It’s an uphill battle, but if Joe comes down from the cloud, he could do it
The 33rd State Senate District, which is being vacated by Democrat Jennifer Wexton, who was elected to Congress Nov. 6, has been controlled by Democrats since 2005 when then Republican Sen. Bill Mims resigned to become Bob McDonnell’s deputy attorney general.
The special election for Wexton’s seat, to be held Jan. 8, will be the third in this district since 2006 when Mark Herring beat Mick Staton for the special election to replace Mims.
The fact is the district is very Democratic — some 2,400 attended the Democrat primary that nominated Del. Jennifer Boysko vs. 72 for the Republican nominating caucus Nov. 18 that nominated Joe May, but had such low turnout because it was pulled together last minute.
May, who represented part of the district in the House of Delegates for some 20 years before losing his primary to Dave Larock in 2013, has an uphill fight on his hands. For one, he is not exactly a favorite of conservatives in the party, who still resent a number of his votes on taxes, guns, and his independent run against Wexton and Republican John Whitbeck in the 2nd special election to fill Herring’s seat in 2014 (which Wexton won 52%, which means May’s 10 percent was not a factor in Whitbeck losing and John has endorsed him for the Jan. 8 special election).
But he has the financing and ballot name-recognition. In addition, turnout is usually very light in these special elections (under 10 percent), and I believe Republicans are hungry for a win. I believe Republicans in the Senate would desire some wiggle room by trying to win this seat to cushion them from the potential impact of losing Senate control to the Democrats if another GOP-held seat falls the Democrats in 2019.
So, here is my advice on what Joe May needs to do to win:
- Joe has to humble himself and ask for help. Because of his personality and the fact he had a safe House district for many years, Joe was not the kind of person who would go around asking for endorsements and for people to help him. Rather, he hired bad consultants like Corey Bliss, who ran his campaign against Dave Larock in 2013 based on allegations Dave was charged with tearing down a semi-salacious sign for an adult bookstore. Joe has money, but he can’t rely on the wrong people.
- Joe needs to call every single elected Republican or endorsed Republican in office in Loudoun and western Fairfax and convene a meeting and ask them to help, including school board and Leesburg councilmembers. Help means door knocking and phone calling – not just endorsements. Each of these electeds have volunteers, too. Joe has the money to send letters of endorsement from various Loudoun supervisors to GOP voters. I think these supervisors and school board members would appreciate the opportunity to co-op with Joe on a mailing given the uphill battle they face in 2019 to get re-elected and keep GOP control of the Board. Barbara Comstock used this joint-letter approach with local officials to win her primary in 2014.
- Joe needs to get the Republican base behind him – again, by reaching out, not being above the fray. Joe often thinks of himself as having cross-party appeal, and he did have that appeal for many years, but today, the electorate in Northern Virginia is as divided on partisan grounds and Democrats vote for Democrats only. As such, Joe needs to build a buzz around his campaign – “let’s show we can still win elections.” He needs to help create the same zeal we saw earlier this year when Josh Thiel, who lost a special election for Leesburg Town Council in 2017 due to the “blue wave” for Ralph Northam, won my seat on the Council in February in a special election, called because I had to resign for work-related reasons.
- Joe needs to reach out to groups like “Loudoun Inspire,” a burgeoning group of conservative women in Loudoun who have blazed the trail in recent years to help local Republicans to victory. Loudoun Inspire was instrumental in helping Josh Thiel get elected and Suzanne Fox re-elected to the Leesburg Town Council. Joe also needs to reach out to Patrick Henry College Republicans, Young Republicans, Women’s groups, etc.
- Joe needs to reach out to those who opposed him and talk to them – like the tea party, and gun owners groups who are concerned about his position on firearms. I find it’s better to talk to our opponents than to ignore them. If they say “no,” then it’s “no” and move on.
- The Loudoun and Fairfax Republican Committees need to pull out the stops for Joe May, too. This is a short sprint to Jan. 8 and I believe enough activists can get motivated to help Joe win this. If he can win this, it will show the Republican base in this state that anything is possible and we cannot throw in the towel – even dominant Democrat districts like the 33rd.
Republicans hold a majority in the General Assembly by a thread right now due to the Blue Wave in November 2017. If Democrats win control 2019, they control redistricting for both congressional and General Assembly seats in 2021. This could mean the end of a two-party system in Virginia for many years and the potential for our state to become a unionized, high-tax, big regulation, sanctuary state. This should worry all of us, including our opponents, who are more mainstream (for now).
So, Republicans can gripe all day about Joe May’s past positions, but he is our candidate and has the experience and knowledge and connections in Richmond to help Loudoun and Western Fairfax, and will support GOP redistricting. Republicans should not only vote for him Jan. 8, but get out there and work hard for him and appreciate the fact he stepped up to the plate to take time from his successful business to run and serve again.
However, it all begins with Joe May and if he can come down from the cloud and ask people in the party to help him win.