There's no doubt about it. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment--all Republicans--just made Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's task of winning the governor's race this year that much tougher.
Not to mention that along with Democrat supporters they just burdened Virginia taxpayers with likely increases at the gas pump (the elimination of the 17.5 cent gas tax was replaced with a 3.5% tax on wholesale gas, and a 6% hike on wholesale diesel), a definite increase in the state sales tax (from 5 to 6% in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, and 5.3% everywhere else), an increase in the despised car tax (from 3 to 4.3%), a new hotel tax, a sales tax on NoVA homes, and stunningly, a likely expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, couched in a commission taxpayers can hope will reject it.
This turn of events is depressing for Virginia conservatives. After fighting a losing battle in 2004 to block Senate Republicans' alliance with Democrat Governor Mark Warner to hike taxes to "solve our transportation problems," to then see our popular Republican governor--a good friend to many of us--push through a tax hike to deal with issues the first hike did not solve, well, it is demoralizing. To say the very least.
The 2004 tax hike ushered in an era of losses for the Virginia GOP--I was Virginia state party chairman at the time, and it was painful. After that 2004 tax cave by some Republicans, our state party headquarters' phone lines were lit up with angry grassroots Republicans saying they were finished with the Party. This despite the Party's staunch and vocal, opposition to the hikes. And the opposition of conservative legislators like Senators Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain, and Delegate Bob McDonnell. It didn't matter. If leading Republicans in the state senate were going to cozy up with a tax-hiking Democrat in the Governor's mansion, Republican activists were not going to stand for it. Money kept coming in to the Party--that wasn't the problem. Disillusionment among the hardest workers was--those who truly believed in the Republican party platform and the state credo that government should be limited and taxes should be kept low.
One would think the Republican Party had learned its lesson.
This go-around, every candidate for statewide office in 2013 opposed the tax package--though some waited until the last moment to show their opposition in a vote rather than working against the bill's passage. But yet again, some high profile Republicans joined with the tax hike plan.
There were stalwarts opposed to the Governor's plan--and they placed themselves in a degree of peril to go against the likeable McDonnell, his corporate donors, and his mainstream media allies in this particular battle. Twelve Republicans and only 3 Democrats in the Senate voted no. (See how they voted in House here; Senate here.) Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, not surprisingly, was among the most vocal opponents of the Governor's plan.
doubt, the tax hike has placed him in an unenviable position. Instead of
having the opportunity to ride a popular governor's coattails in a
difficult environment for Republicans, Cuccinelli will have to go it
alone--running against not only his Democrat opponent, but the
Republican governor's tax increase legacy.
Cuccinelli has never had a moment's discomfort in "going it alone." He stands on principle and will do so in this race. Nor is there much danger of this principled conservative--who took the lead in fighting Obamacare as an unconstitutional mandate on the states--being mistaken for a Republican who will suddenly change his philosophical stripes for political expediency.
The Republican Party--both in Virginia and the nation at large--is in rather desperate need of courageous and astute conservatives. Courageous in sticking to the principles of limited government to solve problems. And astute in knowing how to restore the integrity and credibility of the Republican Party. It has been demonized almost beyond recognition by a president intent on avoiding debate and democracy--who seeks to get his way by deeming his opponents morally degenerate, and therefore irrelevant; and it has been damaged deeply by largely inept or non-existent advocacy on the part of Republicans themselves.
Ken Cuccinelli embodies a new generation of hope for Republicans--a young, super-smart, dynamic, likeable conservative who unabashedly advocates restraint of government and the unleashing of the power of the individual and free markets to produce genuine prosperity.
For more on the impact of the tax hike, I commend to you two articles: