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Candidates for Virginia governor square off in first debate


Posted September 19 (From WUSA via YouTube)

Big Risk: Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott double down on mandates despite unpredictability of COVID crisis

Will short-term gain for leading charge against COVID-19 restrictions backfire if cases surge in schools?

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CFP Red Blue Circle(CFP) — A number of Southern Republican political leaders — most notably, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott — have decided to take a huge gamble; namely, to lead the charge against new COVID-19 restrictions, despite the Delta variant ripping across their states, filling up hospitals and stretching front-line workers to their breaking point.

It’s an experiment — literally — that is particularly risky given that one of the populations being experimented are hundreds of thousands of school children, whose parents cannot get them COVID-19 vaccinations even if they want to.

desantis_abbott

Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas

If DeSantis and Abbott are right — that all of the doomsaying and caterwauling by public health officials is an overblown overreaction — their gamble is likely to delight their base and pay dividends when they come up for re-election next year.

But if they are wrong — if busloads of children start getting sick or dying — these current prohibitive favorites could find themselves in electoral trouble. Which begs the question, is it worth the risk?

To see the possible pitfalls of this strategy, one need only look at the school district in Marion, Arkansas, where, after just the first week of classes in August, 900 students and staff were in quarantine.

That was enough to convince Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson that his decision back in April to sign into law a ban on mask mandates, pushed through by Republican lawmakers, was a mistake. It was not, however, enough to convince those lawmakers to reverse the mask ban when Hutchinson summoned them back to Little Rock for a special session to do so.

To be clear, neither DeSantis and Abbott are anti-vaxxers. On the other hand, they are not merely taking a personal political stand against mask and vaccine mandates — they are aggressively pushing back against local officials and even private businesses who want to put these measures into place themselves.

Two hallmarks of traditional conservatism are giving power to local officials to make decisions they think best for their communities (particularly school boards) and giving businesses free hand to run their enterprises as they see fit. Both have gone out the window amid a conservative backlash to mask and vaccine mandates, a wave which DeSantis and Abbott seem eager to ride.

DeSantis has gone so far as to oppose hospitals requiring staff on the front lines of the pandemic to get vaccinations, and he has gone to court to block cruise lines from requiring vaccinations for passengers, which the cruise companies desperately want.

Given the devastating outbreaks of COVID-19 among cruise ship passengers during the early days of the pandemic, cruise companies want to err on the side of caution; DeSantis is coming down instead on the side of an expansive sense of personal liberty, even at the expense of public health.

Both Abbott and DeSantis are responding to a part of their base that is skeptical of vaccines and vehemently opposed to mask mandates and lockdowns. Some of these people even argue that masks are harmful for children, an assertion not supported by any reputable medical research.

The irony, of course, if that if these people had gotten vaccinated, the COVID-19 might now be mostly over, eliminating the possibility of mandates or lockdowns.

It makes sense, with perverted logic, for people who believe COVID is a hoax to support dispensing with restrictions even though most people are still unvaccinated. But if the last 18 months have taught Abbott and DeSantis anything, it is surely that COVID isn’t a hoax.

Abbott is facing primary challengers who already complain that he’s taken too many COVID precautions, perhaps explaining why he’s so resistant to more. DeSantis is not yet being primaried on this issue, so taking a hard line here is perhaps a way to stopping a challenge from getting off the ground — not to mention helping him with a possible 2024 presidential run.

Still, a recent Florida polled showed DeSantis’s job approval under water, in a state where the last three governor’s races were decided by 1 point or less. Texas is more Republican but not out of reach for Democrats if the public comes to believe people have died needlessly under Abbott’s stewardship.

Two other facts call into question the wisdom of DeSantis and Abbott’s big risk.

First, the fallout from the COVID pandemic likely cost Donald Trump re-election, something even the former president has been willing to concede. So, perhaps this is a lesson to which more attention needs to be paid.

And second, COVID has proven to not only be tremendously deadly but highly unpredictable. So, climbing out on a political limb and hoping that the worst public health crisis in a century will turn out all right in the end would seem a dubious long-term strategy, even if the base lustily cheers in the short term.

However, for better or worse, both DeSantis and Abbott have embraced this risk. So in that bed they will now have to lie.

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Taking Virginia back: State GOP hopes to ride liberal backlash back into power

Reclaiming control in Richmond in November could serve as template for Republicans nationally in 2022

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — After Democrats took over the entirety of Virginia state government in 2020, they got to work.

Photo ID requirement to vote — gone. Ultrasounds and waiting periods for abortions — gone. Death penalty — abolished.

New background checks are now required for gun purchases. LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in employment and housing,  and conversion therapy was outlawed. Undocumented students can get in-state tuition.

Marijuana was first decriminalized and then legalized for recreational use. Utility companies were told to retire their fossil fuel plants by 2045. Cities and counties got the green light to remove Confederate monuments.

Democrats even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.

What Democrats tout as progressive, long-overdue change, Republicans bash as a misguided, ill-advised liberal toot. In November, Virginia voters will be asked to render their verdict, with Republicans banking on a backlash among Virginia’s more conservative-minded voters to lead them back into power.

As the party’s nominee for governor, Glenn Youngkin, put it in a Tweet after his victory at the recent state convention, “It’s time to get our Commonwealth back and put Virginia on the right track to make her the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family.

If Republicans are successful in their quest to take Virginia back, it could serve as a template for Democrats nationally who are banking on a similar backlash against the Biden administration to break the Democrats’ lock on power on Washington — although Biden is, at least so far, not going nearly as far as his compatriots in Richmond.

What has happened during the last two years in Virginia is an illustration of a split that has also been seen nationally — Democrats from urban and suburban districts whose political interests have radically diverged from their more conservative neighbors in rural areas and small towns.

Once Democrats regained control of the legislature after 25 years out of power, the pent-up demand for liberal innovation could be indulged, to the significant chagrin of conservative Virginians who are angry because they increasingly don’t recognize their state, or at least its government.

Republicans, once dominant in Virginia, have seen their fortunes fade. The last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was George W. Bush, and they haven’t won a statewide race since 2009. Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the House of Delegates and a 21-18 margin in the Senate, which isn’t up for election in November. (Conservative firebrand State Senator Amanda Chase, elected as a Republican, sits as an independent after a dispute with her party leadership.)

Most of the attention in November will be the battle for control of the House — which, because of COVID-related census delays, will be fought using districts drawn by Republican legislators in 2011 — and the governor’s race between Northam and his likely Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 and holds a wide lead in polls for the June Democratic primary.

McAuliffe, 64, a Clinton confidante and prolific Democratic fundraiser, was forced from office by a rule unique to Virginia that doesn’t allow governors to run for a second term. If his comeback is successful, it will mark only the second time that a former governor has reclaimed the office (the other was Democrat Mills Godwin elected in 1965 and 1973).

Youngkin, 54, is a political newcomer who lives in the Washington D.C. suburbs and is running as a Christian conservative allied with Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. He made a fortune running a private equity company, allowing him to loan his campaign $5 million during the nomination campaign.

The governor’s race in Virginia is one of just two contests in the off-year election (the other is in New Jersey), making it a key early test for Democrats’ new tenure in Washington.

Four years ago, Democrats took both of those governorships, an early warning sign of the blue wave that would sweep Republicans aside in 2018.

Donald Trump remains a looming presence over this race. Youngkin spent much of the nominating contest dodging questions about whether he thought Joe Biden really won in 2020; after securing the GOP nod, he finally conceded Biden’s election was legitimate.

Democrats will try to tie Youngkin and other Republicans firmly to Trump; they will have to navigate those waters in a way that keeps Trump happy without unduly harming their prospects in the vote-rich suburbs.

The race for control of the House of Delegates will likely be decided in the Washington D.C. suburbs, where Democrats flipped a slew of seats in 2017 and 2019 amid a suburban backlash against Trump. Republicans need a net gain of just six seats to reclaim control.

One of the changes pushed through the legislature by Democrats was to shift redrawing of political maps from legislators to an appointed independent commission. But because 2020 census results have been delayed by the pandemic, the existing maps will be used.

That means House battles will be fought using maps originally drawn by Republicans in 2011, although Democrats already won a majority with those maps in 2019.

The Republican challenge will be to persuade suburban voters who gave Democrats the keys to the castle two years ago that they have gone too far — that what has been coming out of Richmond isn’t what they voted for.

For the other two statewide offices on the ballot in November, Republicans selected former Delegate Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach for attorney general

Sears, 57, who served a single term in the legislature nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t held office since, was the biggest surprise to come out of the Republican convention, dispatching five rivals. A Jamaican immigrant and former Marine from Winchester, she served as national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump in 2020, and her campaign posters and Twitter feed showed her carrying an assault rifle.

Should she prevail in November, Sears would preside of the Democratic-controlled Senate, giving Republicans at least some leverage in the upper chamber.

Eight Democrats are competing in the primary for lieutenant governor, with no clear front-runner.

The attorney general race is the only statewide contest where the incumbent is running, Democrat Mark Herring, who is seeking a third term. However, he is facing a stiff primary challenge from Delegate Jay Jones.

The survivor will face Miyares, 45, the first Cuban-American to serve in Virginia’s legislature.

The post of attorney general would be a perch which a Republican could try to use to thwart Democrats in the legislature by filing legal challenges. Republican attorneys general have also been leading the charge against Biden administration policies in Washington.

All of the statewide races, and the battle for control of the House, will get out-sized national attention, given the small number of contests this year and the bragging rights that will go to the victors.

As for 2022, November will set up this question: “As Virginia goes, so goes the nation?”

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Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia GOP’s nomination for governor

Political newcomer bests 6 rivals to set up likely fall race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Glenn Youngkin, a wealthy outsider making his first run for political office, has won the Republican nomination for Virginia governor, setting up what will likely be a high-spending and highly contested fall match-up with Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe.

Glenn Youngkin

Youngkin secured a majority to clinch the nomination after six rounds of counting; the Republican Party of Virginia opted to use ranked-choice voting by more than 30,000 delegates who cast ballots during a statewide drive-thru convention Saturday.

Younkin won 55% of the weighted delegate vote to defeat his last remaining rival, Pete Snyder, a venture capitalist who was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013.

“I am prepared to lead, excited to serve and profoundly humbled by the trust the people have placed in me,” Youngkin said on Twitter after Snyder conceded late Monday. “Virginians have made it clear that they are ready for a political outsider with proven business experience to bring real change in Richmond.”

State Senator Amanda Chase from Chesterfield County — who describes herself as “Trump in heels” and has been threatening to bolt the party to run as an independent — was eliminated in the round prior to Snyder. She has so far not publicly reacted or gave an indication of her future plans, although Trump endorsed Youngkin after results were announced.

In the race for lieutenant governor, former State Delegate Winsome Sears — the 2020 national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump whose campaign posters and Twitter feed show her carrying an assault rifle — defeated five other candidates to win the party’s nod.

State Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach beat out three other candidates in the race to be the party’s nominee for attorney general. However, the second-place finisher in that contest, Chuck Smith, has requested a recount.

Youngkin, 54, who lives in Great Falls in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, was formerly the CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He loaned his campaign more than $5 million, which gave him a financial advantage over his intra-party rivals with more political experience.

Democrats will choose their nominees for all three offices in a June 8 primary. McAuliffe, who is trying to reclaim the post he held from 2014 to 2018, holds a commanding lead in Democratic polling.

Republicans have not won an election to statewide office since 2009, as the Old Dominion has moved more clearly into the Democratic column.

But Republican activists have been energized by the Democratic takeover of the legislature in 2020, which has ushered in a flurry of social legislation, including LGBTQ rights measures, gun control and marijuana legalization.

The Republican convention count — conducted by hand after some candidates objected to using computer software programs over fraud concerns — began Sunday afternoon at a hotel in downtown Richmond and was live-streamed.

The party used ranked-choice voting, which meant that if no one got a majority after the initial count, lower-finishing candidates were eliminated one-by-one and their votes reassigned to the delegate’s second choice.

Also, delegate votes didn’t count equally but were weighted based on where each delegate lives, with each county and independent city in Virginia given a number of delegates based on Republican performance in past elections.

Incumbent Governor Ralph Northam is barred by state law from seeking re-election; Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is running for governor; and Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election.

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Virginia Republicans begin count of delegate votes for statewide offices

Hand count at Richmond hotel will decide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Republican party officials in Virginia have begun counting votes cast in Saturday’s statewide drive-thru nominating convention to pick their nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, with at least one candidate already lobbing charges of malfeasance.

The count began Sunday afternoon at a hotel in downtown Richmond. It will be done by hand, after some candidates objected to using computer software programs over fraud concerns, and live-streamed.

Virginia Counting

Live-stream of Virginia GOP vote count

Due to the hand counting and complexity of the process — which includes weighting votes and ranked-choice voting — full results are not expected until at least Tuesday and could stretch to Thursday.

Delegates cast votes at 39 drive-thru locations across the commonwealth. Rich Anderson, the Republican Party of Virginia chair, said officials “could not be happier with how smoothly and efficiently our convention was run.”

“We would also like to ensure all the convention delegates that their ballots will be counted fairly and accurately – leaving no room for doubt or question as to whom our nominees will be,” Anderson said in a statement.

However, State Senator Amanda Chase — who calls herself “Trump in heels” — took to Twitter shortly after convention closed to allege that party officials in Madison and Prince William counties were not following the rules. She accused them of trying to tilt the election to one of her rivals, Pete Snyder, and threatened to bolt the party.

If RPV steals this election for Pete I still have plenty of time to run as an independent,” she tweeted. “Clear corruption by RPV, I will not honor a pledge if the Party cannot run a fair process.”

Since the 2020 election, Chase has embraced Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and his assertion that he was cheated out of re-election. She was censured by her Senate colleagues and stripped of committee assignments for calling the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 “patriots.”

She also carried a gun into a committee hearing, was forced to sit in a plexiglass box in the Senate chamber after refusing to wear a mask, and has vigorously opposed efforts to remove Confederate monuments. Some party leaders have expressed fears that given all of her controversies, her nomination could lead to electoral disaster in November.

Party officials plan to first count the vote in the race for attorney general, with four candidates, followed by the lieutenant governor’s race, with six, and the governor’s race, with seven.

Republicans in the Old Dominion, which has been shifting Democratic, have not won any of those offices since 2009.

Virginia Republicans decided to nominate candidates with a convention, rather than a primary, which is allowed under state law but which set off internal wrangling over process, with the loudest complaints coming from Chase, who has charged that party officials were trying to use rules to stop her.

Delegate votes won’t count equally but will be weighted based on where each delegate lives.

Each county and independent city in Virginia was given a number of delegates based on Republican performance in past elections, and delegates from each locality will pick those delegates. That means that some rural, heavily Republican counties will elect more delegates than much larger, Democratic Richmond, although larger numbers of delegates in those areas could make the value of each individual delegate vote less.

To add another layer of complexity, the party is also using ranked-choice voting, in which delegates will rank candidates rather than selecting one. If no candidate gains a majority, candidates with fewer votes will be eliminated and their votes reassigned to delegates’ second choices, until someone gains a majority.

Ranked-choice voting is normally associated with more Democratic-leaning electorates, such as the city of San Francisco and the state of Maine. But Virginia Republicans used the process in electing a party chair in 2020 and opted to continue with the practice this year.

In addition to Chase and Synder, a venture capitalist who was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013, the governor’s race includes State Delegate Kirk Cox, who served as House speaker until Republicans lost control of the legislature in 2017; Glenn Youngkin, an investment company executive; Octavia Johnson, the former sheriff in Roanoke; Peter Doran, a former think tank CEO; and Sergio de la Peña, a former Army colonel who served as a deputy assistant defense secretary in the Pentagon during the Trump administration.

The survivor of the convention will likely face the formidable challenge of trying to beat Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is trying to reclaim the post he held from 2014 to 2018 and holds a wide lead in polls in the Democratic race.

The race for lieutenant governor includes State Delegate Glenn Davis; former Delegate Tim Hugo; Puneet Ahluwalia, a business consultant; Lance Allen, an Air Force veteran who works for a defense contractor; Maeve Rigler, an attorney and businesswoman; and former Delegate Winsome Sears, whose campaign posters and Twitter feed show her carrying an assault rifle.

The lieutenant governor’s race was rocked in the final stretch with an anonymous robocall accusing Davis of being a “gay Democrat.” He filed a defamation suit to try to unmask who was behind the attack.

The attorney general’s race includes Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley, State Delegate Jason Miyares and attorneys Chuck Smith and Jack White.

Democrats will choose their nominees for all three offices in a June 8 primary.

Incumbent Governor Ralph Northam is barred by state law from seeking re-election; Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is running for governor; and Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election.

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