As everyone gets geared up for the battle between Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam, an odd but oft-quoted saying entered my mind.
Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
The list of Virginia’s Republican governors isn’t long. There were 24 consecutive Democrats (at least non-Republicans) before Linwood Holton, Mills Godwin and John Dalton scored a GOP threepeat in 1973, 1977 and 1981.
But it’s the other three of the half-dozen GOP governors since Reconstruction that have me wondering, especially compared to the Democrats.
Allen went on to a one-term cup of coffee in the US Senate and was excoriated in national media for the famed video where he added “macaca” to the national lexicon and branded the “macaca moment” for video trackers and reporters forever.
McDonnell went from the Governor’s mansion to the courts, with convictions involving gifts, bribes and loans ultimately being overturned by the Supreme Court. Regardless, with mountains of legal bills and a sullied national reputation of the man once regarded as national ticket talent, the Governorship didn’t do McDonnell any favors.
The one I can’t understand is Gilmore. Gilmore should be a Republican hero in Virginia and he’s hardly treated like one. His 1997 campaign was fantastic, and that his opponent whom he trounced by 13 points is now in Congress shows how odd these paths have become.
As Governor, Gilmore’s toughest opponents were in his own party, with some more willing to work with the next Governor, Mark Warner, than they were with Gilmore.
Gilmore was RNC chair for a year, twice ran for President (kinda) and lost a race for US Senate by 31 points.
Meanwhile, their Democratic contemporaries have done pretty well, career-wise. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are both in the US Senate, and Kaine got a VP nomination. Chuck Robb went to the Senate, too. Doug Wilder was elected Mayor of Richmond after runs for US Senate and President. Gerald Baliles is highly respected to this day.
It’s been frequently noted that Virginia has no current Republican statewide elected officials and hasn’t carried a Republican Presidential ticket since 2004. Perhaps part of the reason is we allow the ones we have had to be politically or personally destroyed or even worse, we participate in the destruction.
For years, the “circle the wagons and shoot inward” mentality was a strongly Republican trait. Lately, the Democrats have adopted it. Maybe it’s time we stop tearing our own side apart and defend our candidates. If we don’t, we should start questioning the sanity of those who still want to seek the office under our banner.
Maybe we can reverse some trends. Maybe we can win Virginia and flip the state for Trump in 2020.
Maybe Ed Gillespie can be the beginning.
I think he will be, if we let him. For his sake and ours, I hope we do.