Monday, June 13, 2005

Centrist Surge in Virginia

Will a tidal wave of centrist principles sweep across Virginia this November? If Russ Potts has his way it will, and the independent Republican gubernatorial candidate took a major step toward victory on Friday, handing in nearly two and a half times the number of signatures required to qualify for the general election ballot. After turning in the petitions, Potts told reporters "We'll now begin this exciting, magical journey of proving only in America can you have a situation where anybody can play in the game."

According to the Roanoke Times, Potts said his campaign will focus on "moderate, independent-thinking voters who share our common-sense message." Voters, said Potts "are sick and tired of partisan rhetoric and are ready for straight talk. They want a governor that will put people above politics. I intend to be that governor."

In a Saturday Washington Post article headlined "Potts Delivers Signatures, Upbeat Message", Potts is quoted as saying "You know, a few months ago my opponents said that I wouldn't run, and I did. They said we wouldn't get on the ballot; today we are. The naysayers are saying we don't have a chance. Well, I'll tell you. ... We're going to pull off the greatest political upset in the history of Virginia." Of his opponents, he said "Virginians are now free to choose an experienced moderate, not an extremist."

The Potts campaign submitted petitions signed by 24,128 voters to the Virginia State Board of Elections, greatly surpassing the 10,000-signature requirement. Each of the state's eleven congressional districts provided 2,000 signatures on average, five times more than the minimum requirement of 400. Interestingly, Potts turned in more than 5,000 more signatures than Democrat Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, who submitted his petitions in April (Potts' other major opponent, Republican Jerry Kilgore, submitted some 34,000 signatures several months ago).

One of the most interesting things about the whole Potts story to me has been how both the Republican and Democrat anointed candidates keep trying to play the Potts candidacy off as harmful to "the other guy." Kilgore lumps Potts and Kaine together as "tax-hikers," while Kaine and associates believe he'll draw more votes from Kilgore's Republican base. As strategist Lowell Feld notes in the Raising Kaine blog, "For Kilgore, the Potts candidacy exposes a deep rift in the Republican Party between anti-tax zealots and religious fundamentalists on the one hand, and moderate Republicans on the other." If both Kilgore and Kaine continue thinking along those lines, they may end up very very surprised on the morning after Election Day.

Of course, Potts' signatures victory is only a beginning. Now that this hurdle is crossed, Potts faces an even greater challenge: raising money. Thus far his fundraising has lagged far behind his major opponents, as the campaign has been focused on gathering signatures to get on the ballot. So there is much to be done in that department. And he will have to persuade organizers to let him into the debates, which may be another uphill battle. But by surpassing expectations so effectively in this round, Potts has increased his candidacy's credibility immensely, and has made this fall's election into a real three-candidate race.

The people of Virginia will have a choice at the ballot this November, and all of them ought to take a look at Russ Potts' campaign as a viable alternative to "more of the same."

- If you're interested in more on Potts, feel free to read my earlier posts on his candidacy: "Walking the Walk in Virginia" (4/29); "A Little Straight Talk" (5/12); and "'Renegade Realist'" (5/18). Russ Potts' campaign site is here.


At 9:53 AM, Blogger EG said...

Potts' weakness is the car tax issue. Although he rightly explain the need for the tax, Virginians have been promised the removal of the car tax since 1998. So far, the tax remains at 30% but Virginians want it completely gone. Kaine and Kilgore have pledged to remove the tax and only Potts will state the obvious. Repealing the car tax will increase the county taxes.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Is his nickname Cassandra? Folks don't want to remember that there is no free lunch.

Potts'll get beaten up over the car tax issue but the other guys won't even have to come up with a way to cover the revenue shortfall of doing away with the tax.

A version of the NIMBY mindset at work.

At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me a break... Straight talk from Russ Potts? You obviously haven't looked past his announcement for an independent candidacy for governor on whether he talks straight. I live in his district and believe me, this politician has lied more than Bill Clinton. After twelve years of running campaigns as a pro-life, limited government Republican, he suddenly fancies himself the John McCain of Virginia. Well, once the election starts if he tries this "straight talk" routine for long there will be enough quotes from his past to show what he really is: a power hungry politician who feels slighted and is only doing this to try to cost Jerry Kilgore the governorship. He might possibly be hoping for a position in the Kaine administration as well if he succeeds. Something he learned from his turncoat buddy former Senator Warren barry.


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