FREDERICKSBURG – With Republican leaders choosing a closed convention over an open primary, a party insider will likely emerge from a crowded field of candidates to grab the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, says Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University in Newport News.
And Virginia’s next LG could make or break the General Assembly’s agenda.
“What matters are party relationships,” Kidd told Watchdog.org.
That insider formula would appear to benefit state Sen. Steve Martin of Chesterfield, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge and former Delegate and state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis of Vienna.
Still, their competitors can lay claim to other skills sets.
Prince William County Commission Chairman Corey Stewart has won three straight elections in a county that’s turning increasingly blue.
Pete Snyder, another Northern Virginian, was picked by Gov. Bob McDonnell to head the GOP’s statewide “victory” campaign this year.
Stafford County Commissioner Susan Stimpson can boast of cutting taxes with a Ron Paul edge.
And Earl “E.W.” Jackson, coming off a U.S. Senate primary, brings stirring oratory, befitting his calling as a church bishop.
“It’s a wide-open race with no real favorite at this point,” says House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, R-Falmouth.
The lieutenant governor’s position is pivotal because the state Senate is split 20-20, and the lieutenant governor casts any tie-breaking votes.
Bill Bolling, the current GOP lieutenant governor who abandoned his gubernatorial bid this week, broke 32 ties last session. And most of his would-be successors fashion themselves as more conservative than the man they seek to replace.
Though presumptive gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli is staying on the sidelines for now, his conservative and tea party acolytes figure to play a key role in choosing the Republicans’ LG candidate at the Richmond Coliseum convention May 17-18.
Here’s an alphabetical rundown on who’s who:
The longtime, former lawmaker has gathered lots of friends and more than a few critics over the years. Jeannemarie Davis’ voting record on hot-button issues like gun control and taxes makes her arguably the most liberal candidate in the race.
Married to former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, she has ready access to cash. And she burnished her own D.C. credentials most recently by serving as Virginia’s liaison to other state delegations in Washington.
Lately, Davis has talked up the need to streamline workforce training programs, and to enhance the role of the state’s community colleges in that endeavor.
Countering concerns that she isn’t fiscally conservative enough, Davis maintains that she has her priorities straight, and proposes incentives for saving taxpayer money.
“If you find dollars you don’t need to spend, then you should get a bonus if there is money in reserve. The (Virginia) Department of Transportation found $1.5 billion sitting in reserve while (then-Democratic Gov.) Tim Kaine was shutting rest stops.”
“You can always find waste, fraud and abuse in government programs.”
Scheduled to formally announce his candidacy at the party’s annual “Advance” gathering in Virginia Beach this weekend, E.W. Jackson says his campaign will, among other things, focus on “improving education and support for school choice, energy independence and a return to strict constitutional governance.”
Despite his rousing rhetoric, Jackson finished last in the U.S. Senate primary, and burned through a series of campaign managers.
Kidd says organizational skills, as much as political connections, will determine the winner at the nominating convention next spring.
Jackson, who holds a law degree from Harvard, is the pastor at the non-denominational Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake.
Through a spokesman, Jackson pledges to “fight the abuse of the state and its citizens by the federal government. Virginia was the leader in founding our country. It needs to be the leader again and an example to all.”
But skeptics note that the pastor’s red-meat rhetoric lacks specifics and failed to attract financial support for his nearly 2-year-long Senate campaign. Indeed, Delegate Bob Marshall, jumping into the contest just 10 weeks before the primary, received more votes than Jackson.
For someone seeking higher office, Scott Lingamfelter keeps a low profile. The retired Army officer is a strong Second Amendment advocate, but he doesn’t have a deep list of legislative accomplishments during his decade in office.
Party activists and conservatives have applauded his work on promoting transparency in government, but some worry that Lingamfelter has yet to lead on important budgetary and spending measures.
Yet Kidd does not write him off. “Having party connections and being an office holder gets you votes at the convention,” he says.
And Lingamfelter gets a nod from a veteran legislator, too.
Former Delegate and current Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg, told Watchdog he was endorsing Lingamfelter, calling him “a classic Virginia conservative.”
Lingamfelter did not respond to Watchdog’s request for an interview.
One of the Senate’s most conservative members, Steve Martin believes that “time and tenure” make him the best choice to be the Senate’s tie-breaker.
“When I take up the gavel. No one will get over on me. I know the system and how it works,” he told Watchdog.org.
Martin has been business-friendly, receiving top grades from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t crossed swords with members of his own party
“Some of our Senate leaders have pushed for taxes. I stood against Republicans doing wrong, just as I have against Democrats. I am not a Republican because I like elephants. I am a Republican because I believe it’s the party that can best advance the ideas I share.”
He proposes eliminating the state’s 6 percent corporate tax and helped push through welfare-reform legislation when George Allen was governor.
The Chesterfield Republican also authored the Health Care Freedom Act, which served as the basis for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare, and sponsored Virginia’s current voter-ID law.
Martin’s detractors say he can be egocentric and does not wear well personally. But Michele Tennery, a GOP activist from Arlington, says she wholeheartedly supports the veteran lawmaker for being “a limited government, free-enterprise conservative.”
Demonstrating grassroots support, at least online, Martin won a recent straw poll on the website Bearing Drift.
Gov. McDonnell’s handpicked chairman of the “2012 Virginia Victory Campaign” is hoping for better results in his first bid for public office.
After Republicans lost the presidential and U.S. Senate races in the Old Dominion this year, Pete Snyder told Watchdog.org his feelings ranged “between depression and anger.” But the former college wrestler says he has “picked myself up off the matt.”
“We have to focus on spending first, and reassert our conservative principles. That means not pandering, and not caving on taxes,” the Fairfax businessman said.
While praising McDonnell, Snyder decried Virginia’s budget, which has “ballooned in the last 25 years.”
“You can’t tell me spending can’t be reined in. I’ve talked to officials in state government and asked if they could cut their budgets by 10 percent. They said, ‘of course.’”
Snyder says the state also needs to “get proactive on education” by promoting more charter schools and dispensing fewer continuing contracts (tenure) to teachers.
“Portsmouth and parts of Richmond have some of the worst schools in the country. This dooms children to a poor life,” he said.
Corey Stewart has bucked the Democratic tide in Prince William County, winning 58 percent of the vote in 2011, a year before President Obama pulled 57 percent.
Outlining his formula to keep Republicans competitive amid shifting demographics, Stewart is undaunted by the fast-growing minority population in his increasingly urban Northern Virginia county.
“The concerns of minorities are the same, by and large, as Caucasians. It’s quality of life – traffic, the economy, crime and taxes,” he says.
Stewart wins plaudits, and takes heat, for his hard line against illegal aliens. He criticizes the Obama administration for phasing out the 287(g) program that authorizes police to determine the immigration status of arrestees
While that hasn’t necessarily endeared him to Hispanics, Stewart said Republicans make a mistake by avoiding “minority neighborhoods, schools and churches.”
“You stick to your principles and you win without selling out,” says the commission chairman who Kidd calls a “Teflon Republican.”
Stewart – who advertises himself as “100 percent pro-life, pro-gun” and anti-gay marriage — is proposing $9.6 million in county spending cuts for the coming year, in part by abolishing the local health department and ending the Columbus Day and Presidents Day paid holidays for PWC workers.
Entering her fourth year on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, Susan Stimpson says she’s ready for the statewide stage.
And the 41-year-old former county party chairwoman is not shy about using social media to tell off the man she hopes to succeed in Richmond.
Hours after Bolling declined to endorse presumptive GOP nominee Cuccinelli in the governor’s race, Stimpson wrote on her campaign Facebook page:
“While I understand (Bill Bolling’s) disappointment that he won’t win the gubernatorial nomination, this position is simply indefensible and destroys his legacy as lieutenant governor.
“This is the same ‘burn the house down’ approach that the establishment has threatened us with in the past when they don’t get their way,” Stimpson stated.
A free-market conservative with libertarian leanings Stimpson also blasted mainstream Republicans for being too timid on tax cuts.
“She’s not intimidated by senators,” said campaign director Scott Hirons. “She’s an unapologetic conservative, fiscally and socially.”
Hirons said Stimpson is getting her name known statewide and is picking up support, though he declined to list any endorsements. So far, her only publicly announced Senate endorsement has come from Sen. Richard Stuart, whose district covers Stimpson’s hometown.
Stimpson wants to replicate in Richmond what she and her fellow commissioners have done in Stafford – rolling back general administrative staff to 2004 levels and cutting real-estate taxes three years in a row.
Contact Kenric Ward at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824.