Good afternoon delegates to the Virginia Republican state convention.
In just a few short days you will be heading to Roanoke to select a candidate to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate to face Mark Warner in the fall. I must confess that I’m disappointed that I won’t be joining you this year as I did in 2013 and 2008. As you may have heard, unfortunately the Republican Party of Virginia now requires a signed loyalty oath to participate. Now, this isn’t a loyalty to our shared principles and the Republican Creed of Virginia, but rather a blind loyalty to the party and her candidates, regardless of their positions. It is a troubling sign of the times and one reason why the party continues to falter, but I’m not going to delve any further into that matter here.
First, I must confess that I know little of Mr. Moss and Mr. DeTora. Although I have been heavily active in Virginia politics and have attended a lot of Republican events, I have not met either of these two men. A big part of campaigning, as they say, is simply showing up and, as either have made zero visits to my corner of the state, or have not publicized such trips, I would recommend against both. Again, they may have great principles or they may not, but when you don’t make a concerted effort to reach folks, you shouldn’t be running in a statewide contest.
With that thought in mind, that leaves but two choices, Ed Gilllespie and Shak Hill. I have appreciated the fact that I have had several opportunities to speak with both men. Let me outline what I see are the main upsides of each. Mr. Gillespie is well-connected and is an excellent fundraiser and has proven that fact once again with this campaign. Mr. Hill has been advocating a set of principles that is in general more conservative and more detailed than Mr. Gillespie. I can tell you without a doubt that if I were a delegate this weekend, I would be casting my vote for Shak Hill.
As I’ve written previously, I tried on several occasions to discover where Ed Gillespie stands on the issues. Although his website contains a multitude of well-crafted videos in a variety of languages, there is very little substantive information of what he will actually do if elected. For example, I know far more about his family history than I do about his stance on foreign policy. To me, this deficit is a major problem.
Recently, I asked both Ed Gillepsie and Shak Hill what federal agencies and programs would he work to eliminate if elected. It is the same question that I asked of the 2012 Republican Senate candidates several years ago. The question harkens back to the 1996 Bob Dole for president campaign where he pledged to eliminate three federal departments. You’d be hard-pressed to call Bob Dole a constitutional conservative, but at least he understood that the federal government has grown well beyond its authorized roles. By comparison, Mr. Gillespie’s response was that he didn’t have the answer and would need to speak with his advisors about the issue. In reply, several Gillespie supporters in the audience shouted their own suggestions, such as the Department of Education. Although I would prefer a little more detail, Shak Hill’s response was far and away much better, declaring that he would get rid of “those not authorized by the constitution. Which is most”.
Now, one major strike that Gillespie supporters use against Hill is that due to lack of funding he cannot win the general election. And do you know what? I think they are likely right. Although thankfully money by itself does not win elections, it is exceedingly difficult to win these days without a lot of it. I do not believe that he will be able to raise the kind of funds that Gillespie can. If Hill is the nominee, it seems probable that many of the establishment Republicans won’t back him financially.
However, I would also argue that due to his either undefined or mushy principles, the divided nature of the Republican Party in Virginia, and the fact that the Democratic nominee is Mark Warner, the most popular elected official in the state, Ed Gillespie cannot win the general election either. Even though the most stalwart Gillespie supporters I have spoken with claim he is more electable, they all have rated his victory as highly doubtful. Need I remind you that in both 2008 and 2012, Republicans nominated the supposedly “most electable” candidate and both times that candidate was in no danger of winning once the votes were counted? And, even if Gillespie did win, except for a few social issues, how would he be much different from Mark Warner? I still don’t know the answer to that question. Now, if anyone thinks that I’m wrong and would care to wager on the outcome of the Senate race in Virginia, please let me know.
So, if the Republican nomination isn’t likely to lead to victory in November, what is it about? The answer is the future of the Republican Party in Virginia. If that is true, the question each delegate must ask him or herself is, what direction do I want to see the party take? As I see it, there are two options: Do I want it to see the party regress into a plutocracy, where the well-funded and well-connected rule? Or do I want a party grounded on principles, such as obeying the Constitution, shrinking the size of the government, and fiscal and personal responsibility? After all, I thought that idea was supposed to be a central belief of the Republican Party when I first got involved in 1995. Yes, Gillespie can spend a lot of money to improve the party infrastructure but, without solid principles, it matters little. Only with Hill do I see a chance to make the state GOP something more than a party filled with an increasing number of big government Republicans.
Therefore, I would encourage delegates to cast their votes for Shak Hill on Saturday.