What Cox Brings to the Contest for Governor

Chesterfield Observer photo from a September interview, which you can read here.

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s 66th House District, basically Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County, was drawn by a federal court special master. The incumbent delegate, Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, was not supposed to survive the 2019 election based on past partisan performance in those precincts.

But Cox ran nine points ahead of failed 2018 GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart’s result in those precincts, and five points ahead of failed 2017 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie. He won another term in the House of Delegates with almost 52%. Unfortunately, so many of his colleagues fell to the new map that he was no longer to be Speaker.

Being Governor is better than being Speaker. The effort to gerrymander George Allen out of Congress led to his term as Governor two years later. If a play works, wait a while and run it again. Only a Republican who can get beyond the hard core base – as Cox did in 2019 — has a prayer. Just improving the outcomes in nearby Chesterfield and Henrico counties, his back yard, would set the stage.

Any Republican faces daunting numbers. Donald J. Trump just lost the state by 450,000 votes, a full 10-point spread. Gillespie lost to Democrat Ralph Northam by just under 9 points and 230,000 votes. If you-know-who is not in the White House next year, which is how it now stands, Democrats have lost their best “get out the vote” magnet. 

Cox made his “announcement by website” overnight, with  embargoed media interviews appearing today and the now-standard campaign video (watch it here). If this reads a bit like an endorsement, I won’t argue with that. I speak only for myself in this regard.

Let’s put some cards on the table. I met Kirk in 1985, when I was covering the Wyatt Durrette for Governor campaign and Kirk was Wyatt’s driver. The Colonial Heights connection was discovered, as by that time my parents had settled in there for their retirement. Then Kirk ran for the House in 1989 while I was GOP Caucus Executive Director. I cannot be objective with regard to Cox and don’t claim to be.

Chesterfield Senator Amanda Chase has been actively seeking the nomination for months, and media reports and rumors have swirled around other names.  The nomination deadline is June 9, and step one for the party is to settle on the method. I cannot claim to be neutral on that either: It needs to be a primary, the process of inclusion rather than exclusion, expansion rather than contraction.

The divisions which have pressured the party into opposing ideological corners have been inflamed, not reduced in the wake of November 3. The same divisions are reflected in the House GOP Caucus, which chose Kirk first as majority leader and then as Speaker. He has shot those rapids before.

Success in the legislature is always a two-edged sword. With fifteen sessions behind him, Cox has plenty of votes, compromises and issue stances that will become fodder for Republican foes seeking to taint him as not conservative enough, and then Democrats doing their best to paint him a wing nut.

But here is a big thing which has changed: The Democratic nominee, any of their choices, no longer can run behind the myth that “Virginia Democrats are different.” The uber-woke, big labor, Green New Deal agenda pushed during two 2020 sessions splintered that illusion for good.

From some of his initial written materials:

Chasing the nomination: “…I cannot watch the Virginia we’ve built slip away. The timeless principles upon which our representative democracy were built are under attack, unchecked one-party Democratic control in Richmond is tearing our state apart, and people feel like their leaders are not listening….We have to fight back against the cancel culture and the elitism, against misguided collectivist policies, and a worldview that puts the government in charge of every facet of our lives.”

With an eye on November: “But we are not just fighting back for the sake of it. We are fighting back so we can lead forward out of this pandemic and a self-inflicted recession, lead forward to an economy where people can do more than just pay the bills, back to a place where problems are solved through dialogue and communication, and lead forward to a Virginia that is the best place to do business, where our kids leave school with an affordable degree or a valuable credential, and where people in government do what they say they’re going to do.”

In a brief interview Friday, Cox indicated he really hadn’t decided to do this until he saw the new Democratic majority in action during the 2020 session. He came to the House in the minority, but under a different breed of Virginia Democrat. The partisanship then didn’t prevent cooperation and compromise. The opacity, insularity and arrogance of this new House majority has been their mistake and the Republicans’ opportunity.

Having seen the process work both well and badly, having been at the political bottom and on top, there is reason to hope Cox will follow through on changing the tone and restoring some mutual respect to Richmond.

And there is one timely issue I think Cox is perfectly prepared to address. Rebuilding Virginia’s schools in the wake of the pandemic shutdowns and disastrous virtual learning experiment will be at the top of the next governor’s to-do list. Cox spent his career as a front line classroom teacher in the public schools.

Keeping the unruly focused on the mission is what good teachers (and House Speakers and even Governors) do.

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38 responses to “What Cox Brings to the Contest for Governor”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd


    The problem with Cox, quite frankly, is the roughly $600, 000 in his Speaker’s Fund, allegedly from the guy who now has a highly profitable casino in a very poor area of Virginia. I believe you and/or Dick brought that unfortunate fact to my attention. Learning of it, I changed my opinion of Virginia’s government and Cox whom up until then I greatly admired. How to you explain that unfortunate fact now? Was it not true?

    And, if true, what does Cox do about it now?

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Gamble it away?

  2. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Use the 600k to buy a pot license from a POC? Double down time!

  3. ksmith8953 Avatar

    What is the difference between legalizing Marijuana and Gambling? Both bring jobs and revenue (by way of income at least). The gambling casino is in an economically depressed area. Has he hidden this? Is there an ethics problem? Please weigh in because, I like the guy?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Off hand, and after a quick second on VPAP, I cannot confirm what Reed seems concerned about. Money has flowed around the gaming issue for a long time in VA, both ways, and I must confess I once worked on the “pro” side (tiny contract 20 years ago.) It is not any political leader’s job to turn down legal contributions when the other side is raising barrels of money. Fair question to ask him, and it will certainly come up, is if he favors putting on some limits, as I do.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner


        That’s two of the key committees — not seeing 600K I can ID as being gaming money. Perhaps one of the companies spread that much over a series of campaigns and committees. Which one are you talking about?

        I’m not seeing it Reed. If you cannot back this up, can I have Larry back to fence with? You may have dinged Cox unfairly.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Steve – thank you for replying. I hope you are right, because otherwise I like this guy Cox, his record on education particularly. I will assume you right. But I will go back and look. And report back on what I find here within the archives of Bacon’s Rebellion, pro or con.

          1. Steve Haner Avatar
            Steve Haner

            I know several of the people around the Bristol consortium, including some I knew at the AG’s office. Both great guys who truly believe this is good for the region’s economy. I’m doubtful, but it’s legal. The voters just backed it in a referendum.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Steve – thank you for replying. I hope you are right, because otherwise I like this guy Cox, his record on education particularly. I will assume you right. But I will go back and look. And report back on what I find here within the archives of Bacon’s Rebellion, pro or con.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Thank you, for your second reply. It seems Cox’s record is generally that of an honest guy who is a big cut above most of the rest in his business. A full airing of long time practices, including those he may have been caught in given the sea he had to swim in, would be a powerful antidote, and reason to run, and earn the peoples’ vote. A huge breath of fresh air.

  5. “The nomination deadline is June 9, and step one for the party is to settle on the method. I cannot claim to be neutral on that either: It needs to be a primary, the process of inclusion rather than exclusion, expansion rather than contraction.”

    The primary as the selection method is a very important point. I think we’ve had enough experience with running candidates chosen by a limited number of party faithful.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I agree Nathan. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the GOP to be the party of inclusion in fact and reality, in the upcoming race for Governor.

      Finding the right GOP candidate who can make that case and act on it in office is the key to success. A successful GOP primary will be a key building block to the chances for GOP success. This is no time for business as usual, a trap the GOP far too often falls into. Think and act big now instead, like there is no tomorrow.

    2. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      1997 Gilmore-Hager-Earley ticket was set by a primary process and swept. Four years later the Earley-led ticket was chosen in a bitter convention fight, and lost. Had Mark gone through a primary, I’ve always believed, he still would have prevailed and he’d have been stronger against Warner.

  6. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    An interesting factor will be how Asian Americans in NoVA react to their treatment by school boards as being overrepresented in AP and IB classes and admissions to TJHSST. Do the woke get to classify Asians as “people of color” or “honorary white people,” depending on which classification better serves their radical agenda at any point in time.

    Also, the Biden Administration will certainly weigh in on the various investigations and lawsuits regarding racial discrimination against Asians as not being discrimination. And that’s just the start to the imposition of racial quotas.

  7. djrippert Avatar

    I’ll remain open minded but my first blush impression is just another politician for life from the land of the plantation elite. Most lifelong politicians from the land of the plantation elite have only one economic policy … “Rob NoVa to subsidize RoVa”. This results in NoVa residents coughing up endless money in taxes only to see broken infrastructure and whiny conservative complaints about how much Metro costs. Residents of NoVa either sit in traffic jams or pay sky high tolls while residents of Richmond tool around an overbuilt I295 without a care in the world.

    Given the Virginia Republicans’ anti-NoVa history I’d question why anybody from NoVa would vote for Kirk Cox.

    McAuliffe or Foy from NoVa vs. yet another guy from the land of the plantation elite? Tough call for me right now.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Now that I’m in the West End and not Northside I don’t hear the tractor trailers of money from NOVA rolling by on I-95 on their way to the treasury….Hey, no question, that is one of his challenges. I’m sure you thought Vogel from the outer suburbs was insufficiently pure on geographic grounds. Let’s see how the ticket fills out for one thing.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Focus on the Latino and, especially, Asian-American vote in NoVa. Follow Trump’s lead in Florida:


        But most of all, Cox needs to describe how he’ll leave more of NoVa’s tax money in NoVa. Not all but more. Otherwise, he’s toast.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Excellent advice and link. Here is headline:

          “Trump cultivated the Latino vote in Florida, and it paid off

          Trump showed up in Florida. He asked us what our issues are and he addressed them. He didn’t take us for granted,” said a veteran GOP strategist.”

    2. “Rob NoVa to subsidize RoVa”

      The biggest problem I have with that is the fact that they haven’t helped rural Virginia in any sustainable way.

      Broadband would help rural Virginia, but the tobacco money was largely flushed down the drain with very little to show for it. They bought fiber for middle mile connectivity. That’s not the problem. Last mile connectivity is the problem.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        I actually agree. The “RoVa” in question has often been roads in Richmond. Years of robbing NoVa to subsidize RoVa has done nothing for rural Virginia. What wasn’t stolen from the tobacco indemnification funds was squandered.

        Last mile connectivity is always the problem in low population density broadband situations.

        While broadband might help rural Virginia I see little evidence from other states that indicates rural broadband has materially helped in those states.


    3. I am open-minded on Cox too…I have no pre-conceived attitude.

      Drove I495 Beltway north I270 to Pittsburgh last nite right in rush hour…over the Am Legion – to be expanded – Bridge, where was everybody? I mean, never in my dreams was that previously possible. Normally I would lose 2 hrs in gridlock. I used to curse Md. for all the return traffic back into Md, feeling Va. was more proactive on HOT lanes etc

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Today, the Democrats are the party of the status quo in Virginia. We all here know where that status quo is right now, and where it is headed into foreseeable future.

    The GOP challenge now is to devise and sell a grand alternative to the status quo. That reality in itself in an unusual gift. Is the GOP candidate up to that task? Or will he or she simply be running in place with the same old bromides, and tired promises? Energy here, new found energy and ways of expressing new opportunities and realities will be key.

    1. “Today, the Democrats are the party of the status quo in Virginia. ”

      You need to put some specifics around that. They certainly aren’t the party of status quo with regard to restrictions on our Second Amendment rights, and numerous others issues.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Nathan –

        You are right.

        But it is not hard to construct that fast moving status quo given the mind boggling changes and events in Virginia over the past six or so years.

        On that score, there is a wealth of information on Bacon’s Rebellion, telling us about the nightmare unfolding in Virginia in vivid colors.

        The job now is to synthesize those events and trends told here into a powerful story. Take posts and comments here during November for starters. It is breathing taking, in scope and depth, and most all of it is related to deeply flawed, failed and poisonous Democratic policies tearing apart Virginia on scale not seen for generations. The GOP needs a research operation mining this litany of disasters and its causes, and people building stories out of it, and policies to fix the mounting wreckage, that give citizens hope and inspire them to action.

  9. djrippert Avatar

    Help me remember – is the 2021 election in Virginia based on the 2010 census or the 2020 census? My recollection is 2020.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      If all goes as planned, new legislative districts will be approved in time for the fall 2021 elections. Now we have this commission so that’s unknown territory. Usually the GA has done it in a spring special session. They will probably do state senate and congress too, but those won’t be on the next ballot.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    Pretty interesting article from that liberal rag:

    “Liberals Envisioned a Multiracial Coalition. Voters of Color Had Other Ideas.

    Democrats may need to rethink their strategy as the class complexities and competing desires of Latino and Asian-American demographic groups become clear.”


    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Very interesting. Surprised the editorial board was not able to stop its publication.

    2. Latino- and Asian-Americans better start toeing the line or the democrats will have no choice but to kick them out of the “people of color” club.

  11. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Wyatt Durrette, now that is a blast from the past. How did he lose to Marshall Coleman way back in the day?

    I like Kirk Cox. First he is a retired school teacher and from what I have heard an outstanding teacher of history and government. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Cox. Right up there with Lee Ware in my opinion.

    Mr. Cox is going to have to build a bigger tent. He is going to have to attract black and Latino conservatives. He is going to have to unite conservatives from the southside, southwest, the valley, the tidewater, the piedmont, and outer suburbs of northern Virginia. Those sectional conservatives have big differences. Can he unite them?

  12. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Ah, the Virginia Way! One election barely over (notwithstanding the tweets of The One that it is not over) and we are on to the next one! And to think that Rippert would deprive us of this sport by moving our election cycle to coincide with the feds!

    As for Cox, if the Republicans nominate him or Emmet Hanger (or someone of that ilk), they might stand a chance next year. So far, the Democratic field is not very imposing and the Democrats will not have Trump to run against. That would all change if (when?) McAuliffe jumps in as he seems to be getting ready to do.

    Cox will have two major problems. One, he is not that charismatic or loud or big personality. (Sort of like Biden.) Of course, Northam has the same sort of quiet, unassuming personality and he won. But, the circumstances were different. And, if Cox has to run against McAuliffe, he will be overshadowed. I have seen that man in action; he is the consummate salesman.

    Cox’s other problem will be his record. He has been reliably very conservative over the years. For example, he long opposed the expansion of Medicaid. He only switched his position after the Democrats surprised everyone and almost won the majority in 2017. Many of the Republican base probably won’t forgive him for switching and the Democrats will remind their base of his years-long opposition.

    As for Steve’s complaints about the “opacity, insularity and arrogance of this new House majority,” the Republicans with more than 60 members and Cox as the majority leader were just as bad.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “So far, the Democratic field is not very imposing and the Democrats will not have Trump to run against. That would all change if (when?) McAuliffe jumps in as he seems to be getting ready to do.”

      McAuliffe changes nothing. He’s the Grand Wizard of them all, more riots and mayhem from Charlottesville to Richmond to the Virginia Capes. More mendacity from the Tidelands to the Piedmont. More lying and conniving in the Shenandoah and up and over the crest of Blue Ridge to W. Virginia.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I meant that the dynamics of the election campaign would change.

  13. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I respectfully disagree on the final point. I’ve never seen it this bad in four decades of close observation, and as evidence that the opinion might be correct just ask the Senate Democrats. Then along came the Zoom Session and it all got exaggerated.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      During the 2019 Session, the staffs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees, both chaired by Republicans, were not allowed to talk to each other. So, there is often friction between the two chambers, even within the same party. But, I agree with you that the friction this past year was more public than usual.

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    What should Cox do to win the blue/purple parts of Virginia and can he do it without full support of RPV or will he be on his own?

  15. One of the premises of Steve’s post is that Cox won his delegate race last time in spite of gerrymandering. However, I believe one should not discount the impact of the really crappy candidate who opposed him.

    See https://richmond.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/chesterfield-businesswoman-who-ran-against-former-va-house-speaker-enters-plea-in-alleged-revenge-porn/article_693495d0-8650-5d46-be8d-787330e72525.html

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