On the Virginia LG contest

Count me among those surprised that the Republicans nominated E. W. Jackson for lieutenant governor at their convention last weekend. Based on the last few weeks, I’d have bet money that Pete Snyder, who finished second, was going to pull it off.

While I favor primaries, I also recognize that it is a different contest. It’s hard to project who would have won a primary. All of the candidates would have run different campaigns. And money would have been – as it generally is – a big factor. I think it’s hard to compare Jackson’s performance in the 2012 Senate primary with his win last Saturday. Primaries draw from a much wider pool of voters; by “wider” I mean those with varying viewpoints within the party. Convention-goers tend to be the hard core party folks – and if the reports I’ve read around the blogosphere are indicative, even some of them didn’t go, due to the costs of attendance.

Virginia_Senate_SealThe Republicans have their LG candidate. Now it’s time for Democrats to decide who is best to serve as the LG.

Note that I didn’t say who is best to beat Jackson. While that may be part of the criteria in the selection process, I don’t think the majority of voters – who have yet to tune in to this fall’s elections – will care about that come November. No, they are going to look at the two men and decide which of them is best to serve the commonwealth in this vital role, a role which is clearly defined in the Constitution of Virginia, Article V, Section 14:

The Lieutenant Governor shall be President of the Senate but shall have no vote except in case of an equal division. He shall receive for his services a compensation to be prescribed by law, which shall not be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected.

This, combined to a lesser extent with the succession rules in Section 16 of the same article, is the criteria by which I’d like to see Virginians decide who should be elected as LG.

Yes, some folks will go to the polls in November and cast a ballot based solely on the R or D next to the candidate’s name. Some of those folks can be swayed one way or another, but each party can count on the majority of them to vote strictly on party. They wouldn’t be called the party’s base if that weren’t the case.

For all the other voters out there, the candidates have to make their case. Making his case doesn’t mean spending all your energy – and money – tearing down the other guy. Remember, a candidate has to answer two questions: why to fire (or not hire) the other guy and why to hire you. Sometimes, the “why not to hire” question ends up dominating the conversation, leaving voters with a bad taste in their mouths for both candidates, as we saw in the 2009 Democratic primary for governor.

Easy buttonAnswering the second question should be easy when the role of LG is so narrowly defined. It’s pretty simple, actually:

  1. Define the role (preside over the Senate, break ties)
  2. Explain your qualifications for the role.
  3. Repeat 1 and 2.

In an evenly divided Senate, the LG’s tiebreaking role has become an important role. Current LG Bill Bolling cast a record-breaking 28 ties last session in 2012, obliterating the previous record of 12 from 1997. For the next two years, at least, the person sitting in this chair is going to have to cast similar votes. (By the way, I suspect Bolling’s record will not survive the next two years.)

If I were a candidate for LG, my ready retort for any of the nonsense that passes for “issues” in campaigns would be “that is outside of the role of Virginia’s LG. The role is … and I’m qualified for that role because …”

As a voter, I find it difficult to support a candidate who knows less about the office he seeks than I do. Given how little the part time LG actually does – and despite McDonnell’s creation of new duties for the LG – I think the choice ends up being fairly simple.


13 thoughts on “On the Virginia LG contest

  1. On the basis of qualifications for the role of LG, Jackson would be hard to beat. He has considerable qualifications, both in his education and in his management experience.

    If Jackson is to be beat, it will have to be on the basis of specific issue — his stances on abortion and homosexuals, for instance. He will be painted as an extremist.

  2. On the qualification issue it will be hard to argue to the voting public that Biship Jackson is more qualified then a 6 year veteran of the State Senate or a cabinet rank official.

  3. Ms. Paige,

    I always respect your thoughts on elections (even though we probably don’t vote the same way often except for Mark Warner and Steve Shannon). Have you endorsed either D candidate for AG or LG? Always appreciate your blog.

  4. The electerate is as a general rule more reactive then proactive. People in this country, for a wide variety of reasons, are disengaged with their democraticaly eleced officials. This is particuarly true on a local or state level. Thinking is hard and requires a lot of time. So much easier to let someone else do it and react to what they do. After all, dances with the star is on right ??

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