Va. Democrats choose superior ticket

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By Rick Howell

    In their June 11 statewide primary, Virginia Democrats completed the ticket they will present to voters this fall.
    Former national chairman Terry McAuliffe is the party’s d for governor, hoping to replace the now scandal-plagued Bob McDonnell, who remains under FBI investigation.
    McAuliffe will run with two veteran Democratic legislators whom voters chose last week: Sen. Ralph Northam for lieutenant governor; and Sen. Mark Herring for attorney general.
    Yes, turnout was low, very low in fact. Statewide, it was only about 3 percent of registered voters. But turnout is always pretty low for primaries. In sheer numbers, about 130,000 people voted to select those candidates.
    Compared to the paltry 8,000 who took part in the state GOP’s convention recently, the primary was obviously more democratic and inclusive than what the Republicans did.
    The GOP convention was basically a “tea party” gathering, where they showed up with their “Don’t tread on me” bumper stickers and produced the single most extremist ticket Virginia has ever seen.
    There will be plenty of time between now and November to remind people of what Ken Cuccinelli represents: A John Birch Society-type ideological extremist who squandered many thousands of taxpayer monies on his own personal obsessions as attorney general.
    By contrast, Democrat Herring has said that he will return the office of state attorney general to what it is supposed to be: the state’s top law enforcement official who should perform his duties above and beyond politics.
    For Lt. Governor, the Republicans picked just about the worst and most extreme individual they could possibly have found: E.W. Jackson, a perennial candidate and incendiary preacher who has never held public office.
    He will face Democrat Ralph Northam, a doctor who is right to be proud of his work against the ridiculous ultrasound bill passed by McDonnell. Northam’s mailings and other advertising focused on his strong support for women’s rights, particularly their health and medical choices.
    Yes, that means he’s pro-choice, and won’t relent to the “social issues” types who want to roll back women’s rights. Women had better think seriously before they decide they have any friends on that Republican ticket.
    The candidacy of Sen. Mark Obenshain, Republican for attorney general, brings back memories of his late father for many of us. Richard Obenshain was one of the founders of the modern Republican Party in Virginia.
    He and a handful of others canvassed Virginia in the 1960s recruiting and organizing state Republians, who had always been virtually nonexistent under the thumb of “Byrd Machine” Democrats.
    Obenshain and his allies were moderates, and in those days, that meant moderation on race relations, the issue of the time. Their efforts produced Linwood Holton, who was elected as the first modern Republican governor of Virginia in 1969, and put a stop to “massive resistance” to federal school intregration laws.
    One can’t help but wonder what Obenshain’s father would make of his son’s politics. Obenshain supported McDonnell’s ultrasound bill. He has done little to distinguish himself from the “tea party,” religious right extremism that so marks most Virginia Republicans.
    It’s summer, and most voters won’t think about November’s elections for a good while. But when they do start to look – especially those independents who usually decide it – they’re going to see a stark contrast in their choice.
    Virginia Republicans just don’t seem to want to face how much this state has changed, not just in its demographics but in the views on many social and political issues that people care about.
    Oh, sure, they’ll run on “jobs,” that’s what McDonnell did. But he revealed his true self when he passed that ultrasound bill.
    Democrats have nominated a ticket that seems much more in tune with where most people really are.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.