The Anti-Tax Revolt Fizzles

So much for the anti-tax revolt. Actually, it wasn’t even a revolt — it was more of a listless disorder, easily quelled. Voters, clearly, were not fired up about the issue. Turn-out was incredibly low. Only one of six challengers campaigning under the anti-tax banner, Chris Craddock, defeated an incumbent, Del. Gary Reese, R-Fairfax. George Fitch, always a long shot, garnered only 17.5 percent of the vote in his run against Jerry Kilgore.

There were morcels of consolation for those of us who believe that a low/moderate tax structure and efficient, high-performance government is a prerequisite for Virginia’s long term economic competitiveness and prosperity.

  1. Craddock did win. His position on taxes: “Tax hikes are always budget cuts for families. They stifle our economy, make our businesses less competitive, and encourage wasteful government spending. Virginia must first eliminate government waste, which the Wilder Commission estimates at over $1.2 billion. ” (Unfortunately, young Craddock has a lot to learn when it comes to applying his anti-tax philosophy to improving Virginia’s transportation system. His proposals simply entail raising funds from arcane sources to plow into Business As Usual programs.)
  2. Challenger Steve Chapman polled well. Despite bad publicity entailing traffic tickets, his dead dog and allegedly illegal voter registration in the district, Chapman won 45.2 percent of the vote against Del. Harry Parrish, R-Manassas. Parrish is 83 years old. If Chapman gets his personal act together, he might have a good shot at unseating the aging incumbent in two years.
  3. Challenger Shaun Kenney registered 44.7 percent of the vote against incumbent Robert Orrock, R-Spotsylvania. That’s a very respectable tally, considering Kenney’s youth, political inexperience and disadvantage in fund raising. Kenney may well have a future in Virginia politics if he sticks to it.
  4. George Fitch won only 17.5 percent of the vote, but it’s not as if he were running against a pro-tax hike candidate. Kilgore has often stressed his opposition, in the abstract, to higher taxes. He just doesn’t come across as very strong or empassioned on the issue.

Now it’s time for the low-tax movement to shift gears. We simply have to do a better job of articulating our case: Lower taxes preserve the middle class’ standard of living, they are good for economic growth, and there are abundant opportunities to cut state spending while preserving core state programs.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I live in Parrish’s district and taxes didn’t seem to be Chapman’s central message at the end of the campaign. Homophobia reigned. His camp even sent out a piece of literature with a photo of two groom figurines atop a wedding cake. Somehow gays are a threat to “family values.” He said that Parrish supported adoption by gays. I did not know that, and it actually raised my opinion of Parrish. No, I’m not some pro-gay activist, just a reasonable person. Many gays are productive members of society, and it hurts me that my dear Commonwealth is so narrow-minded and bigoted. Please let’s not have Chapman run again.

    I hope that Parrish finds a worthy successor in the next couple of years and can step down with dignity.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The gay bashing was a common theme among the “anti-tax” challengers and frankly may have been equal to the financial motives. Another common focus was the legislation passed this year to allow private companies to offer — purely on an option basis — health insurance coverage beyond the immediate family. If the employer wants they could offer coverage that could apply to your unemployed 30 year old child or your live-in grandma or yes that unmarried partner. That was being portrayed as a vote for gay marriage. You’ve really got to hate gay people to deny them health coverage that they are willing to pay for.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I didn’t follow Chapman’s campaign closely. It’s possible that (assuming you’ve described it accurately) his homophobic message hurt him more than it helped him. I have to say, it would have turned me off, too. You don’t have to be anti-gay to be anti-tax.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Aside from the spin on Chapman hating gays (something I doubt he does, he most likely is promoting traditional values), but that is another argument altogether, I am impressed with the results of the Delegate challengers.

    From the numbers I saw quoted, some relative newcomers were able to come very close to (and in one case did) unseating some well established incumbants based on a number of issues, foremost of which was the out of control spending in Richmond that has brought about these efforts to needlessly raise taxes. I think these incumbants will have to think twice about their actions now. After all it’s very difficult to get experienced, established people in the party to run against an incumbant. If you fail, you are black-listed and even if you win there will be a number of people in the party mad at you.

    The numbers imply to me that there is a large contingent of the grass-roots who are very disappointed with these folks and if a few no-names can come this close to unseating an incumbant of the party, a more established party member might not find it so hard to run against them next time if they continue to show a lack of back-bone on the tax issue and refuse to lead.

    Finally, my thoughts on Reese being the sole incumbant to lose. Reese was never really the choice of the 67th. He got into office in a primary where two conservatives split the conservative vote against him. He has continually ingraciated himself with the liberal education establishment and has made little effort to cut government waste and taxes. His one claim to a positive accomplishment was the enactment of a meaningless executive order on “budget reform” which in the end was nothing more than a olive branch from Mark Warner to get him to vote for the tax increase last year. Reese was prime for the plucking. The other delegates challenged were much more entrenched and therefore difficult to unseat. Bottom-line, the message has been sent by the grass-roots and if it is not heard, we will be back in two years.

  5. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Wonderful rationalizations. Anti-tax candidates managed to convinced in most cases two-three percent of registered voters to come out and support them and somehow this is a victory.

    Say goodnight, Gracie.


  6. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    I think the point here is that several challengers, put up primarily to address the tax issue, simply went a bit too far with the conservative social issues. There’s nothing wrong with those beliefs (though I tend to be more moderate in this area). But when the primary message gets distorted by issues that tend to alienate certain voters, it can be difficult overcome. I have little doubt that some voters who may have supported a Kenney or Chapman on the tax issue were turned off by their rhetoric on social issues. As a result, these alienated voters may have either stayed home or, worse, voted for the incumbent.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    So Bob, are you saying the 2-3% of voters who supported the incumbants is a victory for the tax hikers? My point is that most of these challengers did fairly well in a primary against entrenched incumbants. Whether that is 2-3% of voters or 20-30% of voters is meaningless. This should scare the ^&*(%^ out of these incumbants and make them think twice about doing this again. Primary challenges are expensive to incumbants and it’s something every incumbant wants to avoid if possible.

    Goodnight Gracie.

  8. But what about the term limited incumbents (Kilgore)? What will they do? Will they support the gas tax hike?

    Ha ha.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    How about just be honest and try to cut programs rather than coming up with another wacky tax cut scheme every year. The fact that people who claim to want to shrink the size of government instead try to sell their ideas as cutting taxes (well gee, everyone would like to pay less taxes): which has never done anything in the long term to shrink the size of government that I can see, really makes you question their sincerity.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Anonymous 12:05, your experience with representation in government makes me think you are represented by Russ Potts. Here’s a guy who talks about cutting the size of governbment for years and then does a 180 and wants to grow it!

  11. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Anon 11:20,

    2-3% is a victory only for those who say that tax cuts or tax hikes are top priorities. That is, nobody cares about your tax argument.

    And why don’t you have the courage to tell us who you are?

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 12:05, you act as if the low-tax movement is built around the idea of cutting “programs.” The more thoughtful among us acknowledge that there is little “programmatic” cutting left to be done. For the most part, state taxes are funding core services. We have to pursue other strategies. They are (and I apologize for boring the other bloggers who have read this so many times already):

    1. Pursue process efficiencies, like those delineated by the Wilder Commission. Former Secretary of Technology George Newstrom swore that Virginia could save $100 million a year in IT costs. Where are those savings? Now we’re being told that IT charges to state agencies are being raised (or covered by surplus state funds). There are more efficiencies to be gained through procurement reform, changing the way the state manages its real estate assets, and a host of other possibilities that have not been aggressively pursued.

    2. Land use reform. Growth in Virginia for the past 50 years has been characterized by a scattered, disconnected, low-density pattern of development that smears growth over a wide swath of real estate. Land-intensive development is much more expensive to provide with urban-level government services, and much more expensive to serve with roads, highways and mass transit. We need to shift to a more efficient pattern of development.

    3. Grow the economy. If we need to “invest” in anything, why not “invest” in growing the economy. The single greatest thing we can do is keep taxes as low as possible. There is no disputing that, in the aggregate, low tax states grow faster than high tax states. Over a generation or two, they end up with a larger tax base. Of course, we also need to invest in human capital, and in well targeted and imaginative economic development programs.

    So, please, Anonymous, let’s drop the canard that the low-tax movement is all about “cutting programs.” It’s about improving efficiency and productivity in government, reforming land use and expanding the tax base through economic growth.

  13. John K. Avatar

    I’m thrilled to see the more accurate description of a low-tax movement throughout many parts of this thread. I think the anti-tax label is meant to marginalize those who advocate a smaller and more efficient government.

  14. I think government savings are a canard. They’re out there to be found…but the time and effort needed to find them is not worth the trouble. Reagan ran on cutting the Federal government, but when he got to DC, he realized that there wasn’t much to cut. Most of it was entitlement programs, the military, and education. Waste, fraud, and abuse amounted to less than a percent of the total budget.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Mitch – I think the anti-taxers shifting to the conservative family values ticket was probably a result of internal polling. The tax issue didn’t seem to resonate quite as well as pro-life and family value issues. So while they may have started merely anti-tax, there was a necessary shift in order to speak to the general populace.

    Bob – That none of the challenged simply ran away with victory says something about their position in their districts. A warning as been served and they need to start addressing the needs of the people they supposedly represent or in two years they’ll be on the other end of those margins, whether or not only 4% turn out to the polls.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    I am pretty sure Chapman didn’t think gays weren’t functioning members of society, he just opposes having children adopted into families where they only have one gender of parents rather than two genders. Let’s argue (but not here) over whether it is legitimate to favor two-gender families over one-gender families, but let’s not equate opposition to single-gender adoption to hatred of homosexuals.

    Anyway, I agree that because the lower-tax candidates also were socially conservative, it is harder to call this a referendum on the tax increase itself.

  17. “functioning members of society”.

    Ha ha ha. That’s an endorsement of the homosexual agenda if I’ve ever heard one.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Single-gender adoption already is legal in Virginia. I know several single, straight women in Virginia who’ve adopted children. It’s gay people who are kept from adopting. Bless you conservatives who speak out against the anti-gay rhetoric!

  19. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein


    I really like your assessment of the “anti-tax” movement. I’ve always believed that we need smaller, more efficient government and that a strong economy is based on having a low tax burden on consumers. I fell that the real nuts and botls of the issue are being drowned out in the interest of political expediency. Whether accurate or not, many feel that the Tax Pledges that many politicians are signing and the singing the praises of are simply promises to never raise taxes and keep revenue levels at their current, or possibly lower, rates. That rubs many of us the wrong way.

    For me, the issue isn’t taxes but spending. I believe that we need to identify and prioritize state and local government expenditures. If government shouldn’t be in the business of certain programs or entitlements, get rid of them. We’ll always have debate on the roll of government and its responsibilities. But we’ve got to get out of the mindset that when there’s more revenue out there, governments should find a way to spend it. That’s exactly the kind of thinking that gets us into the tax debate in leaner years.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Mitch, agreed. But that is the whole reason for the tax pledge. In my whole life I’ve never seen an example of government willing to limit it’s spending under what it collects. The pressure is always to spend it all and then some. The only way I’ve seen to even get close to reigning in spending is to limit revenue.

  21. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    Point well taken. My problem is that, once you agree to fund a program, it’s much more difficult to reign it in or get rid of it. I’d much rather tell our citizens: “Sorry, folks, we just don’t do that. You’ll need to find another solution.”

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Mitch, and that as well would require some statesmanship and common sense from a crew in Richmond that thrives on government being the answer to everything.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    If you claim to want to shrink the size of government, and you talk about nothing but taxes, then I still think you’re just full of hot air: trying to sell an easy issue to a public that you know won’t think too hard about it instead of the reality of what you really want to achieve.

    Put a ceiling figure on what the government should be spending a year. Don’t spend beyond that. Anything else just equates to taxing less this year so you are forced to tax more next year. “Starving the beast” is just a pitiful excuse from politicians that want to have it both ways: lower taxes, but putting off having to cut back on anything.

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