For Virginia Republicans, last night was Act One in a drama they hope will conclude this fall with an increase in their majority in the state House of Delegates and a pickup of the two seats they need to control the 40-member state senate. In the key contested primaries for nomination in key legislative races, the winners were, almost to a nominee, stalwart conservatives on economic as well as cultural issues.
Republican rule of both houses of the Virginia legislature would have an impact on politics nationwide, particularly with regard to the national profile of GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell. Like John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and other Republican governors whose party controls the senate and house of representatives in their respective states, McDonnell would be in an even stronger position to advance the sweeping conservative agenda he spelled out to HUMAN EVENTS earlier this year.
“I am very pleased with our Republican slate,” McDonnell told reporters after most of the primaries were decided, “Across the board, our candidates for the House of Delegates and State Senate were nominated on the message of fiscal discipline, low taxes, and private sector growth—a philosophy that is producing results and that Virginians support.”
In some of the races, the Republican nomination process set the stage for classic ideological shootouts with liberal Democrats in the fall. In the Northern Virginia-based 36th District, for example, former Delegate and State Party Chairman Jeff Frederick was a landslide winner over more moderate opponent Tito Munoz. Frederick now faces arch-liberal State Sen. Toddy Puller, widow of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Vietnam veteran Lewis Puller Jr. Frederick has long been active in the conservative movement and his wife, Amy, is the head of the Sixty Plus Seniors Association that has been in the forefront of efforts to kill the death tax.
Veteran State Delegate Dave Nutter handily won the Republican nomination in the 21st District (Roanoke) and will face veteran Sen. John Edwards this fall. In the neighboring 22nd District, Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Garrett won a tight race for the Republican nomination and will face Lynchburg Vice Mayor Bert Dodson in November. Both races are similar to the Frederick-Puller contest: Conservative stalwarts—Nutter was backed by the National Rifle Association, Garrett is a favorite of the Lynchburg Tea Party—squaring off against strong liberal Democrats.
It appeared in the newly carved 13th Senate District (Prince William-Loudon Counties) that former Delegate and Vietnam veteran Dick Black had eked out a win over Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup, with Bob FitzSimmonds trailing. All three were considered strong conservatives. The Democratic nominee is Shawn Mitchell, small business owner and Iraq veteran.
In race after race in the Old Dominion, the stage is set for a clear choice between a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican, as well as for an early “report card” from voters on the governor, who is beginning to emerge as a national political figure.
McDonnell himself seemed to acknowledge this as he told reporters last night, “I look forward to supporting and campaigning with the Republican nominees as we work toward increasing the Republican majority in the House of Delegates and winning the majority in the State Senate this fall.”