Over 8500 attendees and credentialed delegates filled the Richmond coliseum at Saturday’s Republican State Convention where Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the keynote speaker. A twelve-hour day started late as participants squeezed through two coliseum entrance checkpoints instead of the expected twelve.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was unchallenged and was easily declared the Republican nominee for governor by acclamation and a resounding roar of approval. The first round of balloting took out Mark Obenshain’s opponent Delegate Rob Bell and Senator Obenshain was declared the party’s attorney general nominee.
The lieutenant governor’s race did not end so fast as seven candidates were vying for the position. Four rounds of voting took up the rest of the day and evening with the first round taking almost three hours. Voting machines were unable to factor in a weighted voting system where every vote is not equal.
Grumbling could be heard as some feared the RPV didn’t want Jackson as the lieutenant governor nominee. That was the feeling of Roanoke Tea Party President Chip Tarbutton – coalitions were being formed to override Jackson’s commanding lead in each round of balloting. On the 3rd round Jackson fell just short of the 50% needed. He came in at 49.7% but the fourth round put him over the top.
Jackson is a Harvard Law School graduate and minister. A line of his supporters and volunteers at the convention marched around the floor perimeter with signs and shouts for Jackson as more voting rounds were called.
To pass the time bored attendees mingled, listened to or in some cases ignored speeches and flew paper airplanes from the balconies. They even initiated a “wave” that went around the coliseum.
Cuccinelli spoke with a less ideological and more methodical tone than in speeches past. His speech was streamed live and lasted 24 minutes. He hit some of the same notes that almost all Republicans and Democrats have been singing for years. “We need a stronger middle class … better paying jobs, more opportunity and a more competitive economic environment for businesses to invest and grow.”
His softer tone didn’t keep him from taking a few pot shots at his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe. “We should be trying to bring those jobs here in Virginia and not in Mississippi.” A clear reference to McAuliff’s electric car company GreenTech that located in Mississippi to take advantage of a large incentive the state offered. Cuccinelli attacked McAuliffe on what he called his changing story on why he located his startup company in Mississippi.
McAuliffe released three years of tax returns but Cuccinelli demanded that he should release eight years of returns as he has done. Democrats have called him “extreme” and Cuccinelli responded by saying, “When did it become extreme to guard our constitution from overreach?”
Cuccinelli promoted quality education calling for giving “parents greater control over their children’s education.” In contrast to earlier statements in which he questioned the increased taxes that Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation package would bring, he was instead more nuanced saying Virginia needed a transportation system that advances the state’s economy and improves quality of life.
Protecting the elderly from abuse and supporting the rights of the unborn were his only two ventures into social issues. Outside, across the street from the convention center stood a row of Planned Parenthood PAC supporters in pink holding signs that read, “Keep Ken Out;” a rally against tightening restrictions on women’s healthcare and abortion clinics.
“I’m the only candidate in this race that won’t need on-the-job training,” said Cuccinelli. A direct reference to McAuliffe who has never held elective office. “My opponent knows Washington – I know Virginia.” He called McAuliffe a “Virginia outsider,” driving home McAuliffe’s image as a carpetbagger. While McAuliffe has lived in Virginia for over 20 years he is having trouble shaking the label placed on him by Republicans.
Cuccinelli also touted his lawsuit against the Affordable Healthcare Act, his challenges to climate change data and his resistance to what he has called overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Cuccinelli has waged a battle against child pornography and human trafficking during his term as attorney general. His recently introduced economic plan reduces the personal income tax rate from 5.75% to 5% over four years and the corporate tax from 6% to 4%. Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has criticized both candidate’s tax plans saying, “You can’t just propose tax cuts willy nilly.”
The Democratic primary is June 11 when voters will select Sen. Mark Herring or Justin Fairfax for attorney general and Aneesh Chopra or Sen. Ralph Northam for lieutenant governor.
Democrats were quick to respond to the ticket: “This year’s election will present Virginians with a clear choice between a Democratic vision for more jobs, good schools and the transportation system our economy needs and the Cuccinelli-Jackson-Obenshain agenda to roll back the clock on women’s health and turn our government into a hotbed for Tea Party extremism.”
– Valerie Garner