Friday, June 15, 2007

VA GOP's Purge of Moderates Claims Key Indoor Clean Air Advocate

After moderates Tim Kaine and Jim Webb defeated hardcore conservatives Jerry Kilgore and George Allen in November, the Republican Party of Virginia learned its lesson. And apparently that lesson was, "We're still not as extremist as we could be."

So the Virginia Conservative Action PAC set about purging the party of moderates, and in Tuesday's primary,
they succeeded:

Two key moderate Republicans lost their seats in the Virginia Senate yesterday: Martin E. Williams (Newport News), chairman of the influential Senate Transportation Committee, and J. Brandon Bell II (Roanoke). Challengers Patricia B. "Tricia" Stall and Ralph K. Smith accused the incumbents of betraying the Republican Party by siding with Democrats to raise taxes.
The purge claimed Sen. Brandon Bell, a key sponsor of the Indoor Clean Air Act, which would ban smoking in Virginia bars and restaurants. Honestly, I'd be fine with communities being able to make their own call on smoking bans, but under the Dillon Rule, localities only have the powers granted to them by the state. So right now, communities can't make their own choices about whether to ban smoking, although Alexandria has tried to get around that.

With turnout estimated at just five percent for Tuesday's primary, other Republicans are already worried that the choices of a small cadre of party faithful
may not be as palatable to voters in the general election:

But Democrats and even some Republicans say the conservatives might regret their decisions come Nov. 6. Democrats need to pick up four seats to regain control of the Senate.

"In a small turnout election, these voters can make a difference. But in a general election, they may get swallowed up," said retiring Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax).

Williams lost to Tricia B. Stall, who has signed a petition expressing support for "ending government involvement in education."

Even though Stall will be running in a reliably Republican district, party leaders fear that she is so conservative it could be nearly impossible for them to keep a Democratic candidate from picking up the seat. Top Republican senators plan to meet with Stall in a few days.
If his own party doesn't want him, would Sen. Bell consider an independent run? After all, Republicans thought it was swell when Sen. Joe Lieberman did it.

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