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Local GOP: Funds key to results

Sunday, November 10, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Money, not voters, ultimately decided Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, according to local Republican party leaders.

Media reports show that in the week before the election, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who was elected governor, spent nearly three times as much on television advertising as his Republican rival, Ken Cuccinelli.

“It’s gotten to the point that whoever has the largest (financial) resources” for advertising and campaigning wins elections, said W.C. Fowlkes, chairman of the Henry County Republican Party.

“It should be the message” of candidates, not how much money they spend to deliver their messages, that determines an election’s winners, Fowlkes said.

Media reports also showed that a major Democratic Party benefactor helped pay people to circulate petitions that got Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis on the statewide ballot.

Essentially, Sarvis was “paid by the Democrats to run as a third-party candidate,” said Martinsville Republican Party Chairman Jeff Williams.

Fowlkes said he thinks some Republicans voted for Sarvis — as he believes Democrats had hoped — because “they were so disgruntled” over conflicts within their party.

For example, he noted Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s refusal to endorse either Cuccinelli or E.W. Jackson, the GOP’s lieutenant governor candidate. Jackson lost the race to Democrat Ralph Northam.

Bolling’s refusal “no doubt hurt” the Republicans, Fowlkes said. He added that Bolling’s public position on the candidates should have reflected the party’s interests, “not his own personal feelings.”

McAuliffe received 1,067,050 votes, Cuccinelli received 1,012,301 and Sarvis received 145,749, according to unofficial returns posted on the Virginia State Board of Elections’ website.

Had Sarvis not run and his supporters voted for Cuccinelli, Williams said, “we would be in a much different situation now.” Cuccinelli, currently the state’s attorney general, would have had the most votes.

McAuliffe will take his oath of office in January, succeeding Bob McDonnell, the current Republican governor.

McDonnell’s party could have kept the keys to the Governor’s Mansion if it had nominated a certain other candidate, surmised Jeff Adkins, chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Party.

With the popularity he has achieved in his nearly eight years as lieutenant governor, “Bolling could have easily won this election” if Republicans had picked him to be their gubernatorial candidate, Adkins said.

After the Republicans decided to nominate their candidates at a convention rather than in a primary — virtually assuring Cuccinelli the nomination — Bolling decided not to run for governor as either an independent or a write-in candidate because he thought he could not raise enough money to be successful, media reports show.

Adkins said he believes McAuliffe and Northam were victorious because the Democratic Party was better able to convince voters it can “work across the aisle” with lawmakers from other parties.

Republican Mark Obenshain edged out Democrat Mark Herring in the state attorney general’s race by just .06 percent of the vote. Political observers anticipate there will be a recount, and local party officials indicated they are optimistic that their candidate eventually will be declared the winner.

The GOP retained Southern Virginia’s seats in the state House of Delegates.

Ninth District Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, who ran unopposed, was re-elected, as was 14th District Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville. Republican Les Adams, a Chatham lawyer, was elected to succeed Del. Donald Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, who did not seek re-election.

To retain those seats when they come up for grabs again in two years, the party must “stay away” from scandals such as McDonnell’s and Cuccinelli’s acceptance of gifts from a Star Scientific executive, Fowlkes said.

Williams said he thinks the GOP, moreso than the Democratic Party, reflects the personal values of Southern Virginia residents, but it should “engage in a messaging campaign” to remind people of its values.

Those values, he said, include “smaller ... (and) better government” which leads to fewer expenses for the government and more personal freedoms.

Attracting companies that will create jobs is a major concern in the region. Adkins said that if his party is to regain the House seats, it must emphasize that “Democrats are for business,” such as by seeking road improvements and other measures that spur economic development.

“We’ve got to get that message out better,” he said.


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