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November 8, 2005 [LINK]

Bad news for Virginia Republicans

The implicit caution in my post yesterday seems borne out by the preliminary results this evening: Jerry Kilgore is going down to defeat in one of the most hotly contested governor's races in Virginia history. With over 96 percent of the precincts reporting, he has just a little over 46 percent, to Tim Kaine's 52 percent (all figures rounded). Too close to call? NOT! It's good sign that Russ Potts is only pulling about 2 percent, but since he was expected to take more votes from Kilgore than [from] Kaine, it suggests that Kilgore's overall level of support from within his own party was just not very strong. To my surprise, Leslie Byrne is running very close behind Bill Bolling in the lieutenant governor's race, 51 to 49 percent. The attorney general race is the closest one [of] all, as Bob McDonnell is currently ahead of Creigh Deeds by less than 7,000 votes, only 0.4 percent of the total. Even if the Republicans win both those secondary races, it will be small consolation. In a "red state" like this, they should have done much better in all three races. Something is clearly amiss.

If Kilgore had been a more inspiring candidate, I suppose I would have taken this loss much harder. There is nothing for party workers to feel ashamed about, as they all did their part with determination and enthusiasm. I was particularly impressed by seeing all the Teenage Republican volunteers manning the phone banks at the local GOP headquarters in the last couple weeks. (Whether the incessant telephone calls to "Get Out The Vote!" may have gone overboard and perversely suppressed voter turnout is something to ponder at a later date.) When a candidate is notably less articulate than his (or her) opponent, when the status quo is satisfactory, when the national party leader (in this case, President Bush) is unpopular, and when the party is torn by arguments over who is a "real" member, it takes more than a bit of luck to defeat the party of the incumbent. Last year the Democrats learned that profligate campaign spending and frenetic, razor-sharp rhetoric are not the keys to victory; this year in Virginia, ironically, the Republicans are learning that very same lesson. More thoughts tomorrow...

What worries me most about this defeat is that the issue of illegal immigration, which Kilgore raised late in the campaign, may be shunted aside by future candidates of both parties as too risky. Those who heaped scorn on Kilgore for pandering to racist xenophobia are, in my view, guilty of trying to stifle a debate that urgently needs to take place. If neither party takes up this issue in a frank, consistent way, it would open the door to extremists who appeal to those who find they have no voice among mainstream candidates, in which case we would have another ugly David Duke / Ku Klux Klan problem on our hands. Speaking of which, I pity the French, who have been torn between extreme anti-immigrant leaders such as Jean Le Pen and the mainstream do-nothings on both the Left and Right. The riots around Paris are the price they pay for letting that problem fester unresolved.

Shut out in Staunton

In the Staunton commissioner of revenue race, incumbent Republican Ray Ergenbright lost decisively to challenger Maggie Ragon (who ran as an independent), 57 to 41 percent. The loss is not a huge surprise, but given the large number of letters to the editor in the last week or so, which showed a growing public awareness of the conflict of interest issue involving Ms. Ragon, I would have expected the margin to be smaller. I see a big irony in this sad outcome: Ms. Ragon accused Ray of being (among other things) "a politician" more than once, but if you define "politician" as a power-obsessed phony who is prone to caving in on principle for the sake of a few more votes, that is the last thing in the world Ray is. As Leo Durocher said, "Nice guys finish last." In the race for treasurer, Rick Johnson has apparently defeated incumbent Republican Elnora Hazlett 41 to 40 percent, with a margin of only 41 votes; Dolores Duncan ran third at 19 percent. (Close enough for a recount? Probably not.) I happened to meet both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Duncan at the polls today, and both were very pleasant. The treasurer's race was not nearly as nasty as the commissioner of revenue race, fortunately. I'll hold off on drawing any conclusions about this local Republican setback for a while...

Evolution in Kansas

As has been anticipated for months, the Kansas Board of Education has voted to adopt a new curriculum that raises questions about fundamental aspects of the theory of evolution. It's a big victory for proponents of the pseudo-science of "intelligent design." See As one who has taken pains to uphold open-minded, non-dogmatic, critical thinking about science in general and evolution in particular (see Jan. 14, for example), I see this injection of fundamentalist theology into education as extremely troubling. This case bears further close attention...

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 09 Nov 2005, 9: 21 AM

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