With Election Day Approaching, Some Virginia Republicans Try Masquerading As Democrats
There's just one problem: their records are still toxic
Recently Huffpost and The New York Times have reported on certain Virginia Republicans adopting a bizarre campaign tactic. While some of their colleagues are running extreme Trump-style campaigns full of race-baiting ads and flat-out lies, these candidates are staking out Democratic positions to fool voters into thinking they're moderates. There's just one problem: they can't hide their extreme records. Republican candidates across the Commonwealth are running hypocritical ads taking moderate positions on health care and guns, but their A ratings from the NRA and votes against Medicaid expansion tell voters who they really are.
By Reid Epstein
October 31, 2019
[Republican Delegate Glenn] Davis is a Republican. He voted with his party to adjourn a special legislative session on gun control that Mr. Northam called this summer — 90 minutes after it began. When he campaigned for lieutenant governor in 2017, he said he was “running to do exactly what Donald Trump did in Washington.”
Now, he is among a coterie of Republicans who are campaigning on issues long identified with Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s elections for the Virginia legislature, shifting away from a Republican base that in the age of Trump can no longer win suburban elections on its own.
“We have a little bit of a messaging issue, we do,” Mr. Davis said in an interview this week.
Now there is a wholesale recognition that the Trump-aligned Republican brand is toxic in the booming suburbs of Norfolk, Richmond and Washington. After back-to-back shellackings in Virginia’s 2017 and 2018 elections, Republicans cling to one-seat majorities in the State House of Delegates and Senate as voters prepare to decide the fate of all 140 state legislators.
In the Richmond suburbs, Glen Sturtevant, a Republican state senator, called himself “independent minded” in a Twitter thread boasting of times he’d broken with party leadership. In television ads, he says he’s fighting health insurance companies over denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and “surprise billing.” But he has opposed Medicaid expansion for years and backed legislation that would have allowed insurers to offer “catastrophic” plans that do not cover pre-existing conditions.
Siobhan Dunnavant, another Republican state senator from outside Richmond, says in an ad that she “supported a federal ban on bump stocks used in mass shootings.” She voted in the State Senate to block a bump stock ban in 2018.
And ads for Randy Minchew, a former Republican delegate aiming to retake his old seat in Loudoun County, northwest of Washington, say he favors “stronger laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who would do us harm.” Mr. Minchew carried an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in each of his last two campaigns.
By Jenavieve Hatch
October 30, 2019
A number of the state’s Republican incumbents are trying a novel strategy: running as moderates, and actively campaigning against their own previous votes and views.
Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant is pushing ads focused on how health care “shouldn’t be a partisan issue” and why coverage for people with preexisting conditions is important. Sturtevant only narrowly won his seat in 2015 and his district has moved further left since then ― 60% of voters backed U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) in the 2018 midterm elections. Sturtevant’s ad portrays him as a moderate on health care when, in reality, he voted against the Medicaid expansion law that made thousands of Virginians eligible.
Fellow Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant ran a deeply conservative campaign to get elected in 2015, in which she promised to oppose any expansion of the Affordable Care Act. Like Sturtevant, she voted against the Medicaid expansion and is now running on a platform for affordable health care.
Republican state Del. Tim Hugo has served in the assembly for 16 years, earning himself an “A” NRA rating and working with fellow Republicans to halt any legislation after the Virginia Beach massacre. He’s now backpedaling, as the Washington Post editorial board pointed out in August, and saying that he supports a “red flag” bill that would keep guns out of the hands of people at risk of doing harm to others or themselves.