One Man's Trash

Norman Leahy


The Politician Surplus


George Allen, Mark Warner and possibly even Jim Gilmore could be eyeing a race for governor in 2009. Virginians would be better off with fresh faces and fresh ideas.


Virginia has a surplus.


A surplus, that is, of former high-level politicians who might be contemplating a return to the center of Virginia politics as governor, perhaps as soon as 2009.


George Allen, former Governor and former U.S. Senator and former Gov., is sounding out potential campaign staffers for a potential gubernatorial run, according to Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Cordel Faulk. Also, Faulk believes, former Gov. Mark R. Warner might be looking more closely at a return to the executive mansion, which he described as the “coolest job he’s ever had.” And don't count out former Gov. Jim Gilmore, 


If either of these past heavyweights decided to become candidates in 2009, it would generate good copy. It would also scramble what already seems to be a fairly settled 2009 field, with Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran running on the Democratic side, and Bill Bolling and Bob McDonnell for the Republicans.


The new stories for such a match-up practically write themselves. And God help the forests of North America if Jim Gilmore, who dropped out of the race for the U.S. presidency over the weekend, throws his hat into the ring, too.


But would any of these retro-candidacies be good for Virginia? Probably not.  As Faulk noted in his op-ed, the only previous Virginia governor to serve a second term, Mills Godwin, had a lackluster second term in office, particularly compared to his first.  And in the case of both Allen and Warner, the reasons for running again are less than compelling – redemption for Allen, coolness for Warner.


Those are very thin reeds upon which to build a successful candidacy – or even a worthy one.


Mark Warner would arguably have the easier time of claiming his party’s nomination.  He left office on a high note (thanks in no small part to the Republicans in the General Assembly). And he could, no doubt, cobble together a vague, feel-good platform that would energize the still rapturous faithful enough to make him a the favorite in the general election.


For Allen, however, the story is entirely different.  His Senate defeat was close, to be sure. It was also stunningly inept, to the point where it makes the Mary Sue Terry campaign of 1993 look positively Reaganesque.


But recent Allen forays into local legislative races have soured many conservatives on him.  He, along with his protégé, Jerry Kilgore, supported incumbents facing primaries against more conservative challengers. In the Senate race pitting Senate Majority Leader Walter Stosch against Henrico attorney Joe Blackburn, Allen lauded Stosch as a leading exponent of Jeffersonian conservative values.


Given Stosch’s tax-phillia in the last few years, one can only assume Allen was comparing Stosch to George (not Thomas) Jefferson.


It may have made sense for Allen to endorse those incumbents who most likely would return the endorsement favor for him if he decides to run in 2009. That’s politics. But in doing so, Allen alienated conservatives. And if conservatives are known for anything, it’s their preternatural ability to hold grudges for even the smallest of slights. When when the slights are big and public, those grudges usually turn to enduring anger.


While a second run for the governor’s mansion might make George Allen, Mark Warner or even Jim Gilmore feel validated, and while the press would dearly love to have such candidacies to write about every day, the pay-off for Virginians seems lacking.


If we want to keep Virginia “moving forward,” the best way to do that is not through re-runs, but through fresh faces and new ideas.


As another famous Virginian, George Mason, once said, “Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interests of his constituents as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate their burdens.”


Warner and Allen have returned to private station (promoted to it, as Benjamin Franklin observed).  Let’s keep them on our side of the political fence to share our burdens… and leave the politicking to others.


-- July 16, 2007
















Contact info


Norman Leahy, a senior copywriter at a Richmond-area marketing agency, lives in the leafy suburbs of Henrico County. 


Read his profile here.




(substituting an @ for [at].