Former governor and senator George Allen will be the speaker at this year’s Shad Planking. And yes, he will be solo.
The folks at the Shad Planking invited both leading candidates for the U.S. Senate to speak — Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D) — but the event organizer tells us Kaine’s campaign did not accept.
The speeches at Shad — the curious Virginia political tradition named for the bony, oily fish — are always lighthearted.
Allen has spoken at the Shad Planking three times — as governor in 1995, senator in 2002 and then again in 2012. Kaine spoke once in 2005 as a candidate for governor, but according to organizer Robert Bain, declined to speak when he was governor — as is a Virginia tradition. (Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) spoke last year).
The Shad Planking dates to the 1930s, when a small group of friends gathered to celebrate the migratory running of the shad in the James River. As the event grew in popularity, the Wakefield Ruritan Club took it over in 1949 and moved it to a woodsy sportsmen’s club in Sussex County, one hour southeast of Richmond.
For decades, the Shad Planking was a good-old-boy event where the state's Democratic machine anointed Virginia politicians. It has evolved into a place for candidates to mingle with political insiders, many of whom drive down from Richmond.
Shad Planking officials generally invites candidates for statewide office to speak the year of their election. Candidates who appear together often roast each other. In 2009, Sen, Creigh Deeds (D) made headlines when he declined to attend or speak when he was running for governor.
Bain said Kaine’s campaign did not commit to speak before the Feb. 15 deadline.
“Governor Kaine has often attended the Shad Planking and enjoyed it,’’ Kaine spokesman Brandi Hoffine said. “No deadline was communicated to us regarding a speaking role. We were surprised to find that Governor Kaine has apparently been uninvited to speak under these circumstances.”
This post has been updated since it was first published.