Russ Potts, Stalking Horse

Momentum, conventional wisdom, or whatever you want to call it seems to be coalescing around a special session of the General Assembly to deal with transportation and presumably new taxes to “fix” the problem. Former Governor Baliles and Chamber of Commerce heavyweights are the latest to jump on this plan, according to Peter Bacque of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Of course, less than one month ago, Russ Potts, the candidate who forthrightly advocated a special session and more taxes, garnered 2% of the vote.

Now, a special session and new taxes may be the best alternative. Governor-elect Tim Kaine may or may not end up advocating this and/or using his political capital to make it happen. I know that he is a serious man who wants to make a positive difference. But whatever the merits, the fact remains that Virginia voters did not endorse the special session/tax course of action when they were asked on November 8th.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to vote for both a candidate and his/her plan. If my candidate is elected, I expect him/her to try and implement his/her plan. If the candidate I didn’t vote for is elected, I expect him/her to try and implement his/her plan and I will respect the mandate the voters gave. It appears that in Virginia, elections aren’t about anything but personalities and image. Whoever wins is free to pursue whatever post-election plan is cooked up with the powerful interests that favor it. Unaffiliated citizens with just one vote apparently aren’t the majority of speakers at the transportation town halls where this “momentum” for a special session and new taxes is being carefully nurtured.

It’s easy to see now why the newspaper editorial boards of Virginia embraced Russ Potts until it came time for their endorsements. He was a convenient stalking horse for the positions they probably believed their endorsed candidate would end up favoring, but they knew he couldn’t express them with the vigor of Potts and win.

In Virginia, win first, then feel free to do what you want.

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9 responses to “Russ Potts, Stalking Horse”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    To me, a plan means you have goal, milestones to determine if you are reaching the goal, a schedule, and resources.

    Kaine never proposed a plan.

    You are absolutely right about unnafiliated speakers at the “town meetings”. One speaker in Manassas who identified himself as such, got an ovation.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    The last time I paid any attention to a candidate having a plan it was Dick Nixon, I had a 1-A draft card in my pocket, and I was enthralled to hear he had a plan to end the war in Vietnam. My faith in politicians with plans has gone down hill from there.

    If we’d all seen the detailed plan to end the car tax, and understood that it included a blank check for the localities to write against the state General Fund, it might not have been such a political winner.

    Tim Kaine never had a transportation “plan” of any detail, but he did have a broad set goals and principals which to date has has neither met nor abandoned. He isn’t even in office yet, Will. He never swore off taxes and he pointed out over and over there need be no referendum. Everybody above the age of four who heard that understood that he was at least leaving himself some room and he wasn’t the anti-tax candidate. I think the voters who picked him knew exactly what they were getting. And you should let him at least make a proposal before you open fire — you might even like it.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    The election was hardly a referendum on Russ Potts and his “plan”. Potts was outspent almost 40:1 and barely reached 50% name ID. Voter turnout was a pathetic 45%.

    Editorial boards, Gov. Kaine, and the moderate Republican’s in the Senate (including Potts) understand that it’s ridiculous to think we can cut the budget and save $2 billion per year or reduce the size of govn’t and save $2 billion per year in order to fix our roads. The Commonwealth could certainly achieve some savings by doing this but it wall fall well short of the amount required to fix the problem.

    The current budget “surplus” is the result of short-term gains in certain areas, which are not sustainable over the long term. Every elected official in Richmond knows this and voters know this.

    My hope is that they call a special session, lay out all the options, and have an honest bi-partisan debate about what the best course of action should be.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Steve: Kaine ran ads accusing Kilgore of planning to raise taxes. His ads talked about him cutting taxes in Richmond. He may not have promised a rose garden of tax cuts, and discerning voters may not have had any illusions, but he ran as a tax cutter not a tax raiser.

    As Gov Warner ran, promising not to raise taxes and did – but not being as explicitly untruthful, I expect Gov Kaine will find some taxes or fees to raise in the next 4 years. We will see.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Kaine offered a policy that was based on choices in transportation and linking land use to transportation, among other things.

    Now let’s see the plan.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Anon 3:32, do you live on Handley Hill in Winchester? Big white house? Drive a big white car?

  7. Cory Chandler Avatar
    Cory Chandler

    I agree with Anonymous 3:42 to an extent: the gubernatorial election was not a referendum on a special session for transportation. Some people didn’t vote for Potts because they knew that as an independent, he could win and they didn’t want to “waste” their votes–wisely, as the AG’s race has shown what happens when people take write-ins (and independents) lightly. A lot of people probably realized that Potts is as close to certifiable as most people ever hope to see in elected office. A lot of people didn’t vote for Potts because he didn’t have the money or the management to get any exposure to the voters–those who didn’t know him well enough to know how nuts he is. (I mean, really, most Virginians didn’t know who Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore were until after Labor Day; poor Potts didn’t stand a chance when the only people who knew who he was were political hacks who knew he was crazy.)

    Incidentally, I suspect that many legislators would prefer to get the hell out of Richmond and back to their regular jobs (that probably pay more). As for me, I bask in the luxurious rays of indifference.

  8. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    JAB: I watched “read my lips, no new taxes” on TV. I was present as a reporter for many of the occasions when Baliles promised not to raise taxes, then it was in response to our work at RPV that he was goaded into saying, “I only said it once.” I still have the video we produced to debunk that. I was in the audience at the 2001 Warner-Earley debates when Warner issued his heated assurances against any tax increase.

    In comparison to those three bi-partisan examples, if — and I stress if — Kaine does propose a tax increase you will be hard pressed to accusing him of misleading anyone, and if that becomes the Republican line of attack, it will fail. You’ll have to look at and deal with the merits — ad hominem won’t work.

  9. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Steve, just for the record, I wasn’t “opening fire” on Kaine. I guess I was just pointing out what’s apparently obvious and ok to you–plans and promises are bunk, even when the candidate faces the camera in an ad and says, “Read my plan.” The three year old in me just doesn’t see this as noble posturing as clearly as you.

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