On May 21, Virginia’s 10th CD Republicans will be holding a “firehouse primary” in multiple locations, using ranked-choice voting, to select a nominee to run in the general election against Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D). This district, after the 2021 redistricting, leans a bit in the “blue” direction, with Terry McAuliffe narrowly (50.5%-48.9%) winning it in 2021; with Tim Kaine easily (58.7%-39.1%) winning it in 2018; Mark Herring handily (54.3%-45.6%) winning it in 2017; Hillary Clinton winning it by about 8 points (50.5%-42.9%) in 2016. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, VA10 is a D+8 district, which basically means it leans Democratic but is potentially competitive, depending upon the political environment come the fall. Also, Loudoun County makes up the majority (52.75%) of this district, with Prince William County making up another 26.1%, Fauquier 9.8%, Manassas City 5.5%, Fairfax County 2.5%, Manassas Park City 2.2% and Rapahannock County 1.1%.
As for the incumbent, Rep. Jennifer Wexton is from Loudoun County (which, as noted, makes up a majority of VA10); was first elected to Congress in the 2018 “blue wave” election year, in which Wexton defeated Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) by 12 points (56%-44%); and previously served in the Virginia Senate from 2014. In 2020, Wexton won reelection by 13 points (56.5%-43.4%) over Republican Aliscia Andrews. Finally, note that Wexton at the end of 2021 had $2,671,281 “cash on hand,” compared to $373,637 for Republican candidate Jeanine Lawson; and $199,108 for Republican candidate Mike Clancy.
With that, the Republican candidates running for the VA10 GOP nomination are (in alphabetical order): John Beatty, Dave Beckwith, Hung Cao, Mike Clancy, Theresa Coates Ellis, John Henley, Jeanine Lawson, Paul Kinney Lott, Sr., Caleb Max, Brandon Michon, Brooke Taylor. See below for some information on each (ranked in descending order of “cash on hand” as of the end of 2021), followed by some thoughts on which candidates are most/least right wing; the potentially toughest/weakest opponent for Rep. Wexton; and who seems most likely to win the VA10 GOP nomination.
Jeanine Lawson: According to the FEC, had $373,637 cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Her website says “Since 2014, Jeanine serves on the Board of County Supervisors representing the Brentsville District where she has been re-elected twice. The district is one of the fastest-growing districts that has significant development pressures and infrastructure needs. She is most known for upholding Smart Growth Principles and preserving the rural area of Prince William County. Jeanine also serves as Vice-Chair of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Operations Board and Chairman of the Innovation Owner’s Association Board of Directors.” On the issues, Lawson says she wants lower taxes; says she “unequivocally support[s] our Second Amendment”; falsely cites the usual Republican bogeyman of supposed “rampant voter fraud” (which absolutely does NOT exist!) and rants against the “For the People Act” (which would EXPAND voting rights, reduce the influence of money in politics, ban partisan gerrymandering, create new ethics rules for federal officeholders, etc.); strongly opposes abortion and supports the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”; wants to fund the “border wall” and deport “illegals who had committed violent crimes”; etc. In short, she’s hard, HARD-right all the way. Also note that Lawson has been endorsed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, who “aided Trump in his efforts to overturn the election results”; and by former Virginia Attorney General and Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli, who’s obviously far right wing., Also, back in December 2020, Lawson walked out of a joint County Board/School Board meeting when talk turned to the subject of “implicit bias.” And in June 2020, she embarrassingly had no clue who the great African-American sociologist, civil rights activist, writer, etc. W.E.B. DuBois was. So…that’s Jeanine Lawson for you.
Mike Clancy: According to the FEC, had $199,108 cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Clancy lives in Loudoun County, describes himself as a “senior executive and lawyer with a global technology company.” On the issues, Clancy says he’s for “school choice”; against “higher taxes and overreach of government mandates”; for the Second Amendment and other Constitutional rights “without exception”; against “taxpayer funded abortion”; etc. Pretty standard conservative Republican language, in other words.
Theresa Coates Ellis: According to the FEC, had $21,156 cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Ellis says she is a “a healthcare professional manager for more than 30 years and military mom” who “was elected and serves as a Manassas City Council Member and has outperformed every local Republican in the last 5+ years.” Ellis doesn’t have much detail on her issues positions, but says generally that she is “For our Family and Loved Ones. For our Faith and Beliefs. For our Community. For our Businesses. For our Health. For our Country. For our Freedoms.”
John Beatty: Had just $6,607 cash on hand at the end of 2021. Calls himself the “lone outspoken conservative on the Loudoun County School Board” (from the Catoctin District); works as “the IT Director at The Heights School in Potomac, MD; has fairly standard, conservative Republican positions on the issues (against abortion, for guns, hostile to taxes), while mentioning that he wants to continue along the lines of former Reps. Frank Wolf (R) and Barbara Comstock (R).
Dave Beckwith: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. Says he’s “not a politician,” had “a 30-year career in the Air Force,” says he and his wife “homeschooled their three kids; he’s a staunch advocate for homeschooling and school choice.” On the issues, Beckwith says he’s for “strong support to overturn Roe vs Wade”; “ensure 2nd Amendment rights are protected”; opposition to “political and scientific speech [being] censored and ‘canceled'”; “lower taxes”; cut government spending and regulation; etc.
Hung Cao: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. Cao describes himself as “a refugee from Vietnam and immigrant to the United States”; as “a retired Navy Captain who served in Special Operations for twenty-five years”; and as the father of “five beautiful children whom [he and his wife] homeschool.” On the issues, Cao says “government needs to stay out of our businesses, out of our homes, out of our churches, away from our children and away from our guns.” He argues for “off-label alternatives” to treat COVID-19; opposes “our military’s sudden focus on social programs”; asks, “How is it that bacteria on Mars is considered life, but a viable fetus is not?”; says he “support[s] parents’ rights to advocate for our children’s education without intimidation”; and believes in “educating our children not indoctrinating them.” So…he’s very right wing, for sure.
John Henley: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. Describes himself as: “After retiring from the Air Force in 2019, John continued to serve in the national security arena working classified space programs and advising on national security matters. He also owns a small agricultural business and enjoys time on the farm with his animals and gardening.” Has been endorsed by Gen. Michael Flynn, which…says a great deal about Henley. On the issues, Henley is far-right all the way: railing against what he calls “cancel-culture…or more fittingly, cancer-culture”; arguing that “Changes to the Second Amendment are non-negotiable, period!”; pledges to “ensure federal funding never goes to support abortion or its providers”; etc.
Paul Kinney Lott, Sr.: Describes himself as “an Army veteran with over 30 years of consulting, engineering, and education technology experience”; has “taken time out from work to serve as a full time pastor for almost two years”; Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. Argues that “I lived racism. I know what racism looks like. And what pains America today is not caused by racism, systemic or otherwise.” On the issues, says: “Critical Race Theory is the Boogyman”; supports a “Parents’ Bill of Rights And Anti-Critical Race Theory Ban”; supports criminal justice reform; says the Affordable Care Act is “structurally unsustainable”; etc.
Caleb Max: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. The grandson of former/long-time Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA10), Max founded “a commercial and residential landscape company” and says “Soon after purchasing the Pica Deli at the beginning of 2020, COVID hit and sent Caleb’s small business, like many others, into a downward spiral. He felt first-hand the government’s ineptitude in handling the crisis. This was another motivation for Caleb to run and ensure that the government gets out of the way of business owners and provides greater opportunity to innovate and create the high-paying jobs so many Americans are looking for.” On the issues, Max argues (absurdly) that “the greatest threat facing my generation is the national debt and rampant government spending”; supports “school choice since it adds free market competition to the school system”; claims crime is “out of control in our major cities” (that’s simply false), and says he is “vehemently opposed to defunding the police” (which Jennifer Wexton certainly doesn’t support doing, nor do almost any Democrats).
Brandon Michon: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. Describes himself as “a native of Loudoun County, a father, a husband, a businessman, and a man of faith” who “stood up to the Loudoun County School Board when they shutdown schools, covered up assaults, pushed controversial policies and forcibly masked children.” Claims he “sparked a movement in Loudoun County and has become a voice for parents and children all across the nation as they continue to fight for their educational freedom.” He pledges to “ensure that the divisive agenda of Critical Race Theory is no longer being forced on our children and educators” (note: “CRT” isn’t even being taught in Virginia public schools). He falsely claims that President Biden has an “anti-American agenda has disrupted our economy and caused record inflation throughout the country.” He argues, “Our Second Amendment is and shall remain a foundational part of our democracy.” He pledges to ” be a steadfast voice for the unborn.” So…hard right all the way.
Brooke Taylor: Wasn’t listed by the FEC as having raised any money as of the end of 2021. In her bio, says has has “masters and doctoral degrees from Regent University,” and has taught in the government programs at both Regent and Liberty University.” Describes herself as “a conservative, Republican who has successfully provided financial pathways and solutions by bringing the private sector to the table with the federal government to solve complex problems” and as “a professional and mom who is ready on Day 1 to defend our country and its children.” On the issues, pledges to “Hold international thugs like Putin and Xi accountable and prevent them from undermining American interests”; “defend our right to bear arms now more than ever”; “return power to the parents in making decisions for their children”; etc.
So those are the Republican candidates to take on Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) in VA10 this fall. Now, here are some thoughts, just from looking at the candidates’ websites, bios and fundraising numbers, regarding: a) how right wing these candidates are; b) who might be the toughest/weakest opponent for Rep. Wexton; c) who seems most likely to win the Republican nomination…
How right wing are the candidates? It’s hard to rank them, since they’re all in a range of right wing to VERY right wing, but roughly speaking, Theresa Coates Ellis seems like she might be the least extreme, certainly of the candidates with any cash on hand. It’s hard to tell with Caleb Max, but assuming he’s similar to his grandfather, he’s probably a fairly standard conservative Republican. Paul Kinney Lott is a bit eclectic, so it’s also kinda hard to say how right wing he is. John Beatty seems like a fairly standard-issue conservative Republican as they are these days, as do Mike Clancy and Brooke Taylor (she also has the Liberty and Regent background). As for the leading candidate in terms of money, Jeanine Lawson, she’s VERY right wing and extreme on pretty much every issue. Also VERY right wing are Hung Cao, Brandon Michon and John Henley.
Who might be the toughest opponent for Rep. Jennifer Wexton this fall? Just based on money, Jeanine Lawson and Mike Clancy were at the top of the pack as of the end of 2021, but we’ll really have to see how they all did in the first quarter of 2022 before we get a good read on the candidates’ fundraising abilities. In general, given that Loudoun County makes up the majority of the district, it’s probably an advantage if you are from there (as are John Beatty, Mike Clancy, Caleb Max, Brandon Michon, Hung Cao, Dave Beckwith, Brooke Taylor). However, Prince William County is the second-largest jurisdiction, so being from there (as are Jeanine Lawson, Paul Kinney Lott, Theresa Coates Ellis) might not be a major disadvantage. As for gender, it’s probably advantageous for Republicans to nominate a woman (Jeanine Lawson, Brooke Taylor, Theresa Coates Ellis) to run against Jennifer Wexton. And in terms of being an elected official, that list includes Jeanine Lawson, Theresa Coates Ellis, and John Beatty. So…the toughest candidates for Rep. Wexton to face this fall might be Jeanine Lawson, Theresa Coates Ellis, or Brooke Taylor? Or maybe even Mike Clancy or John Beatty? It’s hard to say, though…gotta see these candidates in action over the next few weeks. Also, if VA10 Republicans *do* end up nominating Lawson, no question that Rep. Wexton will have TONS of material to use against her, given how far right she is.
At the moment, who seems most likely to win the VA10 GOP nomination? The nomination will be decided using a party-run “firehouse primary” method, with ranked-choice voting, so you really have to know who the second, third and even fourth place picks would be for each candidate. However, just based on cash-on-hand numbers, name ID, endorsements, etc., I’d argue that Lawson is the frontrunner for the nomination, with the rest of the field jockeying to be Lawson’s main competition. We’ll really have to see how things go the next few weeks, including fundraising numbers coming out in mid-April, endorsements, etc. So stay tuned…