Races of the Week
Virginia’s 9th U.S. House District
Griffith vs. Boucher
Republicans in Virginia’s 9th U.S. House District still talk about the challenge State Delegate Jeff Stafford gave to Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher back in 1984. A no-holds-barred conservative and spirited campaigner, Stafford—rode Ronald Reagan’s long coattails, but still fell short (48% of the vote) of dislodging Boucher, who had narrowly upset a GOP incumbent in 1982.
Since Stafford’s campaign, Republicans have frequently fielded, strong contenders against Boucher (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 15.90%). But no one has ever performed as well as Stafford in ’84.
“Jeff set the bar that we’ve tried to reach and pass,” said State Delegate Morgan Griffith, Boucher’s GOP opponent this year. “He had the year on his side, the way we certainly do this year. But Boucher had not been there long, had not cast any of the liberal votes that he certainly cast later, and was thought of as a moderate.”
That is certainly not the case in 2010. Indeed, if Boucher (Taxpayers Union rating: 7%) had only voted for the spending measures and for the cap and trade climate legislation, that would be enough to paint him as a liberal—certainly in the 9th District.
“Here people work hard and save and are concerned that their great-grandchildren are going to be paying off debts Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are running up,” says the 52-year-old Griffith. “As for cap and trade, well, one-third of the economy here is coal or coal-related. Enactment of that legislation will bring the economy here to its knees.”
A graduate of Emory and Henry University and Washington and Lee Law School, Griffith first won his legislative seat in 1993. Seven years later, he became the first Republican majority leader in the history of Virginia. In the ’08 special session of the legislature, Griffith led the charge that thwarted then-Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine’s plan for a tax increase.
“He doesn’t like me very much,” said Griffith of the present chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
But based on his record and the issues today that so affect Virginia’s 9th District, conservatives need to like Morgan Griffith a lot—and give him the support he needs to finally retire Boucher.
Ohio’s U.S. Senate Race
Portman vs. Fisher
“Knowledge,” British politician Aneurin Bevan once said, “is the one armory they cannot deny us.”
So it is with Rob Portman, Republican nominee for the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R.-Ohio). At a time when the political outsider or novice is in vogue, Portman makes no effort to hide the fact that he has spent much of the last two decades working in the public policy arena: as U.S. representative from the Cincinnati area (1992-2005), U.S. Trade representative (2005-07) and then director of the Office of Management and Budget until’09.
The 54-year-old Portman’s knowledge of what can be done to defeat economic tumult this year makes him an invaluable player on the national Republican bench and, most importantly, in Ohio, where more than 400,000 jobs have gone elsewhere since 2007.
“And those jobs are going to states such as Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky that offer more opportunity for business,” says Portman (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 89%). “What we need, in Ohio and in the nation, is a payroll tax suspension for one year. That would be a tremendous shot in the arm for business. And we need to take the hundreds of thousands of “stimulus” money that has not yet been spent and redirect it to small business. Instead of creating public-sector jobs, this money would go directly to those who create the most private-sector jobs—finally.”
Portman’s vision of hope, opportunity and private initiative contrasts sharply with that of his liberal Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher. In what has to be one of the true ironies of this campaign year, Fisher has been wearing a second hat as head of economic development in Ohio since he assumed the state’s second highest office in ’07.
“So my opponent has been the ‘jobs czar’ here as taxes went up and jobs fled the state,” observed Portman, shaking his head. “If you like the status quo in Washington, D.C., you’ll love what he has to offer.”
Portman also looks forward to debating Fisher over other issues on which they disagree, notably the Democrat’s support for cap and trade climate legislation (“absolutely devastating to a state like ours that is very dependent on coal”) and the Obama-backed healthcare bill, which Portman argues “will force the costs of healthcare to go up.”
But more importantly than simply differing on most issues from his opponent, Rob Portman would bring to the Senate, the Republican Party and the public arena economic insight and a vision of hope. And in turbulent and uncertain times that insight is critical and the best reason of all for conservatives to back Rob Portman.
Indiana’s 2nd U.S. House District
Walorski vs. Donnelly
When the Democratic healthcare bill began to take shape in the U.S. House last summer, Jackie Walorski, assistant Republican leader of the Indiana House of Representatives, met with a fellow Hoosier GOPer, Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“I told him how I came into the state legislature when he became governor in ’04,” she recalled, “and that all we had worked on to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and turn our deficit into a surplus was going to be undone if Democrats in Congress had their way.”
Walorski went on to tell Daniels that that was why she was thinking of running against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D.-Ind.).
“The governor told me he agreed, that I should run now and not wait,” said Walorski, “and that I could beat him.”
So, at 46, the former television newscaster and three-term legislator declared for Congress in the 2nd District (South Bend) and rolled up 61% of the vote over two primary opponents. Walorski—herself a daughter of union members and wife of a public school teacher—proudly noted that “I won big, in part, because of ‘Reagan Democrats’ who crossed over. They’re in a swing mood again. The culture exists for the same kind of swing as in the 1980s because folks here—Reagan Democrats, Tea Partiers, all of us—are scared about our economy.”
Two-term liberal Donnelly (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 32%) has voted for the things Walorski says voters are frightened about this year: the stimulus packages, the Obama budget and the healthcare bill are all things that conservative hopeful Walorski says “could severely hurt our own economy here.” The stimulus package, she charges, “creates no private-sector jobs, certainly not here.” As for the healthcare bill, Walorski notes that it ends the ability of the state to get waivers on Medicaid that would give them the power to reverse the spiraling spending trend of the program.
“And my opponent voted for the healthcare bill the second time, claiming that an executive order will somehow keep tax dollars from going for abortions.” She disagrees, “Well, I’m pro-life and, as far as I’m concerned, this vote set the pro-life movement back 20 years.”
To those who say that Jackie Walorski and other conservative hopefuls are talking too much about what they are against and not enough about what they are for, she points to her record of supporting an agenda in the legislature that turned a $1 billion deficit into a $2 million surplus, cut the number of state employees by 5,000 and attracted 10,000 new jobs.
“When I’m in Congress,” says Walorski, “I’ll know what to do. It’s been done before, and it works.”