Why I would support Susan Stimpson against Bill Howell

November 12, 2014

There are whispers up in Stafford that former Board Chairman Susan Stimpson is considering a primary challenge against Speaker Bill Howell. At present, that might seem odd, but by Primary Day her victory (if it comes) could very well be the best news Republicans have.

As Board Chairman and Member, Stimpson built a record that earned my endorsement for Lieutenant Governor in 2013 (details here). That race was run in the shadow of Bob McDonnell’s transportation tax hike (or, as I’ve called it, Plan ’13 From Outer Space), and it is that tax hike that has led me to hope Susan runs and wins…but not for the reasons most think.

Contrary to what many believe, the argument over that tax hike isn’t quite over, in part because the tax hike itself hasn’t been fully implemented. Given the latest from Mr. Leahy, we can be pretty certain that the wholesale tax on gasoline will increase this January. Given the near complete lack of price elasticity for gasoline below $4/gallon (above that price and it’s a very different story), that means gas prices will jump in January as Republicans argue amongst themselves about whom to blame for it (the leadership of the General Assembly or the leadership in the House of Representatives).

In other words, 2015 will dawn to see Republicans arguing amongst themselves and trying to deflect blame for yet another tax increase…and voters in “off-off-year” elections have been very cruel to tax-hiking Republicans. In 2007, voters reacted to the Republican-drafted HB3202 by handing the State Senate to the Democrats and cutting the GOP’s House majority in half. Four years later, most of Virginia simply went status quo – except for Spotsylvania County, which turfed three incumbent Supervisors in the midst of a local tax revolt, padded up a huge margin for Bryce Reeves in the process, and thus flipped the State Senate practically by itself.

How will these voters – the most continuous, and thus the most knowledgeable, of the electorate – react to another Republican tax increase? To ask the question is to answer it…unless Republicans themselves show they’ve gotten the message. In other words, if Bill Howell doesn’t retire on his own, Republicans in eastern Stafford will have to do it for him.

That may sound ruthless, in no small part because it is. I’ve crossed swords with Howell in the past; that didn’t stop me from noticing when he steered his caucus away from a tax hike in the summer of 2008. I also think his effort to stop Medicaid expansion is underestimated.

However, the Senate majority is at stake again, and we can’t risk voter anger over the last phase of Plan ’13 From Outer Space. Susan Stimpson would be an excellent Delegate, and her nomination would show Virginia voters that the Republican Party is ready to move on from its recent tax-hiking past.

That’s how I see it.

Tax issue helped Republicans expand the wave election (too bad Virginia Republicans took it away from Gillespie)

November 5, 2014

Disaffection with the president was a major driver for Republican success in last night’s election – of that there is no doubt. That said, the extent of success was greatly helped by…wait for it…taxes.

We begin with the epicenter of the tax argument: Kansas. Governor Sam Brownback’s tax reduction were supposed to be his own worst enemy – a political millstone that might not only drag him down, but Senator Pat Roberts, too. Instead, Roberts won going away, and Brownback not only won re-election, but came within 100 votes of an absolute majority (a Libertarian nominee took 4% of the vote). AP (via the Lawrence Journal-World), explains why in their exit poll analysis:

TAX CUTS: Roughly half of the voters said that tax cuts Brownback pushed had mostly helped Kansas, while about two in five said they had hurt.

So the tax cuts broke roughly 10 ten points in Brownback’s favor, contrary to the conventional wisdom…not that this is any surprise to me.

In the rest of the country, the tax issue popped up in referenda. John Hood (NRO – The Corner) has the details:

It’s worth noting also that conservatives won all of the nation’s big fiscal-policy referenda this year, beating a gas-tax hike in Massachusetts and business-tax hike in Nevada, while winning tax limitations in Tennessee, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

Note the states listed: Massachusetts also elected a Republican Governor. In Georgia, both Republicans (Purdue for Senate and Governor Deal for re-election) managed to avoid runoff and win outright (yet another “surprise” for the chattering classes). Finally, of course, Wisconsin re-elected Governor Scott Walker with unexpected ease.

Finally, there is Maryland, where I must spend two nights a week for work. As such, I saw every add Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown (D) put up in his race to succeed his previous running mate, Governor Martin O’Malley. Brown’s ads ran the gamut of positive and negative, hard-hitting issue ads and soft-touch personal ones. By contrast, I only saw one ad for Republican Larry Hogan – an ad that tried to squeeze in all of O’Malley’s tax increases in 30 seconds (practically one per second), along with a promise to give taxpayers a rest if he (Hogan) won.

In fact, Hogan did win.

Similarly, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn used major tax increases to keep his state government afloat. Despite being in the president’s home state, Quinn lost to Republican Bruce Rauner last night.

Again, anger and disaffection with the president was the big driver here, but voters especially rewarded Republicans where they could also take advantage of the tax issue…

…which makes one wonder what could have happened in Virginia had Republican Ed Gillespie not had the headwinds of tax-hiking Republican Bob McDonnell to face.

I’m just sayin’.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Why I am voting Republican tomorrow

November 3, 2014

Tomorrow is Election Day, 2014. It will be my first federal election in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District (I was in the 1st in 2012). As will likely surprise no one who read me regularly, I will be voting for the Republican nominees for Senate and Representative – Ed Gillespie and Randy Forbes.

I am voting (and volunteering) for the Republicans because the Republican Party remains the most viable vehicle for advancing economic liberty at home and American interests abroad. The minor parties are too small and unserious; independents are generally unaccountable; and the Democrats are – well, the Democrats. The Republicans aren’t perfect by any means, but they remain the best on offer.

As it happens, I will be voting in one competitive election (the increasingly exciting Senate race) and one non-competitive election (Congressman Forbes is a heavy favorite to win re-election), yet I consider both important. Obviously, in a competitive election, my vote could help determine who wins, and Republican Gillespie is far superior to incumbent Democrat Mark Warner. However, voting Republican in non-competitive elections matters, too. Should Forbes win with only 55%, for example, he will likely get more attention from the Democrats in 2016. He will have to expend resources (including national resources that could be used elsewhere) to defend his seat. He could garner an opponent who could even beat him in a bad Republican year. By contrast, if Forbes wins with 65% or more, all of the above begin to fade from view. I certainly can’t move the needle 10 points all by myself, but I can move the needle in that direction.

This is how every vote counts – even in the races that seem to be foregone conclusions. A Republican earning a larger margin of victory is a Republican who has more political capital to defend our interests abroad and economic freedom at home. A Democrat with a smaller margin of victory is put on notice, and less likely to ignore the growing Republican vote in his or her district or state. It is with this in mind that I choose the Republican nominees in both races.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

The Most Important Midterm Elections in American History: #2 – Virginia US Senate election, 2006

October 16, 2014

Midterm elections that have a dramatic impact in American History are rare, and it should be no surprise that a majority of them (including #1) are from the very tumultuous 1850s. However, the 21st Century does have one that scrambled both political parties at once – and it happened be right here in Virginia: the Allen-Webb race of 2006.

The importance of the race in the moment was well known: as the last winner to be declared that year, Jim Webb provide the Democrats with the 51st vote they needed to control the U.S. Senate; they haven’t relinquished it since. Still, that would not be enough to make this list – let alone nearly top it.

What makes Webb’s victory over Allen so important was the effect on the 2008 presidential election…and beyond.

We’ll start with the winner. Webb’s victory (and the Democrats’ subsequent Senate majority) shifted the political center of gravity both in Washington and within the Democrats themselves. They became bolder, more willing to take a risk and swing for the fences. That led them to be far more dovish on the liberation of Iraq than they might have been with just the House, and it led them away from Hillary Clinton and toward Barack Obama. A Republican-controlled Senate, by contrast, would have made Democrats more cautious – and even a little more would have been enough to reverse the outcome of the nomination contest. We will never know how much differently things would have turned out with Hillary Clinton as the nominee (divisions within the Democrats; a potential Clinton-Obama ticket, etc.), but clearly, recent history would be very different.

Strangely enough, this may even be more true on the Republican side. Before Allen lost, he was considered a leading presidential candidate – and the most likely choice of the Republican leadership. His defeat sent the “establishment primary” into complete chaos; one could even argue that the establishment remained divided on its choice until the rest of the party chose John McCain for them. Moreover, given that Allen had very good ties to the conservative wing of the party in 2006, he was likely to be nominated.

Thus, instead of a McCain-Obama race, we likely would have Allen-Clinton instead, which would have meant dramatic departures from the current narrative. If Allen had lost, no one in the party would be safe from taking responsibility for it. Much of the arguments within the Republican Party are fueled in part by the assumption of many conservatives and insurgents that the moderates “had their chance” with McCain and Romney. Leaving aside the wisdom of that assumption, it could not survive an Allen defeat.

This, of course, assumes Allen would have lost to Clinton. If he hadn’t…

Thus did the Allen-Webb race of 2006 become one of only two midterm elections that had immediate impact in both parties’ presidential nominations. That puts it on this list, and the fact that the election impacted was 2008 (the first African-American president elected) rather than 1856 moves this election to number 2…

…but not number 1.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

Bob McDonnell is a WHAT?!?!?!

September 5, 2014

Reactions to the Bob McDonnell verdict our pouring in, and there’s one in particular (from many of his defenders) that I find completely flabbergasting.

The ex-Governor’s defenders are calling him a “man of integrity.” My jaw hits the table each time I see that.

Folks, Bob McDonnell spent all of 2009 insisting he would not raise taxes. He blasted his opponent (Creigh Deeds) for even considering it, and rode the issue to a landslide win in November of that year.

In the last year of his term (as it happens, last year) he broke that promise in spectacular fashion, ramming through the largest tax increase in at least 40 years.

Even then, he skirted the truth. He insisted the tax hike was for relieving commuter congestion, but in fact his top priority was actually a parallel road to US 460 that wasn’t needed for traffic relief – and which the Army Corps of Engineers said he couldn’t build anyway (Bacon’s Rebellion).

So please, spare me the “man of integrity” nonsense. If you want to complain about the federal decision to prosecute McDonnell (as opposed to other Virginians) or the bizarre nature of the “honest service fraud” statute, that’s one thing.

But Bob McDonnell was no angel.

Dear Virginia Senate Republican Majority: Don’t mess it up again with another tax hike

August 20, 2014

With Ben Chafin’s election, it is now official. After seven months, the Republicans have a majority in the Virginia Senate once more. As one would expect, a number of my friends are crowing.

Unfortunately for me, recent political history is screaming in my ears. It makes my optimism about a fully Republican-controlled Virginia legislature extremely cautious.

For those unaware, the Republican Party first had a State Senate “majority” in 1998 (although the 21st vote was actually the Lieutenant Governor); they held it for ten years. This is the record of that decade…

  • Holding up budget amendments in an attempt to reverse the progress of the Gilmore car-tax cut (2001)
  • A referendum in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia for tax increases (2002 – thankfully rejected by the voters)
  • A proposed tax increase that was twice what Mark Warner wanted (2004)
  • A proposed gas tax increase (2006)
  • A proposed statewide tax increase in response to the HB3202 debacle (2007)
  • Enacting HB3202 anyway (2007)

Somehow, the party was shocked – shocked! – when voters showed them the door and returned the State Senate to the Democrats in November 2007 (on a night when those without a tax-stained record did quite well, thank you very much).

Four years later, after Governor Bob McDonnell won a landslide victory by promising not to raise taxes, the GOP managed another 20-20 split. Once again, the Lieutenant Governor give them control…and within a fifteen months, the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a McDonnell-proposed tax hike (known in this corner as Plan ’13 From Outer Space). The nominee to replace McDonnell – Ken Cuccinelli – tried to defend and oppose it at the same time.

Somehow, the party was shocked – shocked! – when voters showed the 2013 GOP ticket the door, which also put the State Senate back into the hands of the Democrats in January.

Now, Republicans have the 21st vote once more.

I sincerely hope that the party has learned its lesson…and not f*ck it up with yet another tax hike that reminds the voters why  they took power away from it, repeatedly.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Did T-Mac just hand northern Arlington to the Republicans?

July 14, 2014

For obvious reasons, the more watched of the two special elections to take place on the 19th of August will be the State Senate election in Southwest Virginia. Control of the State Senate depends upon that outcome. However, the other race – for a House of Delegate seat in northern Arlington and (mostly) McLean – could provide an upset, thanks in no small part to Governor McAuliffe himself.

Late last week, the Guv decided to offer a financial lifeline to the problematic (and very controversial) Arlington trolley (Washington Post):

Virginia will increase state funding for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project by up to $65 million, the state transportation chief told officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties this week, allowing the streetcar line to be built at least a year faster and without federal funds.

Reaction to this has largely agreed with Norm Leahy‘s: “A less charitable view would say that the Governor’s office has done a solid for its folks in Arlington…” Except it’s not that simple.

The Columbia Pike trolley was a symbol of government incompetence and arrogance when John Vihstadt used it to break the Democrats’ monopoly on the County Board in last spring’s special election, and just in case anyone thought the issue had died down…(back to the WaPo):

Vihstadt said the state rushed to respond to the funding request that Fisette and Bulova made a month ago. “Had the Commonwealth done its homework, it would have learned that a modified form of bus rapid transit could be implemented much more cheaply, more quickly, with greater regional connectivity,” Vihstadt said in a statement.


So how would this impact the 48th District special election? Well, for starters, the trolley would parallel Columbia Pike, which runs through southern Arlington. The 48th, by contrast, is anchored in northern Arlington, which would suffer the costs of the trolley without the benefits. Lest you, dear reader, think I’m reading too much into this, I went through the election data from the April special election, and found the following.

  • Overall results: Vihstadt (I, R-endorsed) 57%, Howze (D) 41%
  • Precincts in 48th District: Vihstadt 65%, Howze 35%

In fact, Vihstadt’s advantage in the 48th was nearly triple that outside it (55%-43%).

Meanwhile, Republican nominee David Foster “said his first order of business if elected would be to introduce legislation allowing voters in Arlington to hold a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project” (Inside Nova).

In other words, Governor T-Mac just dumped $65 million worth of fuel on a fire that has already burned local Democrats, and that Foster is making a key issue in the campaign.

Keep a close eye on northern Arlington, folks.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


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