The Virginia Elections of 2005 -- Harbinger for 2006?
by
Larry Pratt

Republicans have lost the governor's mansion for a second time in a row in Virginia. And they did it the same way each time.

Former Virginia state senator and then Attorney General, Mark Earley, ran a campaign very similar to the one just finished by former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. Earley had a bad record on guns and indicated no willingness to woo the gun vote during the election. He also thought little of his dalliance with the state's labor bosses, even though Virginia is a strongly right-to-work state.

This year, Jerry Kilgore showed that following the Earley playbook four years later would yield the same result -- failure. Kilgore refused to return questionnaires from Gun Owners of America and two state pro-gun groups. He was repeatedly asked to reply, but nothing was ever forthcoming.

Kilgore even managed to insult one of the leading Virginia pro-Second Amendment activists, Philip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. A Kilgore spokesman issued this gratuitous slur against Van Cleave in an effort to justify Kilgore's refusal to answer the group's questionnaire: "While we have great respect for the members of the VCDL, their President Philip Van Cleave unfortunately has no credibility on Second Amendment issues and that is why we did not participate."

In contrast, state senator Bill Bolling won his race for Lt. Governor. Some have tried to explain away his victory by pointing to the very liberal record of former Rep. Leslie Byrne, Bolling's opponent. That fails to explain how Kilgore lost to former Richmond mayor and current Lt. Governor Tim Kaine who is just as liberal as Leslie Byrne.

The big difference was that Bolling campaigned as an unabashed conservative, emphasizing his position in favor of guns and opposition to abortion and taxes. Kilgore fudged on all three of these issues which are the base of the GOP vote.

Democrats such as DNC chairman Howard Dean are claiming that an anti-Republican mood was manifest in yesterday's results, particularly in Virginia. But somehow the mood shifted while folks were voting, because victorious Bolling actually got more votes than did the defeated Kilgore.

Republicans should not ignore the Kilgore debacle, however. If his defeat does not reflect an anti-Republican trend, it does reveal the problem that Republicans are having nationally -- ignoring their base.

In the Congress, there has yet to be one purely pro-gun piece of legislation enacted, but several incremental anti-gun measures have been signed into law. These include a renewal of a plastic gun ban (even though such a weapon does not exist), a requirement that retail gun sales include a gun lock (something which should never be used on a gun intended for self defense) and a study to see if more bullets for civilian ownership should be banned (expanding the ban on so-called armor piercing bullets). This does not include a parts importation ban that was issued by the BATFE earlier this year. The ban was not too surprising, even though it represented a reversal of years of approval, because the BATFE's new boss is the very anti-gun Attorney General, Albert Gonzalez.

If Republicans insist on using the Earley-Kilgore playbook during the 2006 elections, they can expect to see the same results that Earley and Kilgore got. Perhaps the question we should be asking the GOP is, "Are you feeling lucky, boys?"

Postscript. A special election for the State Senate occurred after the gubernatorial election. Just over two months later (end of January, 2006) the dangers to Republicans referred to above proved to be real.

A Loudon County Supervisor, Mick Staton, has been in office for three years and has a proven record of opposing tax increases and repealing anti-homeowner restrictions imposed by the enviro-wackos who controlled the county before Staton was elected. Staton ran in a special election for a Senate seat that entirely encompassed his county district.

On election day, Staton only got 38% of the vote. A pro-gun activist reported that many voters who identified themselves as gun owners (and who knew that Staton was pro-gun) expressed zero trust in Republican promises to lower taxes because they have so routinely broken them.

I believe that Staton, holding an office that most voters pay little attention to, was tsunamied by the state and national GOP officials who have been acting less and less as Republicans. The voters punished Staton for what congressional Republicans have been doing. We shall see if the Republicans continue sleeping past the Kilgore/Staton wakeup calls.

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