Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Virginia GOP Lt. Governor's Race Heats Up

After their recent striking electoral loses in the commonwealth, Virginia Republicans were consoling themselves with the comforting notion that history is now on their side, leaving them poised for a come back. That’s because, as they’ve argued in several places, in the midterm elections, the party out of power usually picks up more seats in Congress. And in Virginia whichever party occupies the White House loses the Governor’s Mansion.

Additional comfort came from the fact that the GOP had gotten their ducks in order early and would be spared a costly and divisive nomination battle in the 2009 Virginia races, at least at the top of the ticket. Because of a gentleman’s agreement, which was worked out early, the current AG, Bob McDonnell would be the gubernatorial candidate and the present Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, would run for re-election. There would, of course, be a contest for the open AG’s seat. That couldn’t be helped, and it’s shaping up to be a three-man race. But with unity in the top two spots, the expense and fallout of a divisive party battle could be limited.

Alas, the plans of mice and men, as they say, don’t always work out. Although McDonnell is still unopposed, it seems that Bill Bolling has picked up an opponent for the Lt Governor seat. His name is Patrick Muldoon. I don’t know much about him, but since I received an emailed press release from his campaign, I’ll reprint it in full here.
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Patrick C. Muldoon, an attorney and farmer from Virginia's "fighting 9th" Congressional District, today officially announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.

Muldoon, no stranger to challenging political contests, joins Republican incumbent Bill Bolling in seeking his party's nod for the Commonwealth's second statewide office. The 43 year old specialist in intellectual property law has a message for the Republican Party.

Muldoon referenced former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater as he opened his campaign, saying: "I offer a choice not an echo"

"I am running for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia because I believe the brightest days for our Commonwealth are ahead. These are difficult times – a massive budget deficit has replaced the surplus we once enjoyed. College costs are rising and family incomes are shrinking. Local governments are raising taxes on cash-strapped families to compensate for their own budget shortfalls. And hard-working Virginians are left wondering whether the changes coming in 2009 will be better or worse for them personally."

"Republicans face a choice between business as usual and being consigned to minority status for the foreseeable future or returning to our core principles and fighting for the honest, open, limited government our fellow citizens expect."

"I grew up in rural Virginia but I work right outside our nation's Capitol. I've found that the political elites have a tendency to complicate things. I learned a few simple truths growing up: 'when you're in a hole; stop digging' At the grassroots level, Virginia Republicans know that it is time to stop digging and start changing the way we do business in Richmond."

"I understand the rough and tumble of politics. I know a convention challenge is a bit like stirring a bees' nest. But we simply cannot continue the path we are on."
"No one is entitled to a nomination. And, as the highest-ranking elected Republican in our Commonwealth, the incumbent has an unfortunate record of passivity at a time when we need forward-thinking leadership."

"For the future of the party and the good of the Commonwealth we need to regain the focus, passion and unity of purpose fostered through healthy debate. I believe in the core Republican principles of limited constitutional government, the sanctity of life, the 2nd Amendment, free enterprise and protecting our Constitutional liberties for the next generation. I am committed to advancing those principles to the best of my abilities."

"Sadly, a handful of political operatives in Richmond wish to forestall any internal discussion about the direction of the party. From the top down, they want to slate candidates based on traded favors, brokered promises, and their own career plans. This government of the insiders, by the insiders, for the insiders costs our party what it cannot afford – the trust of the voters across our beloved Commonwealth."
"The Republican creed recognizes the intrinsic benefits of competition. In education and healthcare and business, competition is the consumer's friend. Can any less be the case in American government? Now is the time for a debate across Virginia with my opponent on what it means to be a Republican and conservative. Over the next several months I look forward to this debate of the principles that are the backbone of the Republican Party."

"My life has been about bringing different aspects of what makes Virginia work together. I worked my way through college, grad school and law school as a construction worker and maintenance man. I grew up raising beef in rural Virginia. Now I help turn great ideas into reality through patent law. I'm a Republican but a Conservative first.

As Senator Barry Goldwater so memorably said in his 1964 presidential campaign, I am offering "a choice, not an echo." To my fellow Virginians, I pledge to work with all people of good faith to guide our Commonwealth through the difficult changes ahead to a prosperous future. And, I will never put personal gain ahead of the principles that unite us."

"Over the next six months, I will be traveling around the Commonwealth. I look forward to in depth discussions with local Republican volunteers who are already leading our party into a victorious 2009. I ask for your support and your renewed commitment to work for the future of shared ideals."
What's interesting about this official release is that Muldoon is harkening back to the conservative legacy of Barry Goldwater. Although the late senator from Arizona was the father of the modern conservative movement, he is not the person usually invoked by modern conservatives. They usually look to Ronald Reagan, a truly iconic figure for them, for their inspiration.

Although Goldwater excited the conservatives in the Republican Party with his 1964 presidential run, he lost badly to LBJ and was a divisive figure within the party, alienating many moderates. Back in the 60s, pundits thought he set the GOP cause back and it did it more harm than good. It wasn’t until 1980 that another conservative, one with a sunny optimism, was able to accomplish what Goldwater could not. Ronald Reagan had the magical ability to unite the disparate factions in the GOP into a winning coalition that rode into office on the coattails of his personal popularity. In that one respect, he is to the GOP what FDR was to the Democrats. To this day, he’s the one whose legacy is invoked by the most ardent conservatives.

Goldwater, on the other hand, has fallen into a bit of disfavor because his once fierce conservatism seemed almost moderate by the end of his life as his party actually drifted to his right on social issues. In fact, Goldwater was known to favor small government across the board and was pro choice.

So, I wondered if perhaps Muldoon was trying to send his party a libertarian message by harkening back to Goldwater rather than Reagan. Not so.

According to his website, he’s pro-family (code for against gay marriage) and pro life. That’s pretty much the antithesis of what Goldwater came to stand for. So, I’m left scratching my head as to why invoke him rather than Reagan, who at least was as much a hero to the social conservatives as to the libertarians in the party.

Anyway, Muldoon’s candidacy has not been met with much warmth in the party. According to The Contemporary Conservative, Bolling has lost no time mounting a counter-offensive and enlisting a long roster of prominent Republicans who support his candidacy, including McDonnell.
For bloggers and pundits, it will be an interesting race. For Republicans, it’s probably a nomination fight they would have preferred to avoid.


aznew said...

Another great post.

In a strange way, and notwithstanding Muldoon's or bolling's stances on the issues, I actually think the RPV would benefit from a contested race at every level (although that obviously will not be happening). The worst thing that the RPV did in the last few years, IMHO, was basically decide to hand their Senatorial nomination to Jim "Macbeth" Gilmore by procedural fiat, as opposed to getting their rank and file involved in a debate over the future of their party.

However it would turn out, I believe strongly in voter control. At the end of the day, denying voters their say will spell the death of a party, and I think that is what we see happening to the RPV. Jeff Frederick is not a cause. Rather, he is a symptom.

I met Jody Wagner this past weekend, and while I don't feel too strongly about our LG primary race, she reasonably impressed me. If we are smart, Democrats will come out of this primary all the stronger for fielding good candidates for governor and LG. If we snipe at one another, then the historical vicissitudes of Virginia's post-presidential election cycle will probably gain further currency.

Joel McDonald said...

During the Republican Advance, McDonnell and Bolling made a strong case, at least visually, for them being "running mates" in 2009. I'm thinking there is going to be a general level of acceptance that they are the nominees, contested or not, that will spill over to any possible primary.

Democrats are going to need to figure out how to run a good primary campaign, even while there are some strong feelings building about the candidates and issues.

The question is, how do we pick the best candidates to run against McDonnell and Bolling? And, how do we do so without tearing ourselves apart?