Most of my blogging centers around Virginia, notably Northern Virginia where I live so I have a pretty good grasp of the potential candidates and what makes them tick. There is a large field of potential candidates, and most of them are very good candidates. I will try and present this as best as I can, but I do have my biases. Something to remember when thinking about internal politics in the GOP – the “establishment” cannot always be defined as being squishy or moderate, as many are just as conservative as any tea party. Its more about status and time-served in the party. Its a strange world not as easily defined as other states with a more easier map to navigate.
The Front-Runner: Former Gov. and Sen. George Allen
Allen is literally the godfather of the modern Republican Party in Virginia. His election as governor 1993 was the epicenter of the the eventual takeover of the state by The GOP. He was a wildly popular governor and helped recruit and nurture many young delegate and state senate candidates who have gone on to bigger and better things (most notably Gov. Bob McDonnell who came into the House of Delegates in 93, and Lt. Govenror Bill Bolling whom Allen helped recruit for the state senate in 1995). Allen is beloved by many in the states most active circles. He will have the name recognition, the money, and the institutional support of the GOP insiders. Many have been toiling away in Republican politics since the 70s and 80s and Allen’s win still reverberates with them from 1993.
He, of course, comes with serious baggage. While he was a wildly successful governor, his tenure in the Senate was defined mostly by a desire to run for president rather than anything substantial. He loaded his reelection team with national Republicans like Mary Matalin and Ed Gillespie. But then “maccaca” happened and Allen basically was branded as a racist, and in the toxic atmosphere of 2006, he lost a razor-thin election to Sen. Jim Webb. But “macacca” exposed something else about Allen. He remains a man enamored with a Virginia that really doesn’t exist anymore. He embraced a cowboy image, with a chaw in his mouth and boots on his feet, he speaks with heavy football analogies that border on silly sometimes, and he’s not really someone who’s new to the state understands. Virginia Republicans won in 2009 by winning the Northern Virginia (NOVA)-Richmond-Hampton Roads axis. All three statewide candidates represented these areas with McDonnell from Hampton Roads, Bolling from Richmond, and Ken Cuccinelli from Northern Virginia. While many activists love and respect Allen, these areas have a high population turnover rate and Allen might have a hard time connecting with these voters. There is a serious strain in the commonwealth that a conservative with the right message could use to beat Allen. He also represents the Republican era of 2000-2006 that has been damned by Tea Party and newer conservative activists. I am against Allen in this election . . . I feel his time has past and there are more proven conservative candidates without his substantial baggage.
The Iconoclast: Delegate Bob Marshall
Bob Marshall has carved out his own world in his tiny corner of Prince William County in Northern Virginia that he has represented in the House of Delegates since 1993. He’s an interesting guy with an interesting story. An arch social conservative, his sister is a Hollywood actress. For years, Marshall was considered something of a crack-pot, a one-man crank in the House of Delegates willing to say no on principle no matter who he upsets. He’s equal parts Ron Paul and Pat Robertson. He first entered statewide politics in 2006 when he co-sponsored and lead the fight for the Marshall-Newman Amendment that defined marriage in Virginia as between a man and a women. In 2007, when the GOP was desperate for a victory on transportation passed a bill that created unelected regional commissions with the power to tax. It was held by many GOP leaders as a breakthrough that would allow Republicans to run on. It also contained traffic abuser fees that went into the thousands of dollars for basic traffic offenses. Marshall immediatly sued, arguing it was unconstitutional. The state supreme court agreed with Marshall and invalidated the law. In 2008, upset that Jim GIlmore wasn’t suffeciently pro-life (he was okay with 1st trimester abortion), he made a quixotic run for the US Senate, and he almost pulled off the upset. Since then, he has taken on Gov. McDonnell for borrowing against the state pension fund and the use of fees to balance the budget. He is working on another amendment that would ban the practice of insert fees to as shadow tax increases. He sponsored Virginia’s law that outlawed a health care mandate, the law that is the basis of Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against Obamacare. He’s almost been the catalyst for many of Cuccinelli’s decisions, being the member that requests such papers. He might be the most conservative member of the House of Delegates, a person who is loved by pro-lifers, home school advocates powerful within the party, limited government interests, Tea Partiers, and Campaign for Liberty types. Yet he is constantly endorsed by the Sierra Club for his anti-developer stances in his district. He has a compelling life-story with some serious highes and serious lows (his son died in a car accident). He’s a serious man who is driven strictly by a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and he doesn’t care which party is in his way when he thins he is right.
But he’s not without his flaws. Marshall can be awkward in public, he’s not a polished orator nor is does he seem comfortable with the attention on him Hidden away nicely in the House of Delegates, Marshall has made his mark mostly behind the bigger names like Cuccinelli and others. In his race against Jim Gilmore in 2008, he wasn’t as good of a glad-hander. Marshall wants to talk about the things he feels are important, and he lacks the back-slapping nature of more polished pols. He also is notorious for not being able to raise money. He could have taken Gilmore at the 2008 convention had he raised some serious money and built an organization to get the folks there. He is also a divisive social conservative who is outspoken in his views. He made news last year by seeming to insinuate that disable kids were God’s punishment for abortion. Its NOT what he was saying, but the left and the media grabbed ahold of it (his point was that abortion can have lasting effects that can hurt future pregnancies). He has a bit of a gadfly reputation – part brilliant constitutional thinking, party crazy uncle at Christmas. Marshall is a man I highly respect, and think he would be one of the most conservative senators if elected, but he needs to prove he can put together the political nuts and bolts the match his admirable principles.
The Up-Start: Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart
Stewart is a new face and rising star in the party. He runs Prince William County in Northern Virginia that has a population close to 400,000 and growing. He was a local supervisor before becoming chairman. His signature issue has been illegal immigration. PWC had a serious problem and Stewart enacted a program called the Rule of Law Resolution that made it mandatory that local police check the immigration status of people arrested and turn them over to ICE. Local Democrats, liberals, and some squishy Republicans worried that Prince William would become a county of hate. Stewart argue that the big crime and gang problem necessitated this, and it has worked. Crime is down and Stewart was overwhelmingly reelected as Chairman in 2007. Stewart has proven he can take the heat, as the Washington Post has continually lambasted him, even comparing him to a third-world dictator. He is young and very charismatic. He is also willing to throw some elbows, having already gone on local television calling Allen a “mediocre senator.” In 2008 Stewart jumped into what was an open lieutenant governor’s race, but dropped out when incumbent Bill Bolling announced he would run for reelection in 2009 instead of challenging then AG McDonnell for the nomination. Since then, Stewart has initiated what he calls the Rule of Law Campaign, a statewide drive to enact Arizona’s immigration law in Virginia. Its also Stewart’s vehicle to go around the commonwealth and spreading his name around. It has gotten him on Fox News and CNN, among other national outlets. He also made local news by leading an effort on the Board of Supervisors to refuse Obama stimulus money to hire teachers, because the funds were one-time only and would force the county to pay for it in the following years. His past background is as an international trade lawyer with a degree from Georgetown in foreign service.
Stewart best resembles many of the young Tea Party candidates like Mike Lee and Marco Rubio that took down incumbent or establishment backed candidates. It remains to be seen if he can swim in these waters, having never experienced this kind of campaign and media scrutiny before. Will he be a Lee or Rubio and thrive, or will he be a Buck or Miller and have his focus blurred by the bright lights of the big leagues. He’s an untested talent looking to leapfrog over a whole lot of people that might not like it. He also might be chewing from the same steak as Marshall, as both are from Prince William County and both are looking to win with conservatives. But Stewart is looking to run as the next generation, as a Cuccinelli-style new conservative with no ties to the Big Government Bush Republicanism of the 2000s. He’s already talking about Allen’s time having passed, and is positioning himself not only as more conservative, but as a different generation looking to win on the backs of not only the Tea Party but new conservatives who look to folks like Ken Cuccinelli as their hero.
The Tea Partier: Jamie Radtke
Putting a potential wrench in the plans of both Marshall and Stewart is the rumors floating around that Jamie Radtke will run for the Senate. Radtke is the outgoing chairwomen of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, and effective organization out of Richmond that put together a fall convention that had almost 3,000 people show up. She cut her teeth in the 1990s serving on the Senate Foreign Relations staff under Jesse Helms and has worked in conservative grassroots politics for years. She was thought to run for the state senate this year, but it seems her focus has shifted.
The problem is I’m not sure how successful the Tea Party was in Virginia. Of the four contested races by Republican challengers, only Keith Fimian in the 11th won with Tea Party support. In the 5th and 2nd, the couldn’t get together on a single candidate and allowed establishment-backed candidates Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell to win the nominations. Part of the problem also is that Virginia’s state party has been historically very conservative, so its a state party that really is fertile for a Tea Party revolt across the state. The Tea Party Patriots flexed some muscle with their convention, but I’m not sure how much that will account for electoral success in the state.
The Dark-Horse: Bert Mizusawa
Mizusawa ran in the crowded 2nd district primary, losing to Scott Rigell. But Mizusawa came out of nowhere and his personal story and campaign enamored him to many voters, even those who didn’t vote for him. He’s currently a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves, owns a law degree from Harvard, and was a small business owner. He does not have any political elections other than the 2nd district primary, but has a sterling military record and a good disposition that could create a very compelling candidate. He’s a serious man who has served for years and earned awards including the bronze star, silver star, and legion of merit. He also served as a congressional staffer in the 1990s. I don’t know much else about Mizusawa because he’s from Virginia Beach and that’s not an area I know as well. But he is a serious candidate with an impressive background of service to his country and could look very attractive if Republicans get tired of professional politicians attacking each other.
So hopefully this helps RedState World in looking at the upcoming Virginia race to either defeat or replace Jim Webb. I am a Corey Stewart man right now, just for full disclosure though Bob Marshall is someone I have immense respect for.