Virginia Republican Delegate Running for Clerk of the Court in Prince William County

Some news out of Prince William County last night, according to the conservative Virginia political blog The Bull Elephant:

At the Prince William County Lincoln Reagan dinner on Saturday night Delegate Jackson Miller announced he is running for Clerk of the Court in a special election on April 18th.  Jackson Miller has been in the House of Delegates since 2007. The position is vacant following the death of Clerk Michele McQuigg last month.  She was elected in 2008.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Miller was first elected to represent Virginia’s 50th district in the House of Delegates in a special election in 2006 and, with the exception of 2011 when he ran for reelection unopposed, has been reelected by a low-50 to low-60 percent margin. The 50th district includes the Washington DC suburbs of the city of Manassas and part of Prince William County. According to official results from the Virginia Department of Elections,  Hillary Clinton won Prince William County 57-36. This means Democrats will probably see the 50th District as an even bigger pickup opportunity this fall if Miller is elected Clerk of the Court and the Virginia GOP has to defend his open seat. Lee Carter is the only Democrat currently running for this seat, although if Carter resigns from the seat, it is possible more Democrats and certainly more Republicans will get in the race and compete for their respective party’s nomination.

Things Missing from this Montana Republican Candidate’s Television Ad

This ad by Republican candidate Greg Gianforte just aired on a Montana television station, less than 48 hours before the Montana Republican Party’s nominating convention.

Aside from the reference to “drain the swamp” in the voiceover narration, it’s worth noting what the ad does NOT mention:

  • Donald Trump (though presumably implied by the “drain the swamp” line)
  • Republican Party (Montana or national) – the ad and his website say “Paid for by Greg for Montana”
  • Paul Ryan
  • Repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act
  • Muslim ban or Travel ban
  • Building a wall on the Mexican border

He’s running entirely on local issues, with no mention of the Trump/Ryan agenda.  Also worth keeping in mind is that Gianforte benefits from some name recognition over the other candidates in the Republican field as he was the Republican candidate for governor in 2016. (He lost to incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock 50-46, in a state Donald Trump won 55-35.)

Donald Trump Picks a 2018 Senate Candidate to Join His Cabinet

The DSCC should send Donald Trump a thank-you card. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The courtship of Ryan Zinke began months before the end of the presidential race. A Republican congressman from Montana and a former Navy SEAL commander, Mr. Zinke was approached over the summer by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, about running for the Senate in 2018.

To Mr. McConnell, Mr. Zinke (pronounced ZIN-kee) was an ideal candidate to defeat Senator Jon Tester, a two-term Democrat, and bolster the Republicans’ slender majority.

Then President-elect Donald J. Trump intervened.

Mr. McConnell learned early this week that Mr. Trump had grown interested in Mr. Zinke to be secretary of the interior. Mr. McConnell quickly contacted both Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, in an effort to head off the appointment, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the calls.

Mr. Trump’s defiant selection of Mr. Zinke, 55, dismayed Republicans in the capital and raised suspicions about how reliable an ally he will be for the party. Even as Mr. Trump has installed party stalwarts in a few cabinet departments, he has repeatedly shrugged off the requests of Republicans who have asked for help reinforcing their power in Congress.

And having flouted the party establishment throughout the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump now appears determined to go his own way in office, guided by personal chemistry and the opinions of his family members.

Based on these political dynamics, Zinke will probably sail through his confirmation hearing without breaking a sweat. If he is confirmed, that means that Montana governor Steve Bullock will have to call a special election to fill the seat, which represents the entire state in the House of Representatives.

Zinke was just re-elected to his seat 56-40, in a state that Donald Trump won by 21 points but also re-elected Democrat Steve Bullock by 4. Democrats have won in state and federal races in Montana, so this House race should be seen as winnable by the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Montana Democratic Party.  This race gives Democrats an opportunity to test message and strategy ahead of Jon Tester’s re-election run in 2018, and will likely be their first attempt at winning a congressional race since the November election.

The Montana Democratic Party flagged a story about Whitefish resident and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer saying he was “very seriously” considering running for the Republican nomination. In a separate story by The Missoulian, Montana Democratic Party executive director Nancy Keenan issued a statement saying, “To be clear, Richard Spencer’s views are not Montanans’ views. We’ve called on the Montana GOP to denounce this kind of racism in their party this year and we will continue to hold Republicans accountable for this fear-mongering behavior as we move toward a special election to fill this U.S. House seat.” Montana Republican Party chairman Jeff Essmann is quoted in the same story saying, “In most corners of Montana, a Spencer candidacy would be viewed skeptically.”

The candidates who will run in the special election will be chosen by their respective state parties rather than through a normal primary process. Because of this, Republicans can probably breathe a sigh of relief in that this scenario virtually guarantees Spencer will not get the nomination.  After the experience of 2012 where Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock cost the Senate GOP two races it should have won because they said outrageous and controversial comments which torpedoed their campaigns, Republicans have learned their lesson. On the other hand, Donald Trump just got elected president in spite of the many outrageous and controversial comments he made before and during the campaign.  Perhaps some Republican candidates will try emulating that tactic to win an election in the future.

Rep. Rob Wittman Drops Out of Virginia Governor’s Race

Rob Wittman – a House Republican who represents the Hampton Roads area of Virginia in Congress – announced he would not be a candidate for the Republican nomination in the Virginia gubernatorial race next year. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch his reasons for staying in the House:

In an interview, Wittman said he decided to stay in Congress in part to ensure Virginia has representation on the House Armed Services Committee and its naval subcommittee, which oversees military programs of vital importance to the Hampton Roads region.

“I think the best place for me to serve right now is staying there in Congress,” Wittman said. “Especially now with an administration coming in that’s committed to rebuilding our military.”

Wittman had previously been considered a contender for Tim Kaine’s Senate seat in the event Kaine ascended to the vice presidency. With his exit from the race, the Republican field for 2017 as it stands now is former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, Donald Trump’s former  Virginia campaign chairman Corey Stewart, and state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach). Wittman declined to endorse any of them, saying “I respect and admire all three .”

In a statement, Democratic Party of Virginia Communications Director Emily Bolton said, “The anti-establishment electorate that voted for Donald Trump in the primary sent Wittman running for the hills. In fact, this race is so toxic that he refuses to endorse any of the candidates. By the time the primary rolls around, the Republican nominee will emerge a damaged candidate with empty pockets.”