by Chris Saxman
Having recapped the gubernatorial contestants in the Republican Ranked Choice Unassembled Convention, let’s review what happened for the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General nominations.
These two contests, like the top of the ticket, seemed to pivot on the outsider vs. insider narrative. Whereas we saw two successful outsider businessmen plow millions of their own money into their relatively brief campaigns for governor, the down-ballot candidates ran their campaigns the traditional way — get in and grind.
But first you have to Lose Yourself
Look/If you had One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment/Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
The LG nomination played out pretty close to what I had expected in that Delegate Glenn Davis would have a lead early due to his higher name ID from the 2017 LG race; however, Tim Hugo would catch him as he would (and did) likely reflect the more conservative slant of the GOP convention voter. When Winsome Sears got in, I wrote that she would be the candidate to watch since she would be seen as more of an outsider candidate who could also appeal to those Republicans looking for a more diverse ticket.
• Winsome Sears – Like she said repeatedly throughout the campaign, “Look, I check all the boxes.” Sears just came right out and said basically, vote for me because I give you the Get Out of the Being Called a Racist Card. She’s also a Marine veteran (there are no former Marines), runs a small business, is an authentic Christian in that she lives her faith but never makes you feel uncomfortable with yours, and more importantly for the GOP crowds she spoke to — she took the fight to the Democrats rather than her Republican opponents. (How’s that for a run on sentence? yeesh.) Sears is also authentically conservative and has been for decades, having run for and served in the House of Delegates from 2002-2004. Now that Sears has a political team around her, she could go far. She’s that rare candidate that one minute is reflexively humble and in the next will fight like hell.
• Tim Hugo – Hugo ran as the more conservative choice to front runner Glenn Davis and that was enough to overtake his former House colleague, but it became clear that the convention voters were looking for someone else to hold their banner. There really never was a point of differentiation for Hugo. In ANY political campaign, candidates have to answer the WHY questions — Why I am running and Why YOU should vote for me? Being the more conservative candidate choice is usually a good place to be in a GOP nomination fight, but in the end — like many of the other choices — there was no closing argument for Hugo. He handled the race and defeat with class, but Hugo’s true measure was how he dealt with the near tragic death of his son, Chris, right in the middle of the campaign. Tim Hugo showed us all what really matters. Good on him.
• Glenn Davis – Try to find a more earnest, hard working, happy warrior than Glenn Davis — you can’t. You won’t. For as nice of a guy as Glenn Davis is, what has always impressed me is his resolve to fight for what he believes. People underestimate him because of his Nice Guy exterior, but lemme tell ya — that man will out work and out fight anyone. If he can ever get his outside to match his inside, Davis could be a real threat as a statewide candidate. Only 47, he might have some more gas in the campaign tank. The political world could use a few dozen more candidates like Glenn Davis. And we all look forward to finding out who ran that anonymous attack ad against him in the final days of the campaign. Davis wasted no time filing a lawsuit on it — here’s hoping he files a bill to outlaw that same practice.
• Lance Allen – Allen is leading edge of the new generation of up and coming conservatives. Just 32 years of age and with no experience in running for office, Allen acquitted himself well especially since he had little money and less name ID throughout the campaign. He’s intelligent, well-spoken, and clearly has ambition, but like many other candidates never clearly articulated the Why Me questions. Allen has a few holes in his swing, but time and attention to them could get him the LG nomination in ‘25.
• Puneet Ahluwalia – Good on Ahluwalia for running a solid campaign. He found a lane late in the contest by attacking Critical Race Theory as his raison d’être. Ahluwalia also made his immigration to America a plus with an American by choice theme to the campaign. He could develop a real presence politically if he doubles or triples down on those two elements.
• Maeve Rigler – I will try to be charitable here. Rigler got it in way too late to have an impact on the race and her introductory video was dreadful. You know what, I am not going to be charitable — this is not how you run for statewide office. Period. Use this campaign as an object lesson in what not to do.
• Jason Miyares – When Miyares put out a negative mail piece against Chuck Smith, that was a sign the race was much closer than many had expected. That will likely put a fire under him for the general election — which is not to say that one doesn’t exist in Miyares. A Cuban-American raised by a mom who escaped the Castro regime, Miyares has an authentic passion for his beliefs. This is a very talented rising star in the Republican ranks who will benefit from this contest.
• Chuck Smith – Talk about over performing. Everyone wrote him off early in this campaign because of his previous campaign losses. But give the man his due, Smith has learned from his losses and has become an impressive candidate. There is something to be said for candidates like Chuck Smith — they just don’t quit. And in 2021, the GOP convention goers really liked that about him. So tip the hat to him for staying in the arena. His early entrance and hard work almost paid off handsomely for Smith. My bet is he runs again.
• Jack White – White has an impressive legal resume, but he got in the race way too late. He acquitted himself well and will likely run again. With a much higher name ID, better fundraising, and a better campaign organization don’t be surprised if White is not a statewide or congressional candidate soon.
• Leslie Haley – Another late entrant to a statewide race that fell short, Haley had neither the name ID nor finances to mount a winning campaign. She has the legal and political chops to be a very good candidate someday, but Haley has to commit earlier. Republicans need more women in their candidate ranks who have the ability of Leslie Haley, they also need to get them in the arena sooner rather than later. In order to win a Republican nomination in the near future, Haley is also going to have to take a page from Winsome Sears and Amanda Chase. That page is to reflect or represent the GOP base — Fight Like Hell.
Next up, the Democratic primaries in 18 days. We’ll break down those contests next week.
The general election is November 2nd or 165 days from today.
Early voting starts on September 18th – 120 days.
Chris Saxman is executive director of Virginia FREE. This commentary is republished with permission from The Intersection.