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Choosing the GOP Candidates

This Saturday Virginia Republicans are going to meet in convention to select their candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. The top of the ticket. That’s easy. It’s uncontested and Ken Cucinelli will be nominated and chosen to lead the Republicans in the fall.
However, the downticket races are a wide open field. There are two candidates for Attorney General and an unprecedented number, seven in all, running for Lt. Governor. Most of us tend to pay attention to the top of the ticket, but we don’t tend to be as interested in the other statewide races. But, we should. For instance, not only is the Attorney General the top judicial officer, the Lt. Governor, in a State Senate split right down the middle, has become the deciding vote on many of the most fundamental issues facing the state.

The Lt. Governor’s race has been the most interesting and yes, also the most confusing. With seven candidates, many of them well funded and with extensive records in the legislature and local government, it’s hard to tell who is on top. There are few indicators, but, while some offer a hint as to which way GOP delegates might be leaning, they’re not hard and fast indicators.

For instance, one of the state’s leading tea party organizations endorsed Corey Stewart. All the candidates wanted that endorsement and Stewart is justified in crowing about it. But, think about it, the Tea Party activists relish their lack of organization and central direction. It’s hard to imagine any of them doing what any organization tells them to do.

Candidates in this field include Steve Martin, a well known state senator who, back in 2000, almost defeated Eric Cantor for the GOP nomination in the 7th district, E.W. Jackson, the ultimate longshot, though one of the most intriguing candidates in the race, Prince William Delegate Scot Lingamfelter, conservative activist Peter Snyder and former State Senator Jeannemarie Davis.

Several have large followings. But will that translate into the nomination? Not necessarily. One candidate who seems to have a certain amount of “umph,” in spite being underfunded, and not nearly as well known outside her county as others vying for the nomination, is Susan Stimpson of Stafford. By several accounts, she has the most delegates going in. And that’s saying something.

How did she do this? Mostly through some highly effective  grassroots organizing. She doesn’t have a lot of money, but she has a motivated network of conservative supporters and by using some highly effective internet campaigning has tapped into the insurgent chords of the Virginia GOPs Tea Party base.

The challenge for Stimpson on Saturday will be getting past the first ballot. She has to remain viable well into the nomination process. And there will be several ballots. However, this year’s convention has a distinctly anti-establishment tone to it and Stimpson, who has carefully cultivated her outsider credentials, may be much better positioned to survive to the final balloting than anyone else. I guardidly put my money on the lady from Stafford.

No Democrat has been elected Attorney General since Mary Sue Terry won in 1985. This makes the GOP nomination a valued prize. The two candidates vying for the GOP bid are State Senator Richard Obenshein and Delegate Bob Bell. This fight, unlike the melee quality that defines the race for Lieutenant Governor, is probably already decided. The Obenshein name is one of the most honored in Republican politics. Senator Obenshein’s father was the state GOP chairman who ushered in the era of the new right and Reagan Republicanism in Virginia. Sadly, after winning the U.S. Senate nomination in 1978 he was killed in a plane crash. But, his name lived on. His daughter was Chairman of the party for a time and his son, Senator Obenshein seems to have much of the same conservative fire his father did so many years ago.

The Democratic field is no less interesting, but their choices won’t be decided until a primary in June. At which point it will be far easier to get a feel on how things will look in the fall. In the meantime, the upcoming convention, which is far more dominated by grassroots conservatives than it has been in the past, will be colorful, intense, and will to a large degree set the direction for the GOP campaign in the fall.

You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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