06.14.2013 0

Virginia Republicans fail to protect tax-hiking incumbents

By Willie Deutsch

On Feb. 23, 2013 Gov. Bob McDonnell cheered while the Virginia House of Delegates approved a massive tax hike which the state senate had just approved.

As Americans for Limited Government noted at the time, it was a “quadruple insult to the tea party: 1) a tremendous tax increase to fund a 2) huge spending increase bought for with the 3) implementation of Obamacare in Virginia in a manner that 4) unconstitutionally outsources Medicaid expansion to a supercommittee.”

This was legislation that raised taxes on practically everything: property taxes, vending machines, construction equipment, vehicle purchases, land sales, hotel visits, gas, etc.  It ended up being the largest tax hike in Virginia history.

This is the kind of thing you expect from Democrats, not a state with a Republican Governor and Republican control of both houses of the legislature including a supermajority in the House of Delegates.  Understandably, the vote infuriated activists, bloggers, and conservative organizations from across the state.

This was a signature piece of legislation that Gov. McDonnell felt was important for his legacy.  It took an interesting coalition of Republicans and Democrats to pass.  In the effort to get enough Republican votes in the more conservative House of Delegates, Speaker Bill Howell assured delegates he would make sure they did not lose their seats over the vote.

Howell followed that assurance up by creating a PAC specifically designed to raise money and support delegates who voted for the transportation bill.  A few months later Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling joined Speaker Howell by creating the “Virginia Mainstream Project” PAC which endorsed all the incumbents with primary challenges.

While there was incredible outrage over the transportation vote, few incumbents were primaried.  This however had more to do with the two week window and the start of the filing deadline which is a short time to start up a campaign.  However, there were four Republican incumbents who supported the transportation bill who were primaried: Speaker Howell, and Delegates May, Orrock, and Sherwood.  This meant Speaker Howell simply had three delegates to protect to make good on his pledge.

All three of these incumbents were well financed.  Delegate Joe May received $15,000.00 from the Majority Leader PAC, $10,000.00 from the Commonwealth Transportation PAC, $5,000 from Speaker Howell, and thousands from other delegates.

Delegate Bobby Orrock: $10,000.00 from Speaker Howell, $6,500.00 from the Majority Leader PAC, $5,380 from the VA Mainstream Project, and $1,151 from the Commonwealth Transportation PAC among other donations.

Delegate Bev Sherwood saw similar support with $10,760.00 from the Virginia Mainstream Project, $5,000.00 from Speaker Howell, $5,000.00 from the Majority Leader Pac, and $3,494.00 from the Commonwealth Transportation PAC as well as donations from many other lobbyists.

Delegate Ben Cline led the conservative opposition to the transportation bill and started a PAC to help like minded candidates, and the Middle Resolution PAC helped the primary challengers there was very little organized state money for the challengers.

Delegate Joe May raised $243,000.00 in 2013 while his challenger Dave LaRock raised just under $60,000.00 through May 29.

Del. Orrock raised $112,000 in 2013 while his challenger Dustin Curtis raised $22,000 through May 29.

Del. Sherwood outraised her opponent Mark Berg $89,703.00 to $46,361.00.

The three primary challengers got into the race because of the transportation vote and ran aggressively on it, and that messaged resonated with voters.  Heading into the vote few people thought that more than one of the incumbents would be defeated, LaRock was thought to have the best chance of winning, but even that was thought to be a long shot.

Instead both Delegates May and Sherwood, two powerful committee chairs, were defeated, and Del. Orrock barely hung on by 300 votes.  The energy in these races was created by the transportation vote.  Voters were outraged and made their voices known at the ballot box.

Dave LaRock, a businessman and conservative activist in Loudoun, ran aggressively against Joe May on the transportation vote.  Immediately after announcing his bid, LaRock was on the air with a radio ad going after Joe May on the tax vote, and consistently hammered that message home as he knocked on doors across the district.  This was such a high energy race that 200 more people voted in the race than the last time Joe May was primaried in 2005 when a Republican Gubernatorial primary was driving turnout.

Watching two powerful committee chairmen lose to challengers and almost seeing a third long time delegate lose cannot be encouraging to the rest of the House Caucus that voted for the tax hike.  Speaker Howell pledged to protect his delegates and failed.  Yet again conservative activists have made it clear that they will work hard to hold Republicans accountable when they do not stand strong for limited government.

Americans for Limited Government board member, Bill Wilson, stated, “Looking at these results, it is clear that Virginia Republican activists can’t stand higher taxes. Hopefully this will encourage other conservatives to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Both Delegate May and Sherwood’s districts are solid Republican districts and Dave LaRock and Mark Berg are expected to easily win the general elections in November.

Willie Deutsch is Editor-in-Chief for NetRightDaily.com, and Social Media Director for Americans for Limited Government.  You can follow him on twitter @WillieDeutsch.

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