Jo-Ann Chase, candidate for the Republican nomination for the 87th District seat in the House of Delegates, held a very successful campaign kickoff event several weeks ago, with over 100 people in attendance including a wide variety of local volunteers and candidates for office. It was not your typical campaign event, and the 87th nomination race may not be a typical campaign. (Hover your cursor over images for partial listing of who is in each, and click for larger versions of photos).
Prominent Chase campaign supporters on hand included keynote speaker Delegate Bob Marshall, Virginia Senate candidates Tito “the Builder” Munoz and former Delegate Dick Black, and Genaro Pedroarias of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
Instead of the standard-format political event in which a speaker or succession of speakers introduce the candidate, who then gives a speech, then closes the official ceremony; Ms. Chase’s campaign kickoff was more like a grassroots rally.
Randy Minchew gave the invocation; and Bob Marshall gave a brief speech. Then, after some initial words of thanks, Ms. Chase immediately invited her campaign team to join her in front of the room, about 20 people in all, introduced them, then gave her speech, and then said “Well, we have a microphone here, does anyone else have anything?”
Following was a series of announcements and comments from attendees, just as you might see at a local Tea Party meeting, which is appropriate because in one sense the Republican race for the nomination is shaping up as possibly the only local contest where the “Tea Party vs Republican Establishment” theme fits. Ms. Chase had a much larger turnout than her opponent, David Ramadan, saw at his campaign opener, though fewer at Ms. Chase’s were party officials. Both Ron Wilcox and John Grigsby, leaders of two of the Loudoun-area Tea Party groups, were present, and Ms. Chase herself is a leader of the third.
I am proud to endorse Jo-Ann Chase tonight. In 20 years in office I’ve made very few endorsements, and when I do make them I do it with caution, and with consideration, and with conviction in this those people that I put my name next to.
Jo-Ann and I share core values, but you have to have something beyond the core values, and that’s why I think Jo-Ann should be the choice for this district to represent you in the Virginia General Assembly. When Randy was talking about a “prayer for boldess” I was thinking, well that is not what this young lady needs. She needs a prayer for restraint. But I’m glad that she’s bold and aggressive because she will be bold and aggressive for you. She is candid, upfront, she is not afraid, and she works, and she works, and she works…
This is a primary race. When I first ran, I did not have the endorsements of the insiders. I didn’t care. I had the least money, but I had the most volunteers. And I won in a 4-way race. And I’ve been winning that way. I’ve always been outspent…
You will make the difference in this campaign: the manpower, the womanpower, the dedication, the voters who see you at the door – you in a sense are more influential than Jo-Ann because when you go to someone’s door or make a phone call it shows you are not going to get anything personally out of this, you’re not going to get any money out of this, but you believe in what Jo-Ann’s going to do for you and for them.
You will be an advertisement for a young woman that we need down in Richmond.
Mr. Marshall encouraged attendees to make a donation and make a commitment to phone calls, going door to door, signs and bumper stickers, etc.
Ms. Chase thanked “Bob Marshall, my mentor” and said:
The importance of any election is about giving the people a voice to be represented by an individual, whether it’s a woman or a man, we need to make sure in this race and in every other race that the individual we elect is someone that espouses our principles, our morals, our values. Someone that is grounded and understands that it’s not the money, it’s not the title, it’s not the glory, it’s not the deals behind the scenes, it’s not the special interests: It’s the needs of the people. We’re supposed to be servants of the people…
I’m a conservative, I’m 100% pro-life, I’m 100% for the Second Amendment, I’m fiscally conservative, I want to cut spending, I want to protect our homeland security and national security. I think that is a very important issue that is not being dealt with by our representatives at the local level, at the state level and at the federal level…
If I were to be elected, I will promise you that I will protect our Constitution and our liberties. I’m not going to make deals. I’m going to follow the lead of my mentor, Bob Marshall.
My take on the campaign for the 87th District nomination:
From what one can glean from their respective Web sites, campaign literature and from cursory conversations with the candidates, it appears the Republican party will be well-represented in the November elections in this race, no matter who wins the nomination. Mr. Ramadan and Ms. Chase appear to share a number of general policy positions regarding scaling back the role of government and removing government obstacles to economic development.
The respective campaigns, however, could not be more dissimilar.
Mr. Ramadan has been an extraordinarily generous contributor to Republican candidates for many years, including in the current election cycle. For his campaign, he has contracted the services of local activists as well as the consulting consortium representing most Loudoun County Republican candidates this year, yielding a substantial team of endorsers and supporters. Comparing the campaign kickoff events, Ms. Chase had nearly triple the number of attendees and if you subtract out those who were “paid to be there” in some sense at Mr. Ramadan’s event, Ms. Chase’s advantage probably would be 5-1.
Yet the contest for the 87th District is a strange one in many respects, appropriate for a precinct-slicing district that will surprise many voters on the boundaries come election time and might have some wishing they had thrown their hat in the ring. Ms. Chase’s featured speaker was Bob Marshall, one of the most respected public figures among local conservatives, whereas Mr. Ramadan’s was Grover Norquist, one of the most reviled.
And like Mr. Norquist’s kindergarten-level policy platform that “the government spends and taxes too much,” Mr. Ramadan is running on stances that should be considered the bare minimum qualifications for elected office at any level. But somehow Mr. Ramadan enjoys the support of the majority of prominent Loudoun Republicans, either through outright endorsements or the de facto support of so many people who have declared neutrality but otherwise might have been considered solid supporters of the Chase campaign – and who certainly appear to have surprised the Chase campaign by their absence.
So on one level it is tempting to frame the nomination campaign as a battle between the grassroots and the establishment or between manpower and money, but either interpretation runs the risk of downplaying the inescapable centrality of …. money.
Just last week Mr. Ramadan sent his first campaign mail piece and while it said little specifically about what he would do as a delegate, it definitely cost a fortune. Eight pages, four-color, wide distribution: With design services and postage, that’s probably a $30,000 job at the minimum. If Mr. Ramadan is willing to spend that kind of cash to say, basically, “Don’t let my name scare you,” he is going to be hard to beat if he continues to spend that kind of money once he comes up with an actual platform to run on.