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Besides the Senate race involving incumbent Democrat Mark Warner, there are three contested GOP primaries involving congressional districts. Before considering the Senate race, there is a contested primary in the First District between incumbent Rob Wittman and Anthony Riedel who was a campaign activist for Ron Paul in Virginia. Ordinarily, that may be enough not to support his candidacy, but except in certain areas he, by-and-large, is espousing a conservative agenda. This district is reliably Republican and has not had a Democratic representative since 1977. It is rated +8 Republican by Cook. According to Ontheissues.org, Wittman is considered a moderate conservative while GovTrack rates him a rank-and-file and (to my usual detractors) the American Conservative Union gives him a lifetime rating of over 86, but only a 76 in the most recent legislative session. Riedel is too much of an unknown even though the Democrats have not fielded a candidate…yet. Although Wittman may not be the prototypical conservative, he is better than the other option and therefore, by default, the nod has to go to Rob Wittman.
In the 7th District, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor faces a challenge from college professor Dave Brat. If conservatives dislike Wittman, then they should like Cantor more…at least those who rely on the ACU scorecards since Cantor’s lifetime rating and recent one ranks above Wittman. Thus, if I was relying on ACU scorecards (as my detractors seem to), I should be supporting Cantor. Considering that the Democrats will be fielding token opposition in November, the primary thing that separates Brat from Cantor are their stances on immigration with Cantor leaning towards some type of comprehensive resolution. The ill-advised roll out of a Republican immigration reform package by Boehner with Cantor in the background was bad politics for 2014 and he should be held accountable. Just as I previously argued against the current GOP leadership in Congress (non-support for John Boehner or Mitch McConnell in their primaries), this writer believes the 7th District would be better served by Dave Brat.
The 11th District is currently represented by Democrat Gerry Connolly and is rated +10 Democratic by Cook. I would not rate it that high since Connolly’s general election performances have not been that stellar. As recently as 2008, this district was represented by a Republican and is considered the richest district in the country in terms of median household income. Two Republicans will fight it out for the right to challenge him in November: accountant Gerald Geddes and foreign human rights activist Suzanne Scholte. Granted, the choices here are not great especially considering this is a somewhat vulnerable Democrat. If the goal is to keep the House and perhaps add to the existing lead in seats for the GOP, perhaps the best choice here would be Suzanne Scholte. There are some items on her campaign website which should “trouble” some people. For example, there is no talk about immigration and she talks of “reforming” the ACA, not repealing it. Regardless, she is the best the district has to offer and has received the nod of the Virginia GOP in this race. Surely, there is someone out there more deserving in 2016.
Finally, the Senatorial race pitting Mark Warner- a formidable foe- against one of four possible Republicans. In all probability- mainly because of name recognition and access to a donor network- one would have to give the inside track to the former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. It is going to take a lot of money to take down Warner, a possible future higher office candidate. Warner has built up an $8 million war chest, although Gillespie’s $2 million in a short period of time is nothing to sneeze at.
In reality, Gillespie is probably a better political commentator and operative than he is a candidate for office. On the issue of immigration, there is is little daylight between him and Warner. This writer does not believe that Gillespie will emerge the winner in November. Instead, the more conservative alternative to Mark Warner is financial consultant Shak Hill who has come out fighting against Warner. Although there are some gaps in his stances on the major issues, he is clearly the more conservative alternative not only to Warner, but to Gillespie also.
The Virginia process is unpredictable and Shak Hill has tapped into some grassroots angst about Gillespie’s “establishment” status. One recent attack ad against Gillespie has led some to comment that Hill is resorting to misleading tactics in this David versus Goliath battle. Still, many conservative groups in the state are at least listening to Hill. Furthermore, many “Tea Party” groups have come out in favor of Hill arguing that the Gillespie brand, which gave us the team of Romney and Ryan in 2012 and their support of TARP, will not resonate with Republicans in Virginia. As one website noted, the Democratic back story for all of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid failures is the financial crisis and, by extension, TARP. It is what fuels the recent populism of Democrats- the big banks against the rest of us and Gillespie is not one of “us.”
Looking at the general election race as a “nothing to lose” proposition, why not field the more conservative candidate? Why not give the voters a valid choice between Warner and a conservative like Shak Hill? Why not allow the voters of Virginia to make up for the loss of Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 gubernatorial election? At the very least, Hill would be a serious thorn in the side of Warner and possibly divert some resources into Virginia, something the Democrats did not anticipate.