A few of my friends are supporting Shak Hill for Congress. I can’t.
I ran against Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination in the 10th District in
2014. She beat me—and four other men—handily to take the nomination, and went on
to win a 16 point victory in the fall.
Many of my differences with Barbara are a matter of record, and I don’t take them back.
But so is my full throated support for her in the general elections since. The small
Republican majority in Congress (whatever its deficiencies) is far too important to risk
in this swing district by being cagey about whether we should support her against
Democrats who agree with us about far far less. Unfortunately, the other men that
Barbara bested in that primary refused to work for her in the general. As Ken Cuccinelli
put it, supporting the nominee when you’ve lost a nominating process is “the price of
admission.” It’s a matter of honor—and respect for the same citizens whose votes you
And that’s the main reason I cannot support Shak Hill for Congress in the primary.
In 2014, Shak ran against Ed Gillespie for the US Senate nomination. Ed won decisively.
But then Shak played the game of being cagey about his support for Ed in the general
election. In fact, when Ed called and directly asked Shak to join Vets for Ed, Shak
refused. And he refused to tamp down the “Write in Shak” campaign being waged by his
own friends and family.
At a time when Ed was coming fast from way behind and almost eked out a victory,
there was needless disunity in the Republican Party of Virginia because Shak didn’t
energetically support our nominee. I believe that if Shak had worked as hard for Ed as I
did for Barbara, specifically to foster unity in the party, we would have Senator
Gillespie representing us on Capitol Hill today instead of a progressive Democrat.
In the fall of 2014, I ran into Shak outside a well attended debate over which part of
Article V of the US Constitution is a better amendment process. At the time, Democrats
were throwing something like $10 Million at beating Barbara in the general. Shak said to
me, “We need to talk about who is going to run when Barbara loses.” He then argued
with me about whether she was going to win in November.
So already he was campaigning, sowing doubt about Barbara’s prospects and trying to
pre-clear the way for his own career, even though the seat and the Republican majority
were at stake.
I don’t think that’s the right spirit of things. Our principles must matter more than our
Noah Webster said in 1789:
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or
denomination of the candidate—look to his character.”
Shak is always running for office. He has palm cards with his picture on them even when
he is not a candidate! I respect his military service, but his personality based leadership
rubs me the wrong way.
I hope it’s not churlish to point out some petty things that demonstrate Shak is
challenged when it comes to team play—like the time he put fundraising flyers on all the
cars at my 2015 Senate kickoff, while eating the food and not leaving a contribution, or
the other times that he would crash our fundraisers, eat the food, network, and never
leave a contribution. One time he even went through the stack of checks in the collection
basket to see who had donated. Stay classy, there, Shak. Small-souled acts like these
reveal a lot about how such a person would act in Congress.
I’m all for spirited primaries (conventions are still better!) when they constitute a real
debate about issues that matter. I’m a strict constructionist and would love to see the
party move back in that direction. But let’s not pretend that the way to do that is to run a
candidate who cannot win in November, and only damages the Republican brand. We
would only help elect a Democrat who will vote for a Democrat speaker and vote to impeach the President. That would do nothing to restore the Constitutional order of the
This is a tough year. If any Republican can hold this seat it is Barbara Comstock, and
only Barbara Comstock. So let’s remember her important contributions—she votes as
even the most conservative person would well more than 90% of the time. And let’s send her back to Congress to hold the House.