May 14, 2018 Press Releases and Announcements

ICYMI – Wall Street Journal – “Doctrinaire” “Far-Right Freedom Caucus” Dave Brat in for competitive race


by DPVA Press Office

KEY POINT: "In Mr. Brat’s district, which includes the suburbs of Richmond, both redistricting and demographic change are making the race more competitive. Court-ordered redistricting removed conservative Hanover County from Mr. Brat’s district in 2016. In 2013, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the state’s gubernatorial race but picked up only 38% of the vote in Mr. Brat’s district. Last fall, Ralph Northam, now the state’s new Democratic governor, picked up 47% of the district’s support. In Chesterfield County, considered a bellwether, the Republican gubernatorial candidate won by almost eight points in 2013. Last year, Mr. Northam took the county by less than a point. “It’s just not a district that leans to that far-right Freedom Caucus attitude,” said Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Virginia Democratic Party. Its constituents are “middle class, middle-of-the-road, common-sense Virginians,” she said. Two Democrats are considered front-runners in the June 12 primary to square off against Mr. Brat: former undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward, a retired Marine colonel who later worked for the State Department. Bill Landsidle, a Henrico, Va., resident and independent, voted previously for former GOP Rep. Eric Cantor said.... Mr. Brat 'is to the right of the right of the Republican Party,” he said. “He’s doctrinaire, and I don’t like doctrinaire people.


Members of House Freedom Caucus Face Tough Fights in Fall Elections

Kristina Peterson, The Wall Street Journal

RICHMOND, Va.— The House Freedom Caucus, a group of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, doesn’t shy away from bucking the leadership or demanding ideological fealty.

That stance could become a liability this year, as Republicans acknowledge they are facing political headwinds in the November midterms and no one is immune.

In a sign of the fight for control of the House, at least five members of the roughly three dozen caucus members face competition in the fall’s midterm elections. That’s a smaller percentage than within the whole House GOP, but Democrats need to net just 23 seats to retake control, and they are fighting for them everywhere—even in the most conservative pockets where seats are usually the safest.

And, unlike many of the more centrist Republicans who are accustomed to battling Democratic challengers, many of the most vulnerable Freedom Caucus members are running with less money in the bank and in districts where their deeply conservative voting records might not be welcome.

In Pennsylvania, redistricting in February added more Harrisburg suburbs to GOP Rep. Scott Perry’s district, instantly tightening his race as suburbs tend to be more centrist or liberal. There are four Democrats competing in Tuesday’s primary to take him on in November.

In Virginia, both Republican Reps. Dave Brat and Tom Garrett face well-funded Democratic challengers as well as shifting state demographics that helped Democrats pick up seats in the state House of Delegates last fall and hold the governor’s office.

In North Carolina, freshman Republican Rep. Ted Budd is trying to expand his name recognition in a district he won two years ago after capturing a 17-way primary with just over 6,000 votes. And in Iowa, Rep. Rod Blum is working to keep his seat in a district that President Donald Trump won by less than four points.

The Freedom Caucus’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) said he is confident his colleagues will be rewarded by voters for sticking to their conservative principles but didn’t dismiss the competitive fights they face in the fall.

“Every member of Congress, not just Freedom Caucus members, are trying to prepare more,” Mr. Meadows said in an interview. “The best way to prepare is to deliver on the promises we made to the American people.”

Last week’s primary elections highlight the political challenges facing House GOP incumbents from Republican voters frustrated with Washington.

Two House Republicans from Indiana lost the Senate primary to a businessman. Rep. Evan Jenkins lost the West Virginia Senate primary to the state’s attorney general, and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R., N.C.) became the first incumbent this year to lose his own primary.

The Freedom Caucus has had mixed results at the polls recently. GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko recently won an Arizona special election and is expected to become a member of the group. Mr. Pittenger was defeated by Mark Harris, a pastor whom the Freedom Caucus is expected to endorse.

But Mr. Harris’s Democratic opponent, Iraq veteran Dan McCready, has raised more than three times his haul. And in Ohio last week, Melanie Leneghan, backed by the Freedom Caucus’s leaders, narrowly lost the GOP primary in a special election to state senator Troy Balderson.

Many Freedom Caucus members don’t lump themselves in with the Washington power apparatus. Most of the coalition opposed an early version of the House GOP health-care bill, forcing Republican leaders to pull it from the floor last March. An altered version of the bill later passed the House but failed in the Senate.

“I’m not exactly the insider guy,” Mr. Brat said at a forum hosted by a Richmond, Va., synagogue earlier this month, referencing the health-care fight. “I run on principles.”

Still, in Mr. Brat’s district, which includes the suburbs of Richmond, both redistricting and demographic change are making the race more competitive. Court-ordered redistricting removed conservative Hanover County from Mr. Brat’s district in 2016.

In 2013, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the state’s gubernatorial race but picked up only 38% of the vote in Mr. Brat’s district. Last fall, Ralph Northam, now the state’s new Democratic governor, picked up 47% of the district’s support. In Chesterfield County, considered a bellwether, the Republican gubernatorial candidate won by almost eight points in 2013. Last year, Mr. Northam took the county by less than a point.

“It’s just not a district that leans to that far-right Freedom Caucus attitude,” said Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Virginia Democratic Party. Its constituents are “middle class, middle-of-the-road, common-sense Virginians,” she said.

Two Democrats are considered front-runners in the June 12 primary to square off against Mr. Brat: former undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward, a retired Marine colonel who later worked for the State Department.

Bill Landsidle, a Henrico, Va., resident and independent, voted previously for former GOP Rep. Eric Cantor but said he would be supporting Ms. Spanberger this year. Mr. Brat “is to the right of the right of the Republican Party,” he said. “He’s doctrinaire, and I don’t like doctrinaire people.”

But Henrico resident Dana Smith, a Republican public-school teacher supporting Mr. Brat, said the GOP-controlled Congress had put more money in his pocket through the new tax law, which has bumped up his paycheck by $150 a month. Mr. Smith said he approved of Mr. Brat’s focus on reining in federal spending.

“If we don’t solve the fiscal crisis, nothing else will matter,” Mr. Smith said.

Each of Mr. Brat’s challengers has raised almost as much money as the incumbent. Ms. Spanberger had collected almost $725,000 by the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission records. Mr. Ward had raised nearly $786,000 by the same time, while Mr. Brat’s donations stood at about $913,000 by mid-April.

In one sign of Democratic grass-roots enthusiasm, Liberal Women of Chesterfield County and Beyond, a group formed the day after Mr. Trump’s election, now includes 3,000 members, said Cheryl Myers Johnson, a retired teacher and member of the group.

State Delegate Schuyler Van Valkenburg, a Democrat who last year won an open seat that had previously been held by a Republican, said he has seen increasing diversity in his classrooms.

“Things have changed [as] young people have moved in,” said Mr. VanValkenburg, who works as a public-school teacher when the Legislature isn’t in session.

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