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David Reynolds | Jeff vs. Ben

This is just a wild guess on my part. But I believe that Ben Cline was an outstanding wrestler in college. How else can you explain that no one has ever been able to pin him down? I know I have not.

Following Bates College, Virginia’s 24th District delegate earned a law degree from the University of Richmond. However, most importantly, Ben Cline continues to attend the Goodlatte Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies, where he is known as Bob Lite.

This is what is so frustrating about Del. Cline, particularly to this constituent who shares his political philosophy. Conservatism is more than saying “No,” or “You need to keep more of your hard-earned money.”

True conservatism is an advocacy program with incentives to unlock the full potential of the individual. It lays out positive public programs, not simply knee-jerk opposition to whatever government is up to next. It supports better schools and roads – even if they cost a tax dollar or two more.

The Republican Party of Virginia has failed these tests. And in the process has failed the Commonwealth of Virginia.

But, Ben, it need not be this way. You are capable in going beyond your head-in-the sand state party. Right now, the only person holding back Ben Cline is Ben Cline. Speak up and out. Don’t worry. Your seat is safe. You know that 85-90 percent of the combined 140 seats in the General Assembly are filled without any serious challenge. I believe one Mr. Wilkins had something to do with that. You remember Vance.

Politics is more than smiling for the camera, shaking hands and bringing home the bacon. There are other jobs, those performed in Richmond. And Ben Cline represents his constituents well in the imperial city. That is why for seven winters voters have been sending him there. Ben Cline has learned every step in the dance of legislation. So, Ben, what if you lose a few right-wingtip voters if you do an old soft shoe move to the left. You have more than a few to lose. At age 37, you have time to grow. But start now.

Now for Jeff. I like Jeff Price. Anyone who has ever met this gregarious 30 year-old would like him. Longshot Price has the fresh spark plugs that play-it-safe Cline has yet to install. But Jeff’s campaign has two annoying traits.

One is that this Democrat is running a superficial campaign. Jeff, some of us are tired of hearing the word “jobs” without any mention on how you plan to increase the number. It takes more than listening. When a word is used in excess (as “taxes” is by those on the right), it becomes meaningless. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to your jobs theme due to too many years at the U.S. Department of Labor. There I learned the difference between “jobs” and “work.” No one in our policy area, especially during the Carter years, seemed to be interested in the fruits of labor – only in providing more jobs.

There is another theme that undermines Jeff’s campaign. It is one that runs silently through many Democratic campaigns. It is called categorical representation. It assumes that only those of a particular socioeconomic category can advance the group’s interests and its cause. They forget that throughout American history the interests of minority categories, i.e., income, occupation, age, and race, have been advanced by the majorities outside of their group.

Jeff Price has a great American story to tell about his family and his small business. But is that enough? Can it translate into success in the political arena? In this case, I don’t believe so. At least not until a little polish is applied.

So the nod here goes to Ben Cline. I know of other incumbents in the House of Delegates who need to take a different type of winter vacation every year. Nonetheless, Ben Cline is not on my GOP hit list. Richmond suits Ben. And Ben suits Richmond. You can well argue that it should not be that way. But it is. And it serves our interests.

Representative government involves more than learning your party’s standard lines and believing that your special background gives you an edge in representing a large area with many different backgrounds. Government works best through many compromises with the other side, while not surrendering your core beliefs. Ben passes my government test. His views clearly represent those of a solid majority of the 24th District. Nov. 3rd will provide the numbers.

So that’s it from this corner, Ben over Jeff. Next week we will discuss the two races on the state’s undercard, that for attorney general and lieutenant governor. Then the Main Event. And maybe a post-election analysis. Stay tuned.


– Column by David Reynolds


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