On Tuesday, January 12, somewhere in Richmond, Tim Kaine breathed a very shallow sigh of relief. As Virginia’s lame duck governor (and the Democratic National Committee’s full-time chairman), Kaine had put his reputation on the line by explicitly promising that the Old Dominion’s donkeys would capture the state senate seat recently vacated by incoming Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Now, Kaine might be winning the image war with his Republican counterpart, RNC head Michael Steele (who recently told his conservative critics to “fire me” or “shut up”), but he’s been losing a hell of a lot of battles along the way.
The fight to secure the GOP slot in the Fifth to run against incumbent Tom Perriello, pictured, has been a nonstop sprint away from the center, with each candidate trying desperately to out-Fox the other.
But Kaine finally has something to crow about: a 327-vote victory by Democrat Dave Marsden over Republican Steve Hunt for Cuccinelli’s hotly contested seat.
Although, to be honest, the term “victory” might be a bit strong. After all, Marsden is basically a moderate Republican in all but name (he once worked for Jim Gilmore, and is proud of the fact that he “voted to eliminate the death tax”), and Hunt is a homophobic nutjob best known for urging high school principals to allow “cured” gays and lesbians to lecture in local classrooms. The fact that this guy came within two percentage points of winning should send a shiver down Tim Kaine’s spine.
Which is why the true test of Virginia’s reinvigorated right wing is still to come. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the seven-candidate carnival currently underway in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional district, home of Rep. Tom Perriello.
The fight to secure the GOP slot in the Fifth has been a nonstop sprint away from the center, with each candidate trying desperately to out-Fox the other. With many conservative activists unimpressed by the establishment candidate, Virginia Senator Robert Hurt, the rest of the field has been in full pander mode, hoping to become the Tea Party’s favorite mad hatter.
Although Hurt has tried to appease his angry base by publicly repudiating his vote for then-Governor Mark Warner’s 2004 tax increase (and even signed a Grover Norquist-endorsed pledge to oppose any tax increases if elected), he’s still being out-hustled on his right flank by Albemarle businessman Laurence Verga. Verga, a commercial property developer who needs a kidney transplant (no, really), recently snagged crucial endorsements from two high-profile conservative tastemakers: talk radio host Laura Ingraham and 2008 electoral curiosity Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.
That’s right! John McCain’s chrome-domed gaffe machine, whose first name is actually Sam, and who doesn’t technically have a plumber’s license, is back on the trail, stretching his 15 minutes of fame into its third incoherent year. And in case you were worried that ol’ Joe has lost his touch, rest assured: His recent Danville rally with Verga was filled with Wurzelbacherian words of wisdom, such as “we’re allowing these little terrorists, punk terrorists, to dictate what I do in my own country,” and “the constitution is right now as it was when it was written; no changes have ever been made to it.”
O.K., so the man might not be a constitutional scholar, but he sure knows what he likes! Guess we’ll just have to wait until June to see if the rest of Virginia’s Republican electorate agrees with him.
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