The Tea Party reshuffles Virginia's GOP deck
Democrat-bashing was the order of the day at the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention in Richmond last weekend. Yet something more important emerged: just how much the populist, conservative movement is turning Virginia’s Republican Party on its head.
Clearly, the belle of the ball was Kenneth N. Cuccinelli, Virginia’s hard-right and furiously independent attorney general, who has won national attention as a political comer capable of defying the carefully laid plans of his state’s GOP establishment.
Speaking before hundreds of screaming supporters, Cuccinelli said: “I don’t think there’d be a Tea Party if the Republican Party had been the party of limited government in the first half of this decade.”
That one probably went down a little hard for the more traditional Republicans in attendance, including former senator and governor George Allen and current Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Absent, perhaps not so curiously, was Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Henrico County, whose penchant for pork barrel spending has earned him open Tea Party scorn.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Until not too long ago, remember, Allen had long been seen as the state’s archetypal GOP star, with his cowboy boots, “aw shucks” manner and business-first bonafides — until he self-destructed during his 2006 Senate race against Jim Webb when he was caught on video dissing a man of Indian descent. No matter. The party found a different kind of star in McDonnell, the law-and-order attorney general who had been a legislator from Virginia Beach.
Highly telegenic, McDonnell ran into one big problem as a gubernatorial candidate in 2009: The Post’s revelation of a master’s thesis he wrote in the early 1980s revealed what can charitably be called Neanderthal attitudes about gays and women. But a quick makeover successfully recast him as a moderate. The stocky, glad-handing Bolling was supposed to be the jobs guy of the partnership — and McDonnell’s natural successor as governor.
The stars have since aligned against the GOP planners. Don’t expect to see Bolling running to the center the way McDonnell did anytime soon. As Cuccinelli moves with great drama against climate science, gays, illegal immigrants and Obamacare, he is without question the potential gubernatorial candidate with the momentum on the right.
At the convention, this dynamic was plain to see. McDonnell and Bolling got cheers for supporting a constitutional amendment to let states nullify federal laws they don’t like, but it was nothing like Cuccinelli’s reception. The Tea Party convention crowd, with its Patrick Henry garb, “Guns Save Lives” stickers and openly toted .45-caliber automatic pistols, is Cuccinelli’s natural base, and it is organized in Virginia like it’s never been organized before.
It’s not just Cuccinelli who’s gaining. Another obvious potential beneficiary is Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, who pushed through a county-level anti-immigration law designed to force lower-income immigrants from Prince William.
Stewart was manning a small booth for his “Virginia Rule of Law” movement, which is meant to take the Prince William approach statewide. Stewart has said that the county’s initiative was used as a template by Arizona when it famously adopted anti-illegal-immigration policies such as requiring police to check the citizenship status of anyone they stop. He admitted to me that Hispanic groups are not happy with his movement but insisted that “it isn’t racist.” Stewart’s tough-guy stance resonates with the Tea Partyers, and at the convention there was talk that he might make a better candidate against Webb in 2012 than would Allen in a rematch.
At their core, such sentiments reflect current economic frustrations. They are also making the reputations of politicians with a knack for the politics of resentment. The question is, do Cuccinelli and Stewart have positive ideas for addressing the state’s more pressing problems, such as its crumbling infrastructure, insecure jobs and inadequate education standards?
Take heart, Bill Bolling: Those questions will remain long after the gleeful Richmond Tea Party fades from memory.
| October 15, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia
Save & Share: Previous: No exit from a D.C. ticket thicket
Next: What will autonomous cars mean for cities?
Posted by: kparc | October 15, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: flyboyed | October 15, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gposner | October 15, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MIndfulPerson | October 15, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patriot12 | October 15, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tigman_2 | October 17, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wilder5121 | October 18, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ohioan | October 19, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.