If there are two words in the English language guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of political scribblers everywhere, the first would be “August” and the second “primaries.” First of all, only the tiniest sliver of the American electorate can be bothered to contemplate the qualitative differences between various party candidates this time of year, much less actually make it to the polls to vote for one of them. And secondly, even if you’re committed (or crazy) enough to care, chances are that you’re out lazing on the beach or quaffing ale in Colonial Williamsburg.
Fine, be that way! See if we care. We’ve got a column to write, dagnabbit, and we’re going to prove that—even in this electoral summer dead zone—there are still interesting things going out there in primary land.
Tito vs. Frederick. Our first primary battle comes courtesy of Virginia’s 36th district, where the fight to take on incumbent Democratic Senator Linda “Toddy” Puller has turned into a perfect microcosm of the current state of the Republican Party. On one side stands the putative “establishment candidate,” Jeff Frederick—a three-term alumni of Virginia’s House of Delegates and poorly regarded ex-chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia—while on the other stands political neophyte and Tea Party favorite Tito Muñoz. What makes this race especially interesting is the fact that Muñoz—a naturalized American citizen and small business owner who only entered politics after Sarah Palin brought him onstage and dubbed him “Tito the Builder” at a 2008 campaign rally—has garnered the lion’s share of endorsements (including a hat tip from U.S. Senate hopeful George Allen), while Frederick has been desperately trying to fashion himself as an outsider candidate. Incompetent party hack or complete political naïf? You must choose, Republican primary voters…you must choose.
Favola vs. Jaime Areizaga-Soto. The 31st district slugfest between Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola and onetime Army JAG (and corporate lawyer) Jaime Areizaga-Soto is becoming more interesting by the day. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw tried mightily to clear the field for Favola, but Areizaga-Soto would not be dissuaded, setting the stage for an increasingly bitter primary. Favola has landed some low blows, including trying to link her opponent to spill-prone Brazilian oil company Petrobras and labeling him a Republican in one of her campaign phone polls. In return, Areizaga-Soto has sent out flyers comparing Favola to Republicans Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli, and aggressively highlighted her history of taking large contributions from real estate developers and—in one particularly egregious case—a towing company that had business before the board (she subsequently voted to raise towing fees just five days after receiving the $2,500 contribution).
Smith vs. Bell. Four years ago, Republican Senator Brandon Bell was defeated in his 21st District primary by current Senator Ralph Smith. Now, after a redistricting shuffle, Bell has decided to return the favor by running against Smith in the 19th District as an independent. Making it all the more delicious is the fact that the Democrats haven’t even fielded a candidate for this open seat yet, making Bell the de facto donkey in the race. Twist!
So there you go—who said we couldn’t make the summer primary season fun? Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re late for a very important date with Water Country USA.