In two weeks, on June 13th, the Republican Party of Virginia will be holding a statewide open primary to determine their nominee for governor. On the ballot will be three choices: former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart, and State Senator Frank Wagner.
Typically, at least one authentic conservative runs for the Republican nomination in statewide contests. For example, in 2014, Shak Hill sought the GOP nod. However, all of the choices for governor are poor this year. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a moment to go through each option.
Besides being the former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie has also been the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a lobbyist for companies such as Enron, a counselor to the Bush White House, and the 2014 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. Seen by some as the consummate Republican insider, he is in many ways a milquetoast candidate, reciting typical Republican talking points while not providing many details of how he wishes to accomplish anything and avoiding saying anything controversial or of much substance. According to reports, he has avoided attending a variety of candidate forums and events. It seems he is coasting through the nomination process by trying to say as little as possible. Even worse, when he served as RNC Chairman, he repudiated limited government conservativism. According to National Review, “Gillespie basically said that the Republicans’ long-time war against big government has now ended. Government won.” and “the party’s new chairman, energetic and full of vigor, said in no uncertain terms that the days of Reaganesque Republican railings against the expansion of federal government are over.” And, despite my repeated requests, the Gillespie campaign refuses to state where Mr. Gillespie stands on political freedom and third party rights, leading me to believe that he opposes them.
Next, we have Corey Stewart, certainly the most controversial of the three candidates. Last year, he served as the Virginia chairman for the Donald Trump campaign until he was fired for insubordination. No stranger to controversy, he has relentlessly attacked Ed Gillespie for not being sufficiently pro-Trump and for Mr. Gillespie’s refusal to take a stand on a number of issues. As I’ve told some people, I think Mr. Stewart is the most dishonest person I have met in Virginia politics. This opinion took form in 2011 when Mr. Stewart toured the state denouncing former Senator George Allen for being a poor conservative and a poor senator. However, once Corey Stewart decided he was no longer interested in running for Senate, he endorsed his former rival. That stunt earned him a flip flop from PolitiFact. In addition, there was the 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor when Corey Stewart hired Senator Obenshain’s former campaign manager who was supposedly fired due to theft from a rival campaign who then tried to extort $85,000 from Pete Snyder in what has been colorfully called “The Richmond Screwjob“. These incidents show that Mr. Stewart will do or say just about anything to gain political power and thus one cannot be sure if he is elected what his true intentions are.
Last, there is Frank Wagner, who has been in elected office since 1992, first serving several terms in the House of Delegates before joining the Virginia Senate in 2001. Curiously, unlike his Republican opponents, Mr. Wagner is currently advocating raising taxes on Virginians. In addition, he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia, when he voted for the 2013 transportation tax hike. In 2015, he authored a bill to keep the earnings of Dominion Power, the state-supported energy monopoly, secret. Amusingly, in early 2014 a Republican activist added me to a Facebook group called “Primary Frank Wagner” after Mr. Wagner supposedly employed a tactic known as slating to disenfranchise those who oppose him. Frank Wagner supports higher taxes, government monopolies and more secrecy, and silencing opposition. Are these conservative values?
In Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Starfleet officers are presented with the Kobayashi Maru, an intentionally unwinnable scenario which serves to test the character of those who participate in it. Unfortunately, this year, conservatives who participate in the Republican primary for governor face a similar dilemma. Which do you think will uphold the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia? Dodgy, establishment Ed Gillespie? Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth, populist Corey Stewart? Or liberal, big government-loving Frank Wagner? It’s a tough pick, isn’t it? None of the three choices, Gillespie, Stewart, or Wagner, are desirable, and each has exhibited principles or character flaws which ought to disqualify all of them from the Republican nomination. As one elected official who is supporting Ed Gillespie told me, it is unfortunate that there isn’t a better candidate to head the Republican ticket this year. Are you looking for a consistently conservative candidate who is trustworthy and will work to reduce the size and scope of the state government? If so, you better hope a third party or independent candidate makes the ballot because none of the three Republican candidates come anywhere close to that standard.
How will you react to this conservative Kobayashi Maru? If I end up voting in the Republican primary, I’ll be leaving the ballot for governor blank as I think none of them are acceptable nor do I plan to vote for whoever wins the Republican nomination in the November general election.