And so, in tough races, we’re seeing the kitchen table issues take — or try to take — center stage.
Del. Tim Hugo, among the last Northern Virginia Republican House members, said he’s been “talking to voters about schools, roads and other bread-and-butter issues.”
That’s great. Once upon a time those were the issues Republicans such as Hugo could run on in suburban Northern Virginia and win — sometimes convincingly — regardless of the national political mood.
There’s a reason for it, too.
Way back in 2006, former governor Jim Gilmore told a meeting of conservative activists I attended that Republicans should concentrate their efforts on suburban voters who want low taxes, safe communities and an effective, accountable education system.
And forget the hot button or “niche” issues, Gilmore said. Education bests all of them — and that includes transportation and taxes.
In his bid for governor, Robert F. McDonnell (R) showed with his “Bob’s 4 Jobs” campaign that economic security counted as much in the suburbs as education.
It’s much harder for a suburban Republican politician to stick to that kind of script in the rageaholic Trump era.
It’s even worse when national Democrats, particularly the gaggle of would-be presidential nominees, has decided Virginia is the ideal test bed for their 2020 campaign themes.
As The Post’s Antonio Olivo reported, Hugo’s challenger, Democrat Dan Helmer, “has focused primarily on gun issues in the midst of a string of mass shootings this year.” That helps explain why Beto O’Rourke dropped by to add some national sizzle and salty talk to Helmer’s campaign.
But let’s not undersell the potential for a kitchen table issue to blow up a race. And as circumstances would have it, the issue is one of Gilmore’s Big Three: education.
In the 10th Senate District, GOP incumbent Glen Sturtevant has inserted himself into an elementary school rezoning fight in the city of Richmond.
Sturtevant, a former Richmond School Board member, has declared his opposition to a proposal that would combine two majority-white elementary schools with two majority-African American elementary schools. The intention of combining the schools? Increasing student body diversity.
Yes, because even today, school segregation is a thing.
Sturtevant’s online petition says the combinations are “wrong for our community” and that he would back legislation requiring either a new school board election or a referendum before new attendance lines could be enacted.
That’s rich, considering Sturtevant’s history of approving a rezoning measure while he was a school board member.
The petition got some major pushback from Richmond Democrats, who accused Sturtevant of grandstanding. The campaign of his opponent, Ghazala Hashmi, said Sturtevant was trying to distract people from his voting record.
Richmond schools superintendent Jason Kamras upped the ante considerably when he said the comments of parents opposing the combination sounded eerily like Massive Resistance 2.0.
That’s quite a big stir for a petition that is, at bottom, a list-building exercise.
But it shows how quickly even kitchen table issues can become as emotionally charged as any debate over guns or abortion.
Maybe that’s why House Speaker Kirk Cox’s (R) television ad, “Coach Cox,” takes us far from even the hint of controversy.
Cox is in a tough race thanks to court-ordered redistricting. The new lines have made him a top Democratic target this November.
So rather than politics or issues, we get baseball — and Cox saying that while he’s ‘honored” to be a delegate, he’s always preferred to be called “Coach Cox.”
It’s the most soothing 60 seconds we’re likely to get between now and Nov. 5.