by Ken Reid
Leave it to GOP primary voters in Virginia to support the no-name insurgent candidates over incumbents who have demonstrated an ability to win elections. A case in point – the 10th congressional district GOP firehouse primary May 21.
The supposed frontrunner, Prince William Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, lost badly despite raising more than $900,000 in donations and key endorsements — Delegate Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, former state senator Dick Black, and former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Hung Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant and retired Navy captain with a distinguished career and life story, was nominated with about 7,700 votes, Lawson, 5,000, Brandon Michon, 2,000 or so, as of the ninth ballot, in rank-choice voting.
Cao ran a superlative campaign, and got Asians, veterans and parishioners in Leesburg megachurch Cornerstone Chapel (where he belongs) to vote for him. He raised about $500,000, largely from Vietnamese across the nation. I think he can beat incumbent Representative Jennifer Wexton, but Lawson, a female with a solid base in Prince William County, would have been the stronger nominee.
Lawson’s vote could have been depressed by an anonymous texting campaign focused on her support for a June 2020 non-binding resolution in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in the aftermath of the national outrage over George Floyd’s death at the hand of Minneapolis police. She, like most of us, did not know at the time what a corrupt Marxist organization BLM is. (You can watch a clip of the board meeting here
As a 10-year elected office holder in Loudoun, including four years on the Board of Supervisors, I would get these resolutions all the time and I summarily voted for them. But GOP primary voters didn’t know those details. All they know is BLM is a bad group and Lawson voted for their resolution. Lawson did not return my emails or phone calls for this article.
Cao has no voting record, so no material for a smear campaign. But because Lawson has a voting record, as do a number of elected representatives running in the 2nd and 7th district primaries June 21, I fear Republicans will look to the “nonpolitician” no-name candidates, thus dooming GOP chances to win a majority of our delegation to the U.S. House.
State Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, elected in 2019 to the 2nd congressional district, is facing attacks from Jarome Bell and Tommy Altman on her votes on LGBTQ issues. Never mind she also stood against defanging the police and other “woke” legislation Democrats passed in Richmond. Her district is much like Cao’s — it leans Republican but has large Democratic voting blocs. Kiggans is by far the best candidate but expect incumbent Democrat Elaine Luria to win if Bell or Altman win the nomination, in my humble opinion.
Same goes for the 7th congressional district. There, three of the six GOP hopefuls hold elected office.
They have had to vote on variety of matters during their terms – their opponents have not. All it takes if for a candidate or PAC to blow their votes out of proportion in a smear campaign, and Republicans will have a no-recognition nominee and Democrat Abigail Spanberger will get a third term in the House.
GOP primary voters should be thinking strategically June 21. Look at the totality of the candidates’ records, and don’t don’t get fixated on one vote or one tweet. If Republicans want to nominate the best candidate to beat Democrats in the fall, that means giving special consideration to folks who have already won for office and won.