If you’re going to try to kill the king, you’d better not fail.
Last night, a band of extremist Republicans failed. After spending months trying to oust the far-right Sen. Emmett Hanger with the even farther-right Scott Sayre, they were defeated at the polls.
Nearly every municipal party chairman in the district endorsed Sayre over their own sitting senator, although many waited until the tail end of the race to work up the nerve. They bet everything on Hanger losing, having committed that most seditious of political acts for a party official: supporting a primary challenger against one’s incumbent.
There were a few municipal party leaders who, now famously, behaved far worse than any others. Kurt Michael (“General Grievous’ Dog”), Anne Taetzsch (“In-Politically Correct”) and Lynn Mitchell (“SWAC Girl”) all established anonymous blogs that they used to launch truly vile attacks on Sen. Hanger, his supporters, and anybody who got in their way. They spun wicked lies about RPV Chairman Ed Gillespie and party spokesman Shaun Kenney, presented in the nastiest of terms, sometimes mere hours after shaking hands with the men and saying how nice it was to meet them. They lacked the courage of their convictions, for reasons that are obvious in retrospect. All three were too chickenshit to use their real names and, as recently as this week, Michael and Taetzsch continued to be coy about whether they were the authors of the blogs. It was clear that all three bloggers were coordinating with one another, the Sayre campaign, and a half dozen other bloggers employing the same slash-and-burn tactics. This debacle will be as a brand on their flesh for many years to come. As a rational human, I hope they never work in politics again, but as a Democrat, I hope they stick around.
So what will become of these treasonous Republican leaders? It’s possible that they’ll stay in office, worsening the split between Republicans and Republican extremists that has come to define the party in Virginia. It’s also possible that some will resign in shame while others will be hounded out of their leadership position. Sayre’s most vocal supporters are too green and, in some cases, simply not smart enough to comprehend that they should be ashamed. Despite being utterly discredited, they’ll carry on just the same.
RPV Chairman Gillespie resigned yesterday, leaving the party adrift at a time when leadership is most badly needed. It’s Gillespie who should be knocking heads together today, tossing out the liars and the extremists and replacing them with regular, hard-working Republicans. In the absence of a party leader, the next step is surely as unclear to RPV leadership as it is to me.
Had Sayre been the nominee, I’d be confident that Democratic nominee David Cox could win the race. It’s possible that we could win with Hanger’s nomination, but that requires Sayre supporters to have learned absolutely nothing, stubbornly refusing to help Sen. Hanger and, instead, supporting libertarian Arin Sime. If Sayre supporters are as foolish as they appear to be, we may be congratulating Senator Cox come November.
I disagree with Sen. Emmett Hanger about just about every touchstone issue. It would make me very happy to see David Cox replace him in the Virginia Senate. But I also know Emmett Hanger to be a smart, kind, and decent man. I don’t doubt that, in the areas in which we disagree, his positions are as thought-through and morally-rooted as are mine. Had I said that two months ago, Sayre’s attack dogs would have used that compliment to attack Sen. Hanger.
That’s why they lost.