From State Senator Mark Obenshain....
The election is a few days behind us now, and we've all had time to reflect on what it means for Virginia. The pundits have had their say, of course: rare is the pundit without an opinion, or several. It is, to hear them talk, a harbinger of things to come, or perhaps an anomaly; a rejection of President Obama or entirely independent of him; the first ripples in a coming Republican wave or an entirely local decision with little predictive power.
The pundits will have their day, but no one can spin their way past the fact that last Tuesday was a great day to be a Republican!
Governor-elect Bob McDonnell ran an excellent campaign; just take a look at this sea of red. Bob even won the city and county of Fairfax, and he did it the same way he appealed to voters across the rest of the Commonwealth: by talking about practical solutions to real problems. As a candidate, he showed great discipline and stayed on message; as governor, I know he will insist on fiscal discipline and the common sense principles that will put Virginia on the road to economic recovery.
As a member of the Senate of Virginia, I have the opportunity to see Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling in action, and I'm not convinced that some of my Democratic colleagues weren't secretly pulling for him. When it comes to presiding over the Senate – not always an easy task! – Bill is quite accomplished. He too ran a great campaign and was easily reelected, and all Virginians can take comfort in knowing that it will be Bill Bolling who will break ties in the Senate.
And then there's Ken Cuccinelli. Ken, who was going to drag the ticket down. Ken, who was going to get blown out of the water in Northern Virginia. Ken, who would never be able to connect with the voters. Or as I like to think of him, Ken, who won in a landslide, 57 – 42%. I've worked closely with Ken for the past six years, I knew he could win and I know he will be an effective and thoughtful Attorney General who will fight hard for the rights of all Virginians.
The Democratic ticket of Creigh Deeds, Jody Wagner, and Steve Shannon ran hard, but all the enthusiasm was on our side. I do, however, want to take a moment to thank them for their sacrifice and efforts. The strength of our democracy rests in part on vigorous two-party competition, and I respect the efforts of these Democratic candidates who, despite our many differences, clearly love our Commonwealth and sought to serve her.
Both here and in New Jersey, voters rallied to the support of common sense fiscal discipline and governmental reform. They struck a blow for common sense, and now Republicans have an opportunity – indeed, an obligation – to govern on the principles that got them elected.
Voters turned to Republican candidates across the Commonwealth, resulting in a net gain of six seats in the House of Delegates. Congratulations to Will Morefield, Ron Villanueva, Scott Garrett, Tag Greason, Barbara Comstock, Rick Anderson, Jim LeMunyon, and Chris Stolle, the newest Republican delegates, many of whom won in regions typically unfriendly to Republicans.
Republicans also came excruciatingly close to capturing the seat vacated by Steve Shannon and failed to upset incumbent Democrat Dave Marsden by a razor-thin margin. Elsewhere, another incumbent Democrat, Al Pollard, showed surprising weakness, and his seat should offer a tempting target for Republicans in two years.
It was a good night for Republicans, but voters demanded more than just an “R” after the candidate's name. The defeat of incumbent Delegate Phil Hamilton by an opponent who ran an uninspired and lackluster campaign should deliver a clear reminder to elected officials that there is no room for ambiguity when it comes to ethics. Voters expect their elected officials to be public servants, and for their conduct to be both legal and ethical. Singularly ineffective are efforts to rely on the nuance between “legality and ethics” - just because an action isn't “illegal” does little to satisfy voters that it therefore is within the boundaries of the “ethical.”
Election Day is not the end of the story; it is just the beginning. A few years back, a couple of political consultants wrote a book titled “You Won—Now What?” I'm sure it's a fine book, but I'm equally certain that Bob McDonnell won't be making a Barnes & Noble run any time soon. In electing Bob, Bill, and Ken, Virginians picked three men who understand the challenges that lie ahead – and are ready and willing to face them head on.