Suddenly, a Fifth District race.

Since Al Weed’s loss against Rep. Virgil Goode last November, there hasn’t been much talk of who would run this next cycle. We had John Boyd five years ago, Meredith Richards three years ago, and Al last year. When the election results came in last November, Al said he wouldn’t run again, but it’s not fair to hold a man to a statement said under such circumstances. Still, I’ve wondered if he’d reenter the race, and if we’d see some other folks interested in taking on Goode.

In today’s Daily Progress, Bob Gibson writes that there are two contenders for the Democratic nomination in the Fifth District. Not only does Al Weed intend to run again, but Charlottesville’s Bern Ewert says he’s running. I never would have come up with Bern’s name, but I can see how he’s not a bad fit.

Al has great credentials. He’s long made his living as a farmer, he’s a decorated veteran, and he’s both educated and intelligent. Best of all, he’s not from Charlottesville or Albemarle, but east, in Nelson. (Still a mighty long way from Southside, but it’s a step in the right direction towards electability.) But Al lost badly, garnering an even lower percentage of the vote than former Charlottesville Vice Mayor Meredith Richards did in 2002.

Bern and I have a little history. We ran against each other for the Democratic nomination for Charlottesville City Council in the spring of 2002. (For the record, I beat him pretty soundly in the race. But we both came out losers, so it really doesn’t matter.) He made for a great opponent. He’s a smart guy, and extremely knowledgeable about the nuts-and-bolts of running a city. I thought at the time he’d make a better city manager than a city councilor, and fought the urge to proclaim that, if elected, I’d support hiring him for city manager.

As I said, I never would have thought of Bern as a candidate for this district. He’s prickly and seems to lack the people skills that, for example, Al Weed has. But he’s got some serious qualifications that I’d completely forgotten about, not the least of which is that he was Roanoke’s city manager from ’78-’85. (Roanoke isn’t actually in the district, but the metropolitan area is.) If anybody remembers that, that should bring some credibility. Gibson, in the Progress, calls him ” fairly well known in much of the Southside Virginia region of the 5th District.” But perhaps best of all is that Bern claims support from both outgoing Del. Mitch Van Yahres and from party chair Dickie Cranwell. Mitch is quoted in the Progress saying “I told Bern I would help him. He’s got good experience.” Mitch and Bern are working together on a C’ville road proposal, and they worked together when Bern worked in management for Charlottesville. So while Mitch’s support of Bern is logical, given that the only locality that Al Weed carried was Charlottesville, it has got to come to as a blow.

What makes Bern awful tough to elect, though, is that he’s from Charlottesville. I’m not convinced that it’s possible to get somebody from Charlottesville or Albemarle into this seat, and it may not be possible to get somebody from north of Farmville. We’ve got some real talent up this way, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to get any support down south.

I couldn’t agree more with the premise of Gibson’s article, which is that Virgil Goode is badly weakened. Between the ongoing MZM scandal and the $5,000 that he’s taken from Tom DeLay’s PAC, his squeaky-clean image has been tarnished. A strong opponent could make sure that every voter in the district knew that.

The weirdest bit about the article is this:

He said having two Democrats vying for the right to challenge him is just fine.

“The last time, I had three so I guess someone else will come along, too,” said the five-term congressman.

Huh? Al Weed was unchallenged for the nomination last time. The time before that, Meredith had a single challenger. Perhaps Goode is confusing his race with…um…somebody else’s entirely?

9 thoughts on “Suddenly, a Fifth District race.”

  1. Republican One: The Democrats may be wising up and finally getting it. Waldo is telling people about the big secret to winning in the 5th district — getting candidates that are not viewed as Charlottesville centric.

    Republican Two: If they actually follow through on this, we may have a race. We must stop this Waldo character from converting Downtown Charlottesville people into realizing that there is life off the Mall.

    Republican One: Can you imagine what would happen if the Democrats started to realize that people don’t like paying lots of taxes, want safe streets, and believe that you should be able to arm and defend yourself and your property?

    Republican Two: I must stop this thing called Waldo.

    In all seriousness, Waldo has hit the nail on the head. If the Democrats want even a chance at reclaiming the 5th district, their candidate cannot be from Charlottesville. The rest of the district is distrustful of Charlottesville. Additionally, and I don’t think this will offend Waldo, Charlottesville is significantly more liberal than the rest of the district.

    Goode is a known quantity that is well liked in his part of the world. Attacking him on donations and DeLay may have some impact, but the rest of the 5th will never trust a candidate from Charlottesville.

  2. My first vote for Virgil was way back in the ’70s i think…
    He is one of the rare Democrats that have ever recieved my vote.
    he may have been “bruised” here in this corner of the 5th, but it will take an awful lot for any but those die-hards that helped excommunicate him because of his impeachment vote to vote against him.

  3. I’d be very surprised if more hats don’t get tossed into the ring this time around. This is much too good an opportunity to go with the usual suspects. The candidate has to come from the Southside – its time to start looking seriously.

  4. Al Weed got his ass handed to him last year. Not breaking 40% is a total failure. If he had gotten something over 40% then I’d say that there is a case for his running again in a race like ’06 is shaping up to be, with the wind generally at the Dems backs nationwide. But he did a pitiful job and clearly hasn’t learned anything from it. He goes around lecturing about politics and trying to convince everyone that he was beaten so soundly because Virgil painted him as a liberal. You see, Al has now read a book (‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’) and preaches his excuses with the zeal that only a new convert can muster.

    Hint to Al Weed: You were beaten because you were an ineffective candidate who surrounded yourself with sycophants and was unable to delegate authority or responsibility within your own organization. You got stuck in a struggle with your own bad habits as a candidate (classic bad habits of the sort that thwart almost every attempt to unseat an incumbant) and never even got to the struggle against Virgil. Virgil never painted you as anything. He didn’t have to. The vast majority of the 5th district ever knew who you were in the place. You never reached them. Virgil laughed at you and never stooped to conquer.

    You had the perfect resume, the perfect family, the perfect personality, a large base of support for volunteers and fundraising and a party that was unifed in it’s support of you (with the exception perhaps of Carl Eggleston). The problem at the end of the day was that you did a poor job as a candidate. There’s no shame in this – there are very few people in the world really cut out for this. But please face the facts and don’t put your supporters in the awkward position of wanting to remain loyal to you while also really wanting to, you know, actually win elections.

    Oh yeah, another factor that could change the landscape of the 5th district is the end of Carl Eggleston’s tenure as chairman of the 5th district Democratic committee. For many years, Carl would hit up every candidate in the 5th for payola in order for him to go through the motions of the job he was elected to do. The man is a corrupt embarrassment to the party. Eggleston also continued to maintain close ties to Virgil Goode even after Goode switched parties. Goode continued to be a patron of Eggleston in obtaining federal support for various of his pet projects in Southside. Kind of explains why maybe Eggleston might never have been too excited about the prospect of leading his party to victory against his old friend.

    Eggleston was finally tossed out in a long-overdue coup last Spring. A coup which Bern Ewart participated in. Now there’s a man who thinks ahead.

  5. his squeaky-clean image has been tarnished. A strong opponent could make sure that every voter in the district knew that.

    Not an altogether bad idea. Maybe Bern or Al can sling enough mud at Virgil to win.

  6. I don’t think anybody has to sling the mud at Virgil. It’s already rubbed off on him, from all that dirty money he’s been handling.

  7. Hint to ATA: Al lost because he was a liberal and because Virgil is representative of this district. You will never unseat Virgil Goode. Never.

  8. Hook Blogger,

    Even in the final stretch of the race, Al’s name recognition was only around 50%. So what supports your notion that he lost for being too liberal? Nothing. Nobody outside of Albemarle and Nelson counties had any idea what his positions were on any issues. Are you really trying to tell me that Al Weed ran a strong enough campaign for anyone to even know who he was? If so, then you clearly spend too much time in Charlottesville. His campaign was invisible everywhere else.

    Southside is really very liberal in some ways when you get right down to it. The only thing that keeps them from being a third world country is suckling at the teat of federal entitlement programs. Can you throw a rock in Franklin County without hitting 3 guys on unemployment or welfare? They scream for trade protectionism, federal funds for job training and crop subsidies. All classic new deal liberalism. A little homophobia not withstanding.

    Remind me, what party was it that put Virgil Goode in office in the first place? Oh right, it was the Democrats. 5th district voters are willing to vote for a Democrat. Party affiliation is not what keeps Virgil Goode afloat. Note how carefully he tones down his status as a Republican and makes sure to oppose the GOP leadership on a major issue at least once a year. Goode maintains his seat for 4 primary reasons:

    1. Good constituent services.
    2. Strong name recognition.
    3. Weak opposition.
    4. Democratic leadership in Southside that continued to support him for personal reasons.

    Now, I’m not saying that Virgil is going to be unseated. Most encumbants are pretty much set for life if they keep their heads down and their wits about them – even if reasons #3 & 4 are remedied by the opposition. But it doesn’t have a thing to do with his opponent being too liberal.

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