Friday, November 30, 2007

Off to the Advance!

I am heading up to Arlington for the Advance this weekend. Should be a fun and interesting weekend.

Looks like Chris Saxman will share the stage with Gilmore at the Straw Poll. Some believe he will announce that he’s running for the US Senate. That may be true, but I think there is a chance that he is using the platform as a potential Senate candidate to elevate his profile for a Statewide run in 2009 and will announce that he’s not running next year. If so, his plan has worked well.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Huckabee for President

For some time now, I have been leaning towards supporting Governor Mike Huckabee for President. Earlier this week, I sent a letter to House Speaker Bill Howell (Huckabee's Virginia campaign Chairman) officially offering my support to the Huckabee campaign. After watching the CNN/You Tube debate last night, I know I made the right decision.

Mike Huckabee is the commonsense conservative candidate our party needs. He articulately and intelligently presents his ideas. Ideas that best represent our Republican values.

There is no question that Huckabee is a conservative. He’s pro-life and pro marriage. Huckabee supports the Fair Tax, a concept I sought to have studied in Virginia. As Governor of Arkansas, he cut taxes 100 times. Huckabee is a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights. While clearly a conservative, Huckabee has also demonstrated an ability to govern and lead.

Huckabee faced tough challenges in his state--like how to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. Unlike the borrow and spend attitude in Washington, he chose the pay as you go approach. A tough decision but evidently one that had to be made.

Governor Huckabee has also demonstrated his commonsense approach to government on the issue of second hand smoke. He knows this is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s an issue that crosses party, race and economic status. He has clearly stated that this is a public health issue, echoing comments I made during my time in the Virginia Senate. The vast majority of the public also understands the dangers of second hand smoke and they want action taken to protect themselves and their families. Governor Huckabee responded by signing the Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006 and banned smoking in most public areas and restaurants.

No candidate is perfect. At times I would like to take individual qualities from each candidate running and create a kind of super candidate. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option. We will never find a candidate that agrees with us 100% of the time. The question should be are they the best representative of our party for the position they seek. I believe Mike Huckabee is that representative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Leadership in the Senate. But Does It Make A Difference?

Yesterday, Senate Republicans elected new leadership to guide the caucus in its new role as the minority party. Tommy Norment will serve as the new Minority Leader and Steve Newman will serve as the Caucus Chairman. Both of these men are good choices for the respective roles. Norment is a strategic thinker with an extensive understanding of the legislative process. Newman will be able to utilize his relationships with members of the House of Delegates to bring the two chambers together.

This new leadership team would seem to signify the end of the long standing division between the centrist and conservative wings in the Senate. This is unquestionable a good thing. I spent four years in the Senate working to unite the two factions, a task that could be incredibly frustrating. It is rewarding to see this outcome, if not also a bit disappointing to see it as my term ends.

As I said above, this development is a good thing. But lets not get too excited. This is largely a symbolic victory. The Senate is governed by the rule of 21. And the Democrats, not the Republicans, now have 21 votes. As the new majority, the Democrats will chair every Committee and control the legislative direction of the chamber. Having the majority will also enhance the Democrats ability to raise money for the 2009 elections and boost their chances of capturing the House and other statewide offices.

While Republicans have been bogged down with party infighting, the Democrats have been the model of party unity. A united minority is an easy task. A united majority, as Republicans proved, is an entirely different, and much more difficult task. Don’t be surprised to see the Democrats experiencing the same problems over the coming years.

The impact of the Democrat majority on Western Virginia has been largely ignored. But it’s significant. It is very concerning to me that not one single Senate Committee will be chaired by a Western Virginia legislator. Not one. Power in the Senate will be concentrated in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. This would not have been the case had Republicans maintained control.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anyone But Jim

With the loss of the State Senate to the Democrats, there is a lot of talk in Republican circles about what went wrong in 2007 and what steps we as a party can take to reverse our recent misfortune. Some say we need to move in a more conservative direction. Others think moderation is the answer. For me, the key to rebuilding our party is nominating conservative candidates, but those that can actually win!

The 2008 US Senate race will be critical for the Republican Party in Virginia. We know that Mark Warner will most likely be the Democratic nominee. Warner is immensely popular and will be very difficult for any Republican to beat. However, if we learned nothing else from George Allen's loss in 2006, it's that there is no "sure thing". Mark Warner is beatable. We just need the right candidate.

With Tom Davis declining to run, former Governor Jim Gilmore is the only Republican officially in the race. And Jim Gilmore is not the candidate that can beat Mark Warner. Early polls have Mark Warner up by 20 points. Granted, those margins will shrink as time goes by, but Gilmore will definitely lose this election and the Democrats will capture their second US Senate seat in as many years.

Gilmore's unfavorable rating is much higher than his favorable. Virginia voters know Jim Gilmore and many of them won't even consider him as a candidate. You simply cannot win with such high disapproval ratings.

I would also predict that Gilmore cannot count on carrying Western Virginia--a part of the State any Republican candidate must win. The reason? The Car Tax State spending program. Most in Western Virginia believe the car tax program was a giveaway to Northern Virginia and they hold Jim Gilmore responsible.

So, if Gilmore is not the right candidate, you are probably asking who is. Delegate Chris Saxman has shown some interest in running. I served with Delegate Saxman in the General Assembly and found him to be a thoughtful, capable legislator. He certainly has solid conservative credentials. If this is the only choice, I would support Saxman over Gilmore.

I would personally like to see Lt Governor Bill Bolling throw his hat in the ring. Having served with Bolling in the Senate, I have first hand knowledge of his grasp on the important issues and his dedication to our Commonwealth. Bolling has won a statewide campaign and understands the challenges facing each region of our state. He has acknowledged that we must re-tool our message in Northern Virginia. Despite what some Republicans may think, Bolling knows that we simply cannot write off this vote-rich area and expect to win. And unlike Gilmore, Bolling could count on the Republican base in Western Virginia. Bolling can run hard for this Senate seat with little risk. If unsuccessful, he still has the opportunity to run for re-election in 2009. Running for re-election also allows him to avoid a three way race for Governor with fellow Republicans Allen and McDonnell.