GOP Candidates Compete To Oppose Democratic Incumbents
RTD's Jeff Schapiro analyzes Congressional primary contests and the week's other state political news.
Schapiro: Hi there Wayne.
Hi, Jeff. Now we got you. Governor McDonnell’s Government Reform Commission meets, I believe, for the first time today?
Schapiro: Yes, this is the latest effort by the latest Virginia Governor to reduce the size, scope and cost of Virginia government. It’s largely made up of business people, and I would underscore that because one of the things that Bob McDonnell wants to do is turn a lot of the functions of government over to business. And to some degree this has a cast a spotlight on the head of this commission, Fred Malek -- he’s a minor figure from the Nixon era, who’s been involved in some controversies. He was the so-called Jew counter and there’s been a lot of talk about that and whether he is appropriate as the head of such an undertaking. But Malek, of course, is a very successful business person and perhaps he’ll be keeping his eyes and ears open for opportunities for business as this downsizing effort progresses. Maybe that’s been lost in some of the controversy over his selection as head of the Commission. And, by the way, it was the Governor who said on the radio about a week or so ago that all of this untoward news about his pick to head the Commission as news to him.
Well, one of the privatization issues might involve selling off the state-owned liquor stores.
Schapiro: Virginia is one of 18 states and one county, that’s Montgomery County, Maryland, that control the sale of whiskey. Bob McDonnell feels strongly about getting Virginia out of this odd form of socialism, let the free-market take care of it. But it’s turning out to be a fairly complex undertaking. And there have been a series of private meetings with senior members of the administration and representatives of the alcohol industry, and its various ancillary branches, trying to work up some template, if you will, under which Virginia would move from a control state to what’s known as an open state. The Governor thinks that this could generate a lot of money, must of it he’d like to use for transportation. There are a lot of doubters, particularly on the Democratic side of the legislature, particularly in the Senate, where the Democrats are still in command.
We have, oh, about three minutes to go. Next Tuesday is congressional primary day in Virginia and in some districts there are spirited races, primarily on the GOP side, in districts now represented by Democratic incumbents.
Schapiro: Correct. South of here, actually west and south of here in the 5th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Tom Perriello, and east and south of here, the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Glenn Nye. These guys won these seats two years ago in upsets, largely on the Obama coattails. And Republicans want these seats back, but they seem to be stumbling over themselves there are so many candidates who are interested in these nominations. In the 5th, Robert Hurt, a State Senator from Pittsylvania County, seems to be favored, however his record of supporting taxes upsets a lot of people on the Republican side and, as a result, one candidate is threatening to run as an Independent. One wonders what effect that might have in a match-up with Perriello. There is already an Independent candidate running in the 2nd Congressional District, a former Republican leader, a guy by the name of Ken Golden, who is a very good friend of George Allen’s: two seats that are going to be watched closely in Virginia and beyond as spotlighted this morning on NPR.
Forty-eight states are joining in a friend of the court brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving anti-gay protestors at military funerals. Virginia’s Attorney General has opted not to join in that brief. Governor McDonnell was asked to comment and his spokesman had no comment. What’s your take on it?
Schapiro: Well, here’s another opportunity for Bob McDonnell to distance himself from his Attorney General. Cuccinnelli not getting involved in this case because, he says, there are free speech issues. McDonnell scratching his head over it because it involves the military, an element of the Virginia zeitgeist to which he, McDonnell, pays particularly close attention. Another embarrassing tangle for the Republican regime.
Jeff, we have about a minute to go. Any final thoughts? Want to look at that primary election slate again?
Schapiro: Well, the interesting feature,e of course, in the 5th District, you know, is this very crowded field, but it just goes to show you that if you are an elected, as Robert Hurt is, there is an incredible advantage in terms of name I.D. profile, so he is clearly the favorite. Back in the 2nd, Scott Rigell, who is a big car dealer, also a good friend of the Governor, has enormous name I.D. and he is favored. However, he’s got to explain some political contributions, including one to Mark Warner and I believe another to Barack Obama.
Alright, Jeff Shapiro, of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, joins us each Friday morning at this time for an analysis of the Virginia political news. Thank you, Jeff.
Schapiro: You bet.
And, by the way, you will soon be able to hear Jeff’s analyses at www.ideastations.org/archive.