Today, we may be facing a very similar fork in the political road. Republicans are going all in for State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg. Should he win, it will almost guarantee that the 2017 Governor's race will be between Obenshain and Northam. Ben Tribbett has already expressed concerns about Ralph Northam as the Gubernatorial nominee in four years. In my opinion, choices are good and Virginia Democrats would do well to keep their options open.
Furthermore, if Obenshain wins, he'll have four years building a record to run on in 2017. Cuccinelli lost the race for Governor by being too extreme during his time in the AG's office, waging a war against science at the University of Virginia and prioritizing defending bans on sex in court. We can hope that Obenshain is that stupid, but we should fear him finding un-offensive issues like human trafficking, drugs, and defending the elderly that hide his conservatism from the public eye in 2017.
Without Obenshain, the Republicans will be in disarray in 2017, as the growing discontent expressed from Republicans like Bill Bolling and Tom Davis will be aired out in the open by more members during any nomination fight. The party could do some soul searching and come up with a moderate nominee in 2017, but more likely an effort to run a moderate will result in a bloody, brutal primary (or convention).
We need Mark Herring to win. How could that happen?
In 2005, Jerry Kilgore ran an offensive, dirty campaign against Tim Kaine. The tax increases passed by the Republican General Assembly divided Kilgore's party; his campaign was a bumbling effort to avoid attacking the turncoats that helped Mark Warner while also promising to roll back the historic revenue increase that provided for a significant investment in public education. Usually if you can't say anything nice, you're not supposed to say anything at all, but Kilgore instead found that his only message was to go negative against Tim Kaine. We all remember the October ad referencing Hitler and Tim Kaine's religious and moral objection to the death penalty.
Kilgore's fate was sealed, but only narrowly. Russ Potts, a moderate Republican exiled by his party's primitive proto-Tea Party wing, provided a vehicle of protest for moderate Republicans fed up with Kilgore. Polling as high as 4 to 5 percent in the month before the election, Potts received just over 2% of the vote. It might not sound like much, but it's the highest showing for a third party candidate for Governor of Virginia since William Story's 13.38% in 1965 as a Virginia Conservative (ignoring Henry Howell's 49.28% in 1973 when the Democrats did not run a candidate). A minor shift of other swing voters to Tim Kaine, based primarily in the suburban counties across the Commonwealth, made up the rest of the margin of victory over Kilgore.
In 2013, the Republican Party of Virginia has replaced the country bumpkin Kilgore with the Tea Party zealot Ken Cuccinelli. Faced with a signature legislative accomplishment, Cuccinelli turned hard right against Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation plan. This split could have provided an opening for Bill Bolling to run as an independent, a choice that Big Bill is probably regretting right now as he watches the no-name Sarvis polling in the double digits. Like Kilgore, Cuccinelli cannot run on any legislative accomplishments from Richmond, and now finds himself without a popular Governor to latch his campaign to. When you don't have anything positive to say about yourself, the only campaign tactic left is to attack your opponent and drag them through the mud.
Last December, James Bacon trod gingerly when discussing the report by Ryan Nobles implying some kind of chicanery in Terry McAuliffe's description of the dealings with the Commonwealth. Instead of jumping on the disparaging McAuliffe inference in Nobles' report ala National Review Online, Bacon analyzed the statements by McAuliffe less literally and the prospects with more balance.
According to a spokeswoman from VEDP, the agency never officially was given the opportunity to bid or not bid on his project.
"We did not receive enough information to respond to GreenTech's business proposal that was received in 2009," said Suzane West, the Communications Manager for VEDP. - Ryan Nobles, Richmond's NBC 12
In the context of the usual opportunities to court industry, this one demanded immediate attention from the VEDP. That is just not the way government operates unless the skids are greased. Well before McAuliffe was a player in GreenTech Automotive, Mississippi was in contention; maybe already had stolen the march. GreenTech extended Virginia a courtesy that was not returned. While Mississippi was paving the highway to Tunica, Virginia built roadblocks. There was no compelling reason or really any way for GreenTech to build a case that could overcome VEDP's criticisms of its plan. The skepticism and risk analysis were not unwarranted. But Bacon's own bottom line was appropriate:
"Let's hope that the business prospects for GreenTech will be sufficiently clear by next year that we can make an informed judgment of McAuliffe's gubernatorial timber." - James A. Bacon
There are ominous clouds on the horizon and an ill wind blows from across the Atlantic, so it is essential that the facts be made clear. If the jury is hung regarding what will be four years of policy come November, reelection is uncertain. McAuliffe's approach is essential to success.
Here is the essential difference between Terry McAuliffe's arguments and the immediate cut to the blame Bush message: it provides the broader historical and economic context necessary to convince independent voters. The message contained in the recent Obama ads is on track; it provides the background for understanding just how much this administration has accomplished. The conclusion that Republicans have twice set the economy reeling in the past 30 years doesn't require finger pointing and is a story that can be understood by the electorate.
Yes, McAuliffe does name names, but only after making his case for the successes of both Presidents Clinton and Obama. And, after pointing out that even Governor McDonnell agrees that the administration has had successes. This is the kind of message that will keep America on board. The position of strength emanates from the accomplishments and is not enhanced simply by attacking Romney or blaming Bush, no matter how much both deserve the disdain of Americans.
First, 800 pound gorilla in the room is the Junior Senator from Virginia, soon to be Senior Senator, and former "His Excellency" Mark Warner.
There is a push in the party to get Warner to return to Richmond in 2013 as the only way to reverse the party's fortunes after setbacks in 2009 and 2011. You can see my comment on this possibility here. For this diary I'll just say that until we get a clear statement from Warner one way or another I wouldn't count on the Democratic lead up to 2013 to come alive with announcements.
Next, to borrow from Lowell, "why would any sane Democrat WANT to be governor of Virginia?"
As 2011 and 2013 approach we ought to measure who we support a bit more judiciously. Democrat does not reliably equate to progressive. And some Democrats just plain fail to measure up. Though rarely does a single issue serve as a reliable litmus test, this one provides an appropriate reference point because it embodies a broader social aspect: the role of government and the relationship of wealth and its influence to governance. That Senator Saslaw (D-35th) ends up the patron of SB 606 allowing effective 250%+ interest rates and enlists Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) to do his bidding in the House is curious. No Republican to hang this one on, though it is informative that Governor McDonnell's new Commonwealth Chief Information Officer didn't eschew a little gratitude.
The industry generously reaches out to both sides of the aisle. These bills generally originate in the Commerce and Labor committees of our general assembly. The three largest payday loan industry contributors have managed to grease the palms of 12 of the 15 current committee members in the Senate (including the recent Democratic nominee for governor) and 16 of the 21 in the House. Only one Republican and seven Democrats have failed to score. The three largest contributors have spread $125,000 to the 36 members who accepted these donations. But the two committee chairmen, Saslaw [$25,437] and Delegate Kilgore (R- Lee, Scott, and parts of Washington, and Wise) [$14,075] were most highly regarded amongst peers. Senator Norment (R-3rd) [$21,869] rounds out the top three overall. By the way, Delegate Cline has received $750; a real bargain for the kind of advocacy he delivers.