By all accounts, the race for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s 24th District Senate seat is a curious affair. Two candidates are vying for a convention that may or may not happen. Three candidates are competing for a primary which also is uncertain. The final nomination process hinges upon a court case, with a preliminary decision expected either next week or the week after. What an odd state of an election!
However, what is even more peculiar is how the campaigns are interacting with each other and the public (or perhaps the lack thereof). For example, on Wednesday, March 18th, Senator Emmett Hanger was the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Rockingham County GOP. Both of his primary challengers, Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie, were conspicuously absent and, although I arrived at the end of the meeting, there didn’t seem to be a trace of campaign materials for any of the candidates at that meeting, including Hanger himself. By comparison, I did see Delegate Steve Landes (R-25), who is also running for re-election this year, with a sizable stack of bumper stickers in hand. From my observations and well as reports I’ve heard from others, this seems to be a common trend for the 24th district race. None of the candidates seem to be making a big push for support among the party faithful…at least publicly.
Now, perhaps the traditional campaigning is all going on quietly behind closed doors. And, if so, that sort of maneuvering is exceedingly unusual. After all, wouldn’t you expect to see the typical bumper stickers, yard signs, and various campaign brochures? Wouldn’t the campaigns have their staffers clearly visible in the audience, shaking hands, handing out materials, and thanking individuals for their support? I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a stealth campaign succeed, but is the strategy each have chosen to employ?
As one example, I’ve never met Donald Sheets (one of the two candidates running in the convention), nor have most people that I’ve spoken to. Although it is highly likely that his campaign isn’t serious, given the actions of the Hanger, Moxley, and Pattie campaigns, one does start to wonder if he has some sort of hidden network lurking under the surface given the peculiar actions of his opponents.
That’s not to say that the campaigns are inactive, for example, the Pattie campaign is holding a meet & greet in Elkton this evening. But, in general, things are exceedingly quiet right now.
I don’t mean to be too hard on any of the four, but to me this race is one of the strangest affairs I’ve ever seen. What the heck are you all doing!? Yes, it is uncertain if the nomination will come down to a convention or a primary, but if I were an advisor to any of the four campaigns (which I am not), I’d recommend buckling down and making sure that either the candidate or a staffer was present at every single GOP meeting in the 24th district between now and whenever the court decision is announced, with supporters clearly labeled, with a healthy supply of campaign materials in hand. Or is it that no one has bothered to tell me that the traditional methods of campaigning no longer work?