Virginia GOP insider: Gillespie lost, but he was supposed to lose; GOP’s House losses more serious

(DoD photo)

One day after the Nov. 7 election, a member of the executive committee of the Fairfax County Republican Party told Big League Politics that Republicans like gubernatorial hopeful Edward W. Gillespie will continue to lose in Virginia until the candidates embrace a truly conservative agenda.

“Gillespie was not supposed to win, but the margin was greater than I would have expected,” said James Parmelee, who also runs the XXX Super PAC.

“I think the margins would have been worse for him, if he hadn’t adjusted his campaign more towards some of the issues that Corey is talking about,” Parmelee said.  Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William’s County Board of Supervisors lost the June 13 GOP primary to Gillespie with 43 percent of the vote to Gillespie’s 44 percent.

It is important to also acknowledge that other statewide Republican candidates fared better than Gillespie in their races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, although they both lost, he said.

For decades, the Virginia governor’s race has gone to the party that lost the White House the previous year, in this off-cycle election, he said. “That’s generally been the case for a long, long time–typically the other side wins.”

Democrat Terence R. McAuliffe‘s 2012 win was an exception driven by the unique circumstances of the corrupti0n charges against Republican Gov. Robert F. McConnell and the poor campaign run by state Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, he said. For months, Cuccinelli refused to return campaign contributions from the same man from whom McConnell was accused of taking bribes

Parmelee said by the time Cuccinelli returned the money, it was too late and he had lost his opportunity to press McAuliffe on his own ethical challenges.

While the loss of the governor’s race could be explained away as the natural swing of the political pendulum, the results for the Republicans in the House of Delegates speak to a real crisis for the state’s party, which has controlled the chamber since 2000. In 2017, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were up and, so far, the Democrats have won 12 seats from GOP incumbents and three open seats that had been held by Republicans.

Pending four recounts, the counting of provisionals ballots and the formal validation of results, the GOP has gone from gone from 66 seats to 51 seats.

Typical of the Republicans’ situation are the seats held by Del. Timothy D. Hugo and Del. David A. Yancey.

Hugo is the leader of the majority caucus, first elected in 2002. The leader was down by 68 votes to African-American Air Force veteran Donte Tanner, but a when the vote was formally certified, officials saw that there was a 100-vote error from someone writing down the wrong number as it was called in over the phone Election Night. Instead of down 68, Hugo is now up 32 votes, but still heading for a recount.

The State Senate was not part of this year’s vote. Republicans control that chamber 21-to-19 seats and all those seats are up in 2019.

In Virginia, margins within 1 percent of the total votes cast are automatically recounted at the state’s expense.

Yancey, first elected in 2011, is also headed for a recount. He leads his Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds by 12 votes–but, two years ago, Yancey beat Simonds with 57 percent of the vote.

Parmelee said in the case of the Republican delegates, there were many incumbents, who did not think they were in trouble. “They should have been campaigning like freshmen.”

There is no way that the party’s problems are disconnected with the failure of the Capitol Hill Republicans to accomplish any part of its agenda, he said.

“In Virginia, the Republicans are going to have to become more conservative,” he said. “The Republican majority in the House of Delegates has given us multiple tax increases, they campaigned two years ago on the slogan of ‘No Tolls on 66,” then, immediately upon being reelected, put tolls on 66.” Highway 66 is a major east-west freeway that transects with the Washington beltway and the interior beltways.

“If you are looking for a larger message? The larger message is that Hillary Clinton won by about five points last year, two of the three statewide offices were decided by five points this year with Gillespie doing a few points worse,” he said. “This year, Democrats, who come out to vote in federal elections, but don’t turn out to votes in state elections, came out to vote. Combine that with Republican incumbents, who had then been campaigning like freshmen.”

Parmelee said if he was Rep. Barbara Comstock (R.-Va.), he would be seriously worried.

Comstock was a very conservative member of the House of Delegates, but as a congresswoman, her voting record is much more liberal and more liberal than her district, he said.

“She has had some unfortunate votes,” he said.

“What she needs to do is, what I would hope she would do, is vote more like she did when she was in the House of Delegates,” he said.

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