The good thing about getting old is you have lots of stories to share, and in my 20 years of involvement in Virginia politics I have met lots of good and honorable people. I count Jim Gilmore as truly one of the best.
A story for you: in 1993 I was a College Republican at George Mason University, and I was also the co-chairman of GMU’s “Students for Allen.” I spent the spring of that year organizing College Republicans to go down to Richmond for the state Republican convention in June to back then-former Congressman George Allen for Governor.
As you may remember, we Virginia Republicans spent the 1980s in the political wilderness. Democrats had won the last three gubernatorial races. But, we were confident that we had a winning candidate in George Allen. Finally, we had a real possibility of getting a Republican governor.
Well, the caravan to Richmond included a beautiful young woman named Lauren. I don’t remember her last name, and believe she was a student at American University. She wanted to catch a ride with us. I didn’t know whom she was backing, but I wasn’t going to say no to her. So pretty was she that even if she wasn’t backing Allen I would let her ride with us. But I digress.
She was mostly convinced to vote for Allen for Governor and Mike Farris for Lt. Governor. Great! However, she was unsure on the Attorney General’s race. The candidates were Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney James Gilmore and Roanoke area Delegate Steve Agee.
We tried to convince her to vote for Gilmore, but she was unsure. She said she wanted to talk to both candidates and then make a decision. Meeting the candidates is fairly easy to do at these conventions since they usually spend all day trolling the Richmond coliseum looking for last minute votes.
As I recall, that morning Agee put out a hit piece on Gilmore in an effort to sway the undecided. It didn’t change my mind, but I thought it would push Lauren into the Agee camp.
However, she still wanted to meet Gilmore and ask her questions and follow up on Agee’s attacks. The vote was to take place in about an hour, and still no sign of him. I said, we need to go back to our seats; they are about to call for the vote. She wanted to make one more loop around the coliseum and finally we tracked down the Henrico Commonwealth Attorney Gilmore. She stood in line, her questions and Agee’s latest charges at the ready.
Gilmore greeted her and in about a minute thirty seconds rebuffed every one of Agee’s charges and made his case. For anyone interested in debate and public policy it was a thing of beauty. I watched in amazement.
Once the conservation was over she turned to me and said. “That’s it, I am voting for Gilmore”
That story confirms my belief that if Gilmore can meet enough GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire he has a shot.
Don’t underestimate him.