It is no secret the Virginia Republican Party hit a low point last November. They lost all three statewide offices. The party’s insular convention mechanism for selecting nominees was widely criticized. Things are looking a bit up for the Virginia GOP these days.
Longtime Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) announced his retirement, but state delegate Barbara Comstock announced and hit the ground running. Virtually all competition has now left the GOP race. She received the American Conservatives Union endorsement today, but now she can with the base virtually sewn up roll out an agenda attractive to center-right voters. The state party has announced a sort of compromise in selecting its 2014 nominees. There won’t be a convention; instead a limited number of primary voting places (a “firehouse primary”) will take place.
Unlike past House nominees, she is good on television and unlikely to make the gaffes that have swallowed up many conservatives in two successive election cycles.
And on the Senate side Ed Gillespie has also been able to clear the field on the GOP side. Last week, a Virginia political operative said it was imperative that fringe candidates pack it in, opining that Gillespie “can’t spend the spring having to watch his right flank and running around the state rounding up delegates” if he’s going to beat the formidable incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Then today, Republican opponent and hardline conservative Howie Lind announced he was dropping out.
That still leaves a an unknown, fire-breathing conservative Shak Hill (who sends out emails owing to stick by shutdown advocates Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee.) But for all intents and purposes, Gillespie can now focus on Warner and his alternative vision for the Senate. Gillespie can not only raise money, but provide Virginia Republicans with a pro-growth, pro-immigration reform, pro-life candidate (who can speak about it in ways that don’t turn off voters with whom he disagrees).
If the state party does get up off the mat, these events should provide lessons to the party insiders: Open up the system, recruit capable pols, and project an optimistic and center-right agenda. If they keep doing that, Virginia will be competitive once again.