January 18, 2010
After eight years of Democrats occupying the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Republicans have a lot to celebrate now that Bob McDonnell has been elevated to the top executive leadership position in the Old Dominion. The new governor struck a sober yet upbeat and inspirational tone in his hour-long speech to the General Assembly this evening, stressing bipartisan cooperation and making good-natured references to Del. Ward Armstrong and other Democratic legislators. Stylistically, it was right on target.
As for the substance, McDonnell covered the gamut of issues, mostly revolving around the difficult dilemma posed by the severe budget crunch. He focused like a proverbial "laser beam" on the fundamental task of job creation, the subject of Executive Order #1, which he signed on Saturday, within hours of taking the oath of office. My only real criticism of McDonnell was in putting too much emphasis on the standard tools by which state and local governments give special preferential incentives to attract investment from out-of-state. (He mentioned the tourist and movie-making industries as being prime examples of big payoff opportunities.) From a broader, nationwide perspective, however, such incentives yield little if any net increase in aggregative private investment, merely shifting investment from one state or locality to another, as in a zero-sum game. But otherwise, McDonnell said all the right things about the need to ease the regulatory burdens on small businesses, and to firmly reject any proposals to raise taxes on "hard-working Virginia families." Good! (It was also good that he left just a little bit of wiggle room for negotiating purposes.)
McDonnell repeated one line that caught my attention from his inaugural address on the Capitol steps, eliciting loud cheers along with some boos from Democrats:
We will make Virginia the energy capital of the east coast.
To which I say, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." I support the proposed off-shore drilling measures, as long as there are strong environmental safeguards, but I am under no illusion that we are necessarily going to strike it rich. I was never much impressed with the simplistic slogan, "Drill here, drill now!" Maybe we will get lucky, as Brazil did two years ago, or maybe not. For a detailed summary and analysis of the Governor's speech, read Jim Hoeft at Bearing Drift.
Sunday's News Leader reported on local folks who made it down to Richmond for the inaugural festivities, including Jimmy Brenneman, a young Staunton Republican. [Also present at the ceremonies was the new 20th District Delegate, Dickie Bell and his wife, Anne.] (I was seriously considering making the trip, but the household vote on the issue was tied, 1-1.) If I had only known the 70s acoustic rock group America was going to play at the inaugural ball...
In the months to come, Governor McDonnell will have a precious opportunity to prove that he can tackle tough issues in a bipartisan fashion without giving up on conservative principles. He will be under heavy pressure from the "grassroots" to do their bidding. Fortunately, he seems to be a very capable and gifted leader, so there is very good reason to expect that he will rise above the old partisan bickering and gamesmanship, and do what is in the best interest of all Virginians.
I have made no secret of my deep dissatisfaction with the Grand Old Party over the past few years, and I have explained my reasoning in fine detail. Being that I have striven to be discreet about intra-party squabbling, however -- in marked contrast to the "grassroots" leadership -- you sometimes have to "read between the lines" in my critiques. For the record, I ceased involvement in the formal party organization after the final "mediation effort" came to naught in mid-2008. Since then, I have limited my political activities to occasional public meetings, campaign events, and the Mountain Valley Republicans. I am gratified that the victory last November validated the approach I have been calling for, and I hope that it signifies the beginning of a fresh turn in a more sane and constructive direction.
In Virginia's 37th Senate District, being vacated by Attorney General-to-be Ken Cuccinelli, Democrat Dave Marsden defeated Republican Steve M. Hunt by only 327 votes: 50.64% to 49.26%. Some Democrats are crowing about the narrow win, but given the demographic makeup of Northern Virginia, the race should not have been so close. Clearly, something is amiss on the Democratic side. Meanwhile, the GOP held on to the 6th District Senate seat, being vacated by Ken Stolle (just elected as Sheriff of Virginia Beach), as Jeff McWaters beat Bill Fleming in a landslide. See the Virginia State Board of Elections. That means the Democrats now have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, rather than a 21-19 majority as before. Accordingly, I have updated the table showing the composition of the Virginia government on my Politics blog page.
There is also a special election in Massachusetts tomorrow, for the United States Senate. Somehow, the Democratic favorite Martha Coakley has totally botched her campaign, wrongly assuming that the seat was an inherited peerage like in the House of Lords. Amazingly enough, the latest polls show the Republican Scott Brown with a significant lead that keeps growing. (Nine percent??? -- see politico.com.) I commented on a couple blogs that I expect the Democrats to manage to hold on to the "Kennedy seat" one way or another, but I hope I'm wrong. It is clear that a Democratic defeat would signify a humiliating repudiation of President Obama, but I would be very dubious about any claim that the "Tea Party" movement is responsible for a Republican win -- even if the original Tea Party was in Boston! A more convincing argument is that the tax hikes planned under Obamacare would severely penalize the manufacturers of medical devices that operate in Massachusetts, causing workers in that industry to defect from Democratic ranks. Ver-r-ry interesting!
Today, for the first time since an African-American became president, we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, father of the great Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Local Republican activist Carl Tate, one of the rare breed of African-Americans who is proud to stand by the "Party of Lincoln," attended a program in honor of his late grandfather, Oliver J. Tate. I read the elder Mr. Tate's obituary in the News Leader a few months ago, and I can see where Carl got his character and gumption.
Thanks to the miracle of social networking, I learned about another African-American with a Republican identity: Samantha Rucker. She is running for the school board in the Mason District of Fairfax County. (I used to play softball in Mason District Park!) She says, "I am not running to promote one specific agenda or any partisan principles. I am running to be a part of the solution." Sounds good to me.