More on the Pennsylvania Shake-up
Thursday, June 01, 2006 :::
Jerry has beaten me to the punch regarding this op-ed ($) in today's Wall Street Journal by Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mike Folmer. It's instructive, as Jerry says, for Virginia Republicans who continue to entertain notions that higher taxes and more blacktop are the only possible solutions to the state's transportation "crisis."
This portion of Folmer's piece, however, could apply to Republicans at all levels of government:
Rank-and-file conservatives do not gravitate toward candidates simply because they are not "the other guy." While the pay raise energized voters and gave them a reason to consider other options, it was the duty of the challengers to explain why they were better choices than the incumbents. It is my conviction that Republican voters were just as desirous of a positive vision that they could embrace -- a vision that demanded accountability and reform at the state level -- as they were to remove those incumbents who had failed to uphold the traditional ideals of their party.
And that is why "The Promise to Pennsylvania" was so important. The Promise -- drafted by my campaign and that of three other candidates -- codified the elemental Republican principles of lower taxes and less government and sketched out how these principles should be applied at the state level. For all intents and purposes, it was a Contract With America -- for Pennsylvania.
The Promise gave Republican voters an opportunity to re-evaluate exactly what it was they believed in. Did they want to continue down the path of higher taxes and growing government, or did they want to see real tax reform and constraints on spending?
For the many Republican reformers who won their respective primaries, the Promise holds the key for eventual victory in the fall. It is a standard around which other Republicans can rally, clearly outlining an agenda for the next legislative session and defining the critical, core issues for the party.
Messages matter. But as we have all seen since the Contract with America, even the most powerful message is useless unless those who preach it remain fully committed to it's content...in both word and substance. The congressional GOP has long-since abandoned the words and substance of the 1994 Contract. And it is entirely possible that the Pennsylvania candidates who adopted the "Promise" will backslide as well, given enough time.
But what about Virginia? Would such a thing work here? I initially believed the Freedom & Prosperity Agenda would be such a campaign platform, but I was wrong. It became instead a legislative scorecard, and that, to my thinking, made it less useful. I hope this will change before the 2007 races, because the Virginia GOP needs a unified set of objectives.
That said, I do not believe the sort of electoral change seen in Pennsylvania is likely to occur here, largely owing to the structural differences between the two legislatures. Still, the Pennsylvania model does show what can happen when legislators place their institutional and personal aims ahead above everything else. Virginia Republicans should look carefully at what happened up north and ask whether they are headed down the very same road.
More from Pat Toomey
Former PA congressman and current Club for Growth president Pat Toomey offers his take on the Pennsylvania results. It's worth a read. Snip:
The old saying "You can't beat someone with no one" rang true in the primary. In the marquee races, challengers John Eichelberger and Mike Folmer were both strong candidates. Eichelberger, who defeated Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer, had several successful countywide races under his belt. He was sharp, poised, articulate, and able to raise significant money. Folmer was the consummate nonpolitician. A plainspoken tire salesman, Folmer exuded sincerity and passion. His enthusiasm was contagious. He and Eichelberger were personable and credible.
More important, both candidates ran as Ronald Reagan conservatives promising a return to the core Republican values of limited government, personal freedom, lower taxes and less spending. This was also the message of successful Republican challengers across the state. In the end, strong conservative candidates won, liberals lost.
Go read the whole thing.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 6/01/2006