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Editorial: Advice for Bill Carrico

Editorial: Advice for Bill Carrico

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To: Former state Sen. Bill Carrico

We have some advice for your campaign for the Republican nomination for governor.

A great opportunity has just presented itself, and you need to seize it. This isn’t an endorsement. We don’t do those. But you are from Southwest Virginia and whether you win or lose, it’s in the interest of everyone in these parts that voices from Southwest Virginia are taken seriously at the state level. So here goes.

First, we must talk about the only other declared candidate for the Republican nomination next year — state Sen. Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County, who so far is doing a good job of making even Corey Stewart look like a moderate.

Last week, an extraordinary thing happened: The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce rescinded its invitation to have Chase speak to the group, with the chamber president saying that Chase is “playing on people’s fears and appealing to bigotry and hate.” It’s unclear what exactly precipitated this, because there are so many things to choose from. Was it Chase declaring that attempts to remove the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond are tantamount to “erasing the history of the white people”? Or was it her decision to speak to a gun rights rally in Richmond on July 4 where, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “a handful of white men raised their hands in Nazi-like salutes” and another speaker represented a fringe group whose literature calls for an “escalation of hostilities in what will constitute the bloodiest civil war in human history.” No wonder that Chase has been called “idiotic” and “inflammatory.” That, by the way, wasn’t some left-wing commentator, that was an official statement by the state Senate Republican leadership, which has done its best to disown Chase.

Now, it’s extraordinary enough when fellow Republican legislators take on Chase, but the Northern Virginia Chamber’s disinvite takes things to another level. Think of it this way: Here is arguably the most important business group in the state — Northern Virginia being both the state’s population center and its main economic engine — telling a Republican candidate for governor to stay away. When has this ever happened before? Business groups always want to hear from candidates for governor. They may like some better than others, but after election day they all want to get along with the new governor. For a chamber of commerce — institutions usually pretty conservative in nature — to publicly rebuke a potential governor is simply unheard of. The Northern Virginia chamber’s very public disinvite says more than any newspaper editorial ever can about just how far out of the political mainstream Chase has gone. It didn’t stop there, either. Chase demanded an apology, and the chamber doubled down, saying “the chamber will consider Senator Chase’s request [to speak] once she apologizes for her racist, bigoted and insensitive comments.” It’s fair to say we have not seen anything like this before in Virginia. The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce has laid down an important marker about how far out of bounds Chase has gone — and that’s where you have an opportunity.

Let’s face it: Your problem is that you’re from Southwest Virginia. That’s not a problem for us, of course, but it’s a problem in the context of Virginia’s political environment. The votes are in Northern Virginia and the rest of the urban crescent. Rural candidates are at a disadvantage — rural Republicans even more so, because even Republicans from Northern Virginia haven’t been able to win statewide elections lately. As Republicans look for a candidate to carry their banner in 2021, why in the world should they consider someone from Grayson County? We don’t mean to be harsh — just realistic. Here’s where you need to surprise people. You should be up there speaking to the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

First, there are the politics of the moment: After the Northern Virginia chamber’s decision to disinvite Chase, any candidate speaking to them is going to get more attention than he or she normally would.

Second, there’s the spectacle of a candidate from the state’s furthest and most rural corner speaking to the chamber in the most cosmopolitan part of Virginia. The expectations would be low, which means the opportunity is high.

You actually have a message to deliver to Northern Virginia business leaders that may surprise them. Not your platform about public safety — not that that’s not important, but potential governors have to show they are multi-dimensional and not just one-issue candidates. Here’s the unique message you can deliver: You can tell the Northern Virginia chamber that you, more than anyone else in the race on either side, understand the importance of keeping the Northern Virginia economy healthy. Four of the six potential candidates on the Democratic side are from Northern Virginia, which might give them some natural advantage with a hometown crowd, but you can argue quite convincingly that they don’t appreciate the value of the Northern Virginia economy the way someone from Southwest Virginia does.

Why? Because you as a former member of the Senate Finance Committee understand that Northern Virginia effectively subsidizes the rest of the state, particularly our schools. You can point out that your former district includes Scott County, which has the distinction of having a school system that is more subsidized by the state than any other. In Arlington, the state pays just 8% of the costs. In Scott County, the state pays 65% — and we all know the single biggest source of those state revenues. Northern Virginia. You can make the case that someone from rural Virginia has a vested interest in making sure that the Northern Virginia economy keeps growing. If the Northern Virginia economy slows down, Northern Virginia localities won’t feel the hurt the way we would. It’s the same as how former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — father of Justin — once described his country’s relationship with the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Northern Virginia business leaders may or may not like the rest of your platform —that’s’ between you and them. But if Republicans are to ever win the governorship again, they will have to win back Northern Virginia. Here’s how a Republican from Southwest Virginia can make a case that no one else in the race can.

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