When your state is known as the “Mother of Presidents”, and home to Yorktown, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Appomattox, and the first permanent English settlement in America, you don’t toss around the saying “we made history” too lightly.
But, my friends, I am pleased to say that is exactly what the Commonwealth of Virginia did Tuesday. We Made History.
With their votes yesterday, Virginians gave Republicans working majorities in both chambers of our state legislature. In the House of Delegates we now have 67 Republican delegates, the most in Virginia history. We won 13 of 14 open seats and defeated two Democratic incumbents. In the Senate we gained two seats, moving the body to 20-20 and placing it in Republican control with GOP Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling holding the tie breaking vote. We won 3 of 5 open seats and defeated two Democratic incumbents. All of this means that this upcoming session will be only the second time since Reconstruction ended, 141 years ago, that the GOP will control Virginia’s Executive Mansion, State Senate and House of Delegates at the same time. The only other time this occurred was during a brief two-year period from 1999-2001. That’s right, since 1870, Republicans have controlled the executive and legislative branches of Virginia government for all of 1.4% of the time.
In politics change can come quickly. In our case, quickly doesn’t begin to do this turn around justice.
In 2008 the Old Dominion voted for President Barack Obama by 7 points. After that election, our congressional delegation stood at 6 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Both of our United States Senators were Democrats. The Governor was a Democrat and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The State Senate was under Democrat control. It appeared, as many Democrats happily opined, that Virginia had “turned blue.”
After tonight, it’s a whole different story.
Conservative Republicans now serve as Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. The congressional delegation is made up of 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats. We now hold the majority in both the State Senate and the House. One of our two Democratic United States Senators has chosen not to run for re-election, and there is a fiercely competitive election taking shape for that seat.
In 2 short years, from 2009 to 2011, conservative candidates have won contested elections in every region of the Commonwealth. In no other place in America has the political sea change been so dramatic in such a short period of time. That said, all this change has come in a very "Virginia" way. In Richmond we have avoided the poisonous rhetoric and vitriol that seems to plague our neighbors to the North in Washington. Don't get me wrong, we've had plenty of debate and discussion, but it has occurred in a respectful manner and our debates have been solved the way of Founding Fathers intended: peacefully, orderly and at the ballot box.
Virginia’s path from blue to red was achieved through results, not rhetoric. It has occurred thanks to the strength of our ideas, the commitment to our principles and our laser-like focus on getting real results for the citizens of the Commonwealth. What I call “Results Oriented Conservatism” is working in a diverse, growing and politically pivotal state.
This is our Virginia Story.
When we took office the unemployment rate stood at 7.2% and the Commonwealth faced a combined $6 billion in budget shortfalls. My predecessor, Democratic Governor Tim Kaine, left a proposed $2.2 billion tax hike to “help” close the gap. That was the “welcome basket” waiting for us. Collectively, we faced a crucial moment in the life of our state. How would we address a down economy and a budget crisis?
We saw Washington’s approach to those issues on the national level. It came in the form of greater government spending, more regulation, class warfare, regular attacks on job creators and a general belief that growing government would fix a shrinking economy. In the Commonwealth, we chose a very different way forward.
Here in Richmond we didn’t raise taxes and we didn’t grow government. Instead, we defeated Tim Kaine's tax hike and reduced state spending to 2006 levels. At the same time, we invested in transportation, higher education and economic development. We didn’t buy in to the mistaken belief that you can’t prioritize in government. You can. That is how we reduced spending by billions of dollars, rolling back the budget clock five years, while at the same time putting the most new funding into transportation in a generation and making college more affordable and accessible for our students. In both transportation and education, we knew we needed to bet on and invest in our own future.
The results of these two very different approaches are striking.
In Washington, the national unemployment rate stands at 9 percent, and has been at or above 8 percent for 31 straight months. The national debt has ballooned to nearly $15 trillion. Consumer confidence is down. Gridlock the norm.
In Virginia, our unemployment rate is down to 6.5 percent, third lowest east of the Mississippi and lowest in the Southeast. We turned $6 billion in budget shortfalls into two straight budget surpluses totaling nearly $1 billion. We’ve put the most new funding into transportation since 1986, while setting state spending levels back years at the same time.
Conservative principles of making government live within its means, trusting the private sector, focusing on the core functions of government, getting government out of areas where it doesn’t belong, reducing regulation and litigation and trusting free people to make their own decisions are working here. Voters are responding favorably. And these same principles can win on the campaign trail from Columbus to Denver, and work in the halls of government in Washington D.C.
In 2008, then candidate Barack Obama, at his final campaign rally of the race in Prince William County, said “It starts here in Virginia. It starts here in Manassas. This is where change begins.” Well I think the President is still right. I know the positive changes that will grow our economy and get our citizens back to work are underway here in Virginia. I know that our track record of demonstrating how conservative principles and ideas can improve the lives of our fellow citizens and get results on the issues that matter to them can be a blueprint for how Republicans can win back Washington D.C. And I know that we won’t win back the White House without winning back Virginia in 2012. If we are going to change America, it still must start here in Virginia. And it has.
We made history yesterday. Now, we are going to build the future with our efforts in the months ahead. Republican leadership is going to keep working to get Virginians back to work. Our focus will remain what it has always been: helping more of our citizens access the American Dream, assisting private sector job creators where government can do so effectively, and getting government out of their way when it cannot. We will demonstrate that utilizing conservative principles and ideas is the best way by which we can grow the economy, unleash the innovation and dynamism of our citizens, and get Americans back to work.
I welcome you to follow our work in the months and years ahead. “Results Oriented Conservatism” is producing real and tangible results in Virginia. It is demonstrating a better way forward for our nation. And I know this is just the beginning of what we can accomplish here and all across this great nation.