I do not think so highly of myself that I can call on anyone to run or not run for office. I think that in practice the more candidates that run, the more choices that are offered in primaries, the stronger we are as a party in a general election. The real danger in the candidate selection process is fixing it so one person wins. Open primaries (or conventions) offer a chance for factions to honestly battle it out and release all of that intra-party energy. So everything I write here is not me telling someone to run or not to run, but my evaluation of the state of the party and the 2018 US Senate race.
I am not looking at this 2018 Senate race as necessarily a race we can win. I have long extolled the political strength of Tim Kaine in Virginia, even while for years many in RPV have dismissed him as a lightweight living off of Mark Warner’s coattails. Kaine is a dogged, happy warrior-type campaigner who comes off as genuine and likable to your average voter (I used my apolitical wife as a barometer, and she loves Kaine). He does not come from an elite background that puts him out of touch with the regular folks and his aw-shucks public facing persona is frankly the perfect fit for a blue state like Virginia that still has deep red parts to it. Defeating Kaine will be incredibly difficult as his rise through both state and national politics put him to the brink of the vice-presidency and with that comes all the money and name recognition anyone would want. So I’ll be honest, for me 2018 isn’t about defeating Tim Kaine, it’s about saving the Republican Party.
I am convinced that nominating Corey Stewart for the US Senate will do untold damage to the reputation and prospects of the Republican Party of Virginia. And before the trolls come a-calling, I voted for Donald Trump in both the primary and general election and I genuinely support his presidency and have been pleasantly surprised by his accomplishments thus far. Corey Stewart, on the other hand, represents not just the worst of right wing identity politics but has a concerning record as a tax-raiser and best friend of developers here in Prince William County. His actions and tacit support of some of the worst in racial white identity politics that exist on the very fringes of the conservative movement is concerning and threatens to paint us all with the same brush.
I am supporting Del. Nick Freitas as enthusiastically as I possibly can, and I doubt I could come up with a better argument that Stephen Brodie Tucker did so I’ll just let his words speak for themselves. Freitas is everything I’ve ever wanted in a candidate and he’s the anti-Corey in just about every way. The best thing about Freitas is he’s not an establishment mushy moderate, but he plays well with others and I think could be transformative figure within RPV to help heal the wounds that divided us for the last decade over internal fights like convention vs. primary, Tom Davis vs. RVA, Bill Bolling vs. Ken Cuccinelli, and Dave Brat vs Eric Cantor. Virginia is a blue state now, I have accepted this and we need to find someone that speaks the language of the 21st century who can bring all factions together with a pro-liberty message that extends to all. That is why I am supporting Freitas. Stewart is a divider, someone who works no different than a progressive that wants to chop the electorate up into identities and maximize those to win through division.
So, I’m four paragraphs in and you’re probably wondering what Jim Gilmore has to do with any of this. Well it’s no secret that Virginia’s best former governor is considering a second run for the Senate against Tim Kaine. By the way, when I say he’s the best governor I mean it. George Allen and Bob McDonnell may have become more famous, but Jim Gilmore is the best Republican governor in my lifetime. He successfully brought down the odious car tax as much as he possibly could and even before that, as attorney general, he was a leader in fighting that late-90s epidemic of black church burnings. He’s a good man and I was proud to support him in 2008 against Mark Warner. He even wishes me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall! He was never going to win that race against Warner given what he was up against but he stood tall when few others were willing to take that one on. I was proud to vote for him. But I closed the previous paragraph by saying that we need a 21st century candidate. And while I don’t doubt Jim Gilmore’s understanding of the issues of today, I believe that his time has passed for this race. Furthermore, his entry would affect the dynamics of the race such that it would help Stewart. Stewart didn’t almost beat Ed Gillespie because of his Trumpian bona fides, Stewart closed the gap on Stewart because he pivoted from being the Trump candidate to the “conservative” alternative, essentially uniting the Cruz/Trump vote of 2016 and Ed was left with Kasich/Rubio. And yet he still couldn’t win. Nick Freitas has the unique chance to unite not only conservatives and libertarians but also the suburban moderate voters in places like Henrico and McLean because of their disgust with Stewart and his rhetoric and antics. EW Jackson remains a threat on the right as well but I believe he hurts Stewart as they battle over the MAGA vote. I find Jackson, like Gilmore, to be an equally honorable man who gets a bad rap. If Jim Gilmore gets in the race, at the very least he solidifies the suburban Richmond vote, his base, and leaves Freitas even less room to maneuver. This makes a Stewart nomination more likely.
Nick Freitas is our chance to turn the page on the last decade of internal strife and political defeats at the ballot. He might not beat Tim Kaine, nor certainly will any of our other candidates, but he is the most likely to not only heal the wounds of the past because he’s a new and fresh face with staunch pro-liberty ideals but ones that are welcoming to all, not used to disqualify others. Perhaps I’m just a selfish Freitas supporter, I can concede that. But I don’t think there is enough room between Gilmore, Jackson and Freitas to stop Corey. Too many names fighting for the same vote. Both Jackson and Gilmore have had their day and their chances, it’s time to try someone new.