity, patriotism, respect for the law, and doing one’s duty. They’d be appalled to see how their Republican Party – now the Party of Trump – has betrayed all those values.
I know there must be Republicans in this District who feel about what their Party has become as my parents would if they were still here. People of integrity. Genuine patriots. People who want their Republican Party to become a respectable political party again.
We know there are such principled Republicans, because we’ve heard a number of them on the national stage speak up to reject this Trump Party and call for the Party to redeem and renew itself.
I want to reach out to my Republican neighbors and encourage them to find out: which kind of Republican is Mark Obenshain. Is he principled, or is he willing to go along with that Trump Party?
I invite those Republicans in the 26th District with real conservative values to ask Mr. Obenshain: “Are you OK with this Trump Party that has consistently backed up this law-breaking, lying, corrupt, President who has quite likely betrayed our nation?”
And if Mr. Obenshain acknowledges that he shares their unhappiness with the Trump Party, Republicans should ask him what he’s planning to do to restore honor and decency to their Party.
If his answers are satisfactory – if he is willing to repudiate the course that his Party has taken to become accomplices to this assault on our constitutional order and the rule of law; and if he is willing to take constructive steps to make that party one worthy of their support – then fine. Vote for him. We need Republican leaders who will help give America the Republican Party the nation needs.
But if Mark Obenshain will voice no objections to the craven and dishonest course his party has taken, if he offers no vision for the redemption of his once great Party, then I suggest that the honest conservatives of this district support me this year as one step in creating the kind of Republican Party this nation needs.
If Mark Obenshain will not offer himself as one who will work to make their Party decent and truly patriotic again, then I say to those honest conservatives:
Elect me this time. While I do my best to serve this district well, you will have time to find some conservative with greater integrity to run next time—the kind of man or woman who will help build a Republican party you can be proud of again.
You know that –given the make-up of this District, 70% Republican – next time around you should not have any difficulty electing a worthy conservative to the seat.
But re-electing Mark Obenshain now – if he fails to meet the moral challenge of this moment, if he serves his Party by betraying his nation — would just reinforce the degradation of the GOP into something my parents – and all genuine conservative American patriots — could not and should not ever support.