Thus Begins the Dump-Chichester Movement

By torpedoing the Republican transportation compromise late last week, Sen. John H. Chichester, R-Northumberland, has steered internal GOP politics into a radical new direction. Terrified about facing the voters this fall, Republicans of disparate political viewpoints had overcome their differences to craft a far-reaching package of transportation funding and reforms. By allying with Democrats to kill the deal, Chichester deprived his fellow Republicans of their political cover.

Chichester critics have been calling the old warhorse a RINO, Republican In Name Only, for several years now. Defenders responded by disparaging his foes as ideologues opposed to a “big tent” party. If the Republicans wanted to stay in power, the argument went, they had to accommodate the moderates in the party.

What happens to that argument now that Chichester has abandoned the party? GOP legislators’ backs were against the wall this winter to devise some kind of transportation solution. (For the record, I’m not defending that legislative package, which was a mess. I’m writing purely as an observer of political dynamics right now.) Unless some new, last-minute compromise can be cobbled together, a dozen or more Republican lawmakers look like sitting ducks in the upcoming elections. There is no disguising the fact that Chichester put his priorities above those of the party. When the survival of the GOP majority was at stake, he joined the enemy.

Understandably, many Republicans are enraged. In the previous post, I published a letter by Mike Wade, chairman of the Third Congressional Committee, expressing his dismay. Wade’s call to “take action against Sen. Chichester” will be the first of many. Says Wade: “We must work statewide to remove this pariah.”

Emotions are raw, and I anticipate a blood-letting in the Republican Party during the primaries. Sen. Russell Potts, R-Winchester, Chichester’s faithful big-government ally, has attracted two opponents. Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, two other soft-on-taxes Republicans, also have credible challengers. I would be amazed if Chichester did not inspire a substantive opponent as well.

In his last election campaign, Chichester won easily over an unknown candidate who came across as a far-right cultural conservative. But running for re-election this time will be much tougher for several reasons. First, Chichester has showed his true colors: He can no longer pretend to be opposed to tax increases, which, astoundingly, he did four years ago. Second, having abandoned the GOP on the crucial transportation issue, he has angered many in the rank and file, the people who dominate the primary process. Third, by putting GOP control of the General Assembly in jeopardy, he has incurred the animus of Republicans across the state, not merely in his district. Any credible candidate who chose to run against Chichester in the GOP primary would be showered with money.

In time, it will become clear that the “failure of Republicans” to govern in the General Assembly was not a failure of “Republicans” — it was the refusal of John Chichester, the Byrd machine veteran turned Republican who never lost his penchant for big government, to compromise with members of his own party. A growing number of Republicans will conclude, I predict, that dumping Chichester is essential to the survival of the GOP as majority party. As long as he occupies the powerful post of Senate Finance chair, the GOP will never be able to govern. Purging Chichester and sub-alterns like Potts is the only way to establish a functioning majority, as opposed to a nominal majority, and pass the kind of legislation that will win credibility with voters.

Update: In a sign of the times, there’s a new blog, Chichester Must Go. Let’s see how much traffic it gets.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


38 responses to “Thus Begins the Dump-Chichester Movement”

  1. 10thdistrictrepublican Avatar

    “Any credible candidate who chose to run against Chichester in the GOP primary would be showered with money”

    I wish you were right about this. It would take several hundred thousand dollars at a minimum to run a credible campaign against Sir. Chichester. Unforunately I can only think of 1 person who could credibly run against him and I certainly see no signs that he will challenge him.

    As much as I hate to say it, Chichester has this seat as long as he wants it.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim: Good analysis.

    Yet, I think the problem with governing as a majority is broader.

    Clearly, a Republican majority in the Senate that wants to tax and spend more than the Democrats is the biggest problem. The arrogance of power and intransegience (sp) which leads me to give the honorific of ‘His Lordship Sir John Chichester’ seals the doom of the majority – making it unworkable.

    The House of Delegates has a working majority of Conservatives within the Republican caucus, but enough clueless Republicans to create legislation that antagonizes the base and bleeds votes.

    To put a finer edge on that, since ‘all politics is local’, in Hampton Roads we have Republicans who try to impose Regional Government and new taxes for a transportation plan that does NOT reduce congestion. Their legislation will bring them power and money. The voters be damned.

    The fact that other, more conservatively conscience Republicans would compromise principles to go along with these delegates because they are scared stupid is a testimony to their convictions.

    Until Republicans clean both houses they, we, remain an echo – and unconvincing echo – of the Democrats.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Jeeze JB

    “who came across as a far-right cultural conservative.”

    doncha think if the Republican party controls who the Challenger might be that it is predetermined that he would be as described above?

    Let’s put this another way.

    Name the moderates who control a majority – enough to find a truly moderate candidate that would be a legitimate challenger to Chichester.

    The line about tax and spend doesn’t work either. John Chichester has essentially PRESIDED over and protected the AAA Bond rating for Virginia.

    Can you imagine what kind of a platform that a challenger would have to have to convince voters that he would do EVEN BETTER than a AAA rating AND would stay out of folks private personal lives?

    Oh.. and he/she would also defend the current dysfunctional “solution” to transportation.

    I’d say.. there is some VERY wishful thinking going on here.

    Republicans: Get to KNOW thyself as you actually are not what you try to convince the voters you are.

    translation: actions (or lack of) speak louder than words….

    As much as I dislike the gas tax – It’s honest and not a cynical back-door approach to raising taxes.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon:

    I fail to see how this posting by
    you contributes to our finding a
    a constructive means to resolve our
    growth and transportation issues.

    You seem locked into the need for
    us to continue to fight and to beat each other up over your low tax, no tax increase agenda for Virginia.

    The facts are we need more funds for our transportation system to
    avoid a total failure.

    Virginia’s transportation system is not prepared to properly deal with our project growth over the next two decades that will push our population upwards to 10 million.

    Nor is it prepared to handle our
    continued rapid business growth,
    such as the new container facility under construction in Portsmouth
    that will move an additional 1 million units in and out of Hampton Roads annually.

    You seem to support secret meetings
    in a posh downtown Richmond hotel
    by 7 parties which produced the so-
    called compromise package which was anything but, as so aptly noted in the Roanoke Times this
    morning in a thoughtful editorial.

    That process cut the public out of the deliberations, nor did it involve the Governor and his administration or the GA in an
    open public deliberation about this matter.

    You also seem to support a tax plan that places more burdens on
    Virginia residents, while allowing
    the traveling public and trucking
    industry to enjoy fuel tax charges
    not adequate to assist in funding
    our needs.

    I have hope we will find solutions
    to these problems without resorting to personal attacks and
    continued fights as you seem to want to promote.


    Rodger Provo

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon:

    I would invite you to review again
    your latest posting about John
    Chichester which appears to me to
    be a blunt, personal attack.

    I am reading your writings closely for I think there needs to be more balance on this blog, thus my comments.


    Rodger Provo

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    right JB.

    is the problem the lame financial proposal agreed to by Republicans that was so vulnerable that Chichester easily feasted on it

    … or is the problem Chichester?

    or do your Republican colleages prefer to cannabalize their own rather than come up with a superor proposal that exposes Chichester for what you claim he is?

    Hey.. I have no dog in this Elephant Hunt… but I’m amazed by what I see is horse blinder reasoning that will only spiral the Replubican party lower…. in the end… by sawing off your own legs.

    Do you REALLY want to encourage Chichester and other RINOs to consider becoming Dems that would then take over both the Senate and the House?

    Consider ESPECIALLY the Republicans in the urban Blue and Purpose regions.

    Bottom Line: what the Republicans have on the table for NoVa and HR might well result in turning over those seats come fall…. no matter what shotgun loads you use on the RINOs.

    Big Tent? well maybe if you count dead bodies as part of whose under it.

    ๐Ÿ™‚ sorry.. could not resist the major “tweaks”.

  7. E M Risse Avatar

    Gosh, this is fun!

    “The facts are we need more funds for our transportation system to
    avoid a total failure.”

    Wrong! The facts are pouring more money on a broken system just makes total failure in mobility and access a way for some to make a lot of money and others to get elected yet again.

    Solution? Since no one, not one single goverance practitioner elected or appointed, has stepped up to reality, toss them all out.

    Who to elect?

    Those who promise to work for Fundamental Change several only lost to party types by a few percentage points two and four years ago.

    A winning strategy means voting against all those who are beholden to any of the divisive, simplistic “my party” tripe.

    Citizens want strategies that can generate 80% support, not ones to generate 50.1% of the vote for either party.


  8. E M Risse Avatar


    Since James A Bacon and James A Bowden both have the same first name and the same initials it would help to me more explicit when one says “JB”, “JAB” or “Jim.”


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim –

    Your major assumption here is that given the political cover, Republicans could have maintained a majority. Given the defeat of Kilgore and Allen, the second due in no small part to high democratic vote tallys in NOVA.

    Having examined the reality of these findings should cause the republicans concern regarding their majority.

    I think it’s questionable that they will maintain their majority. Havine Athey make a fool of himself talking to Kaine during his call-in show on in December should give you a firm idea of what the challenges are.

    I’ll predict that they Republicans will lose seats this election cycle – just as they did last cycle.

    And I wlll tell you what the outcome is on November 7th.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually – in my view, it’s not the GF or Gax Tax angle that is at issue in the Regionals – NoVa and HR.

    It’s the Regional Specific stuff … elements THERE or not THERE that will have those elected on the dime perhaps.

    Out in the hinterlands… yeah… as long as this particular election cycle.. you brought home more money.. won’t matter how… and the GF approach is basically kick the can down the road…

    but I don’t think the 5 cents is going to do squat either.

    The PACE of the escalation of the costs of maintenance are going to have the gas tax for lunch… in relatively short order.

    The PROBLEM is much, much MORE massive than 5 cents.

    The chickens will come home to roost at election time when the incumbents tell people exactly what new projects were funded… with the tax increase…

    see .. this is why they call them politicians… they CAN tap dance and tell lies at the same time!

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 2:13, I have no idea whether the Republicans will cling to power in November. I have no idea if having the political cover of the compromise transportation package would have saved their hides. But it doesn’t matter what I think or what you think. The Republican legislators thought that a compromise might salvage their prospects in November. That was the point of my post. A lot of rank-and-file Republicans are going to be highly pissed off. That introduces a new dynamic in internal GOP politics. I’m not making a value judgment — I’m making an observation.

  12. nova_middle_man Avatar

    You are correct in your analysis Jim.

    I am a moderate Republican and I am upset with Chichester as you move further to the Right my fellow Rs are in a word livid.

    I would also echo others that Chichester is very entrenched and will be nearly impossible to overthrown

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The point about Chichester is that if he was really as bad as his brethern think he is then the voters would more than oblige.

    But that is not the case so here we have high voter approval and low party approval with the party figuring retribution rather than understanding why Chichester is popular with his constituents.

    Are the R’s more concerned with their own power than what voters might be interested in?

    Have’s R’s fogotten what elections are about… and view them as potentially deadly interuptions to business as usual?

    I’m not beating the drums for Kaine and the D’s either.

    I’m just pointing out that ultimately it IS more about elections than party loyalty.

    If I were KING, I’d make party loyalty a felony with 3 strikes and you’re out.

    It’s disrespective of citizens, voters, and Democracy.

  14. Gold_h2o Avatar

    “The point about Chichester is that if he was really as bad as his brethern think he is then the voters would more than oblige.”

    I agree. If he has made a huge mistake the voters will replace him…that’s why we have elections.

    For better or worse, I think Chichester, Potts, etc., make decisions based on what they feel is in the best interest of ALL OF THEIR CONSTIUENTS, not just republicans, democrats, independents, etc.

    Once elected, it is their job to represent EVERYONE in their districts, not just the members of their own party.

    Moving forward, what can we expect now….another special session?

  15. Not Chichester Avatar
    Not Chichester

    Join the movement It is time that Chichester reaps what he has sown.

  16. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Senator Taxchester is a RINO? Why does this surprise anyone?

    We’ve all known this for a long time.

    Roger – back at you bud – your whining about discussing WHO is behind what is happening because it isn’t focused on dumping BILLIONS of more tax dollars into the black hole of “transportation funding” isn’t helping moving the conversation “forward” either.

    But hey – knock yourself out – keep beating your DEAD horse!

    Here’s MY dead horse back at YOU Roger:

    NONE of the bills in the GA actually reduced traffic congestyion, nor did they produce any REAL “solutions” for reducing traffic congestion.

    That’s because the tax & spender gang (your friends Roger?) just wants to whine about raising taxes and MORE SPENDING.

    How about admitting that none of the bills on the table really required any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion?

    AND – to boot – they created horrible, unaccountable regional authorities that are ripe for corruption!

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Why do you apologize to your readers when you have a point of view? More than a few of them are ridiculous navel-gazers. The state’s motto should be:


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    All: I do think that Bacon’s commnentary espouses the House Repbublican perspective. It’s too bad: we’re not really looking at the differences in proposals. Taking money from the GF versus a gas tax is the practical issue. A gas tax is in effect a user fee, much like the tolls that Cuchinelli proposes. But because the latter is part of the conservative Republican mechanism, his user fee is okay.

    Re Chichester, it is refreshing to see a leader focus on what is good for the Commonwealth rather than on what party ideologues espouse. Also, to call his opponent in the last election “right-wing” is an understatement.

    What we are seeing is a shakeup; what is obvious from the blogs is that the bloggers have forgotten that the voters decides who represents them. Thank goodness! The Republicans have gotten used to forcing their ideology on voters who don’t have good choices for representatives, because of the extremes of both parties.

  19. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Reid, my kNOw buddy, hang tough. Keep speaking the truth – ta da – that no plan produced yet actually reduces congestion in HR.

    Which, duh, sorta oughta be the aim of good government – and neither red nor blue or R or D – just good governance.

    Please don’t forget the unseparated powers, no checks and balances, for unelected, unaccountable Regional Government and the open invitation for corruption that brings to Virginia.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon:

    The last time John Chichester ran
    for re-election he was forced into
    a primary by an opponent, who is a
    right wing, anti-tax, gay bashing
    political consultant.

    John won that race easily.

    In Fredericksburg, he got all but 37 votes, carrying 93% +/- of
    the vote in my home.

    John’s transportation fiscal policy is no different from what
    Ronald Reagan pursued when he was
    California’s governor (he increased
    revenues for their transportation
    system during a recession) or Harry Byrd, his son and his infamous Byrd Machine, who always supported capital improvements with defined sources of revenue.

    Senior Byrd, Judge Smith and other Virginia conservatives in the U.S.
    Congress at the time supported then
    President Eisenhower’s proposal to
    build our interstate system.

    Byrd played a major role in supporting the construction of such
    great roads in Virginia as the
    Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.

    I think John Chichester is a good
    senator, trying to do a good job
    for his state without regard to
    the small, far right wing conser-
    vative crowd in Virginia, who have
    Virginia become a third world state.


    Rodger Provo

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with Rodger about how Chichester is perceived by folks who live in his area.

    I disagree with the idea that the gas tax is going to do anything other than continuation of the status quo which is WHY we have the problems we have right now.

    It’s not near enough money to do anything .. it’s almost a symbolic continuation of the same failed approach.

    But it’s more honest than the HD approach which is really a back door sneak attack hoping to evade public scrutiny because of it’s complex rube-goldberg nature.

    More important, I think the House Republicans might be living in a state of denial with respect to what kind of GA representation that the public wants.

    Most of them want someone who is fiscally conservative AND socially tolerant/progressive.

    You could beat Chichester with such a candidate who went after C’s tax and spend record but a challenger with the perfect mix of fiscal conservatism that also carries a far right view OR would agree to kowtow to the right will fail miserably to unseat C in my view.

    And in my view, THIS is the problem that the R’s have in Virginia and no where is it more apparent than in those areas that are tending Blue, in part, because the State R’s ARE LOSING the moderate Rs who live in NoVa and HR by continuing to cater to the far right guys.

    I think unless the R’s in Va are willing to:

    1. – APPEAR to the public to be fiscally conservative and true smaller government on social issues, they’re headed for minority status.

    The plain truth is that about 30% of the population (give or take a few points) believe in the Conservative Right R’s – statewide and nationwide.

    They are an IMPORTANT .. minority whose values deserve debate but at the end of the day – they cannot hold hostage everything else in order to get their way.

    That strategy ultimately will split the R’s into two parties – one that is fiscally conservative and one that is socially converative and on SOME things they will come together and other things the Right will stand alone.

    Which I happen to believe is what voters want and why Chichester will win hands down against any candidate with exposed or closet far rights views.

    If the HD’s REALLY want to go after Chichester.. they gotta look at their own ranks first.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    Interesting Website… with an intriquing concept.

    My view if you want this site to “grow” and have “legs” is that part of it must be an advocacy of how to go forward.

    It’s correct to point out the terrible flaws in the current system … but a path forward is what will get you supporters.

  23. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake


    I don’t own it. I just placed it here to give it exposure. Why limit it to only the HR region?

    The site is owned by former local radio personality, Pat Murphy.

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    Yes.. the site needs to articulate in detail the “sins” rather than generalized and unspecified body blows.

    There is PLENTY of Fodder… at JLARC and the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts as well as other sources such as the Transportation Research Council…

    as well as local news reports…

    here’s a couple from Fredericksburg:

    A lady writes in to complain about incorrect signeage and incorrect lane markings….

    Here is the VDOT response:

    “Leaving those signs and markings in place was an oversight… They will be corrected”

    VDOT is clearly AWOL from a job that is THEIR responsibility and having the public “remind” them illustrates their lack of attention to their mission

    another one – worse –

    a new traffic light was determined to be needed … by VDOT.. and here is their response:

    “The signal will not be installed soon. The earliest motorists are likely to use the signal is the end of 2007”

    I don’t know about HR but this is not untypical in the Fredericksburg Area.

    It’s a “small” concept called customer service. VDOT considers it to be a “bother” … and would prefer to have readers complain in public of their failures to do even routine work that the public expects to be done.

    This is what Kaine, Chichester and our friend Rodger don’t think is as important as more funding for VDOT to continue to function like they do now.

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry Gross:

    You are being unfair for
    I have said numerous times
    on this blog
    we need management reform
    at VDOT, land use reform and more
    funds to solve our transportation
    problems. Shames on you!!!!!!

    Rodger Provo

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry Gross:

    Shame, shame on you!!!!!!!!
    Not shames on you !!!!!!!!!

    Rodger Provo

  27. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Roger – are you a fan of blank checks?

    I am asking you this because you state that VDOT needs more money – I say ONLY AFTER we know what, when, and how that tax money will be spent!

    What is missing in the process before us is a commitment for WHAT is proposed, how much it will cost (max cap), and when it will be ready for our use (max drop dead completion date – and, accurate estimates of how much current traffic congestion will be reduced.

    THEN we discuss how to fund what we agree is a need – and a transportation project that solves a real transportation problem.

    Roger – the “packages” of highways in the bills on the table for Hampton Roads FAIL to meet this common sense criteria.

    They do nothing to reduce CURRENT traffic congestion – they are mostly of scheme for funding a speculative economic development project – the expansion of the Virginia Port. Thus –

    – – a $4.4B bridge tunnel that does NOT address our local traffic congestion problems. But is sought for more trucks to serve future port expansion.


    BEFORE one more dime is handed over to VDOT we taxpayers that are picking up the tab need to know WHAT our money will be spent on – and WHEN we can expect traffic congestion RELIEF in return for our money.

    IMO supporting Blank Checks is foolish.

    Raising the gas tax to fund a blank check is foolish too.

    If the GA and VDOT (and the local business lobby) want more of MY MONEY – they need to be legally responsible for delivering something of value TO ME in return for MY money.

    Roger, THEY aren’t paying the bill for these highways – I AM. My family is – and my neighbors living in some of the cities in my region are.

  28. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Hey there Reid;

    Nice to see you posting again. Now I don’t feel so all alone down here in Tidewater.

  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would encourage both Reid and Darrell to stay with BR…. so that we have folks with an HR perspective…. on growth, development and transportation issues.

    Reid/Darrel – do ya’ll know anything about the “Green Line”?

  30. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Larry, being as I live in Sandbridge, I live on the Green Line. What do you whant to know?

    Darrell – good to ‘see’ you too. This blog is like the old days, but a lot more mature/grown up (No Stacy B., & Co.)

    To all: Those of us that live here prefer “Tidewater” to the local Growth Lobby’s name “Hampton Roads”.

    Elvis Presley sang about “Tidewater”, not about “Hampton Roads”.

    … but one thing is for sure, with the local Growth Lobby running the politcal show (and salavating for another all-appointed regional authority – those of us taxpayers living here in Tidewater are “the poor boys on the line.”

  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Tidewater it is… maybe abbreviate to TW if okay.

    Much discussion in this Blog about Balanced Communities, Smart(er) growth, Urban Growth Boundaries and their relatives

    the phrase “Clear Edge” also in discussion.

    I’m not well schooled in all of this… but it appeared in links about the Green Line that it’s purpose was to be .. perhaps a “clear edge” between rural and urban…

    What say you?

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Reid Greenmum:

    I think you need to move to
    North Dakota. You could leave behind
    all of these issues about Virginia
    you hate. North Dakota, seems
    like I good idea. What do you
    think grumpy?


    Rodger Provo

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Reid Greenmum:

    North Dakota, seems like a good
    idea. Not a “seems like I good

    Rodger Provo

  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Rodger – consider this.

    a pattern is emerging where you invite anyone/everyone who does not agree with you to leave…

    Rodger – you advocate a State Level Planning Agency

    Is this how you would run it?

    What happened to all that talk about having each stakeholder at the table expressing their views .. and collborating on a shared vision?

    Methink you are using bait and switch tactics…

    i.e. convince folks to support a state level planning agency then allowing only folks who agree with you to participate…

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    Larry you to chill out …. which
    should be easy to do today …. we
    ought to be able to look at the
    light side of life … cheers!!!!!


    Rodger Provo

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    You need to chill out
    (boy my typing has been poor in recent days) ..
    which should be easy to do today ..
    we ought to be able to look at the
    light side of life .. cheers!!!


    Rodger Provo

  37. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Rodger… I guess you did not see the tongue firmly planted in said cheek….


    come on now Rodger… are you one of those “we are in charge” and minions are not welcome types?


    Gee I hope not.. we got enough of those guys at VDOT and FAMPO.

Leave a Reply