Dickie Bell: A Staunton native, Bell is in his fourth term on Staunton City Council, and it should be noted that he always runs well on Election Days. You’d have to wonder how well-known outside Staunton he is, and no, you can’t count the Riverheads school district area, since that’s not in the 20th.
I worked with Bell a good bit back a few years ago when we had a mutual interest in seeing Staunton build a public skateboard park. Outside of that, I don’t know that he has much of a track record of working across the aisle. He’s usually the 1 in 6-1 votes on City Council, which if you don’t like the way City Council has been doing things in Staunton in recent years isn’t a bad thing, but if you do like the direction Staunton is headed in, well …
Scott Sayre: He has one losing campaign under his belt, and speaking from experience in that respect, my guess is he knows what he did wrong last time around, in his case his 2007 run for the Republican nomination in the 24th Senate District, and he won’t make the same mistake twice.
My read of his mistakes in ’07:
– He spent too much money on too negative TV advertising. I talked with several voters at the polls in the ’07 primary and got the sense that a number of Emmett Hanger voters were motivated to go to the polls by the negative, negative, negative Sayre campaign messages that were bombarding the airwaves the final two weeks of the primary.
– He lacked specifics. I interviewed Sayre on his campaign announcement tour early in the ’07 race. He tried to make every answer about his conservative philosophy. OK, so how does your conservative philosophy apply to transportation funding? To health care? He seemed to either be hiding something or more simply bereft of even basic knowledge of the world around him. Not good in either case.
– Bad timing. Emmett Hanger is going to be a tough cookie to beat in the 24th as it is currently constituted. He is most vulnerable in intraparty contests, but as he proved in ’07, even running a halfhearted campaign against a rabid opponent is enough for him to be able to win.
Lynn Mitchell: The sound I’m hearing is those of you among my fellow progressives who know SWACGirl even just a sliver trying to pick yourselves back from the floor from laughing a bit too hysterically.
Mitchell is said to be considering a run at the GOP nod in the 20th, and I have to say she could be formidable at least in the intraparty contest. It wouldn’t take much for Mitchell to get the Kurt Michael band back together, and the Michael-Mitchell team can be something of a force in local Republican circles.
How that would translate to a general election remains to be seen, of course.
I will say that if I remember right, and I usually do, Mitchell was a key player behind the scenes in the 2001 election in the 20th backing a guy named Chris Saxman that few of us had heard of and ended up sweeping the floor with the guy we had heard of, Democrat Tracy Pyles, that November.
That election was a special election in a district created in the 2000-2001 legislative redistricting with only a couple-month-long campaign from the summer to November. This 2009 race is taking on a similar feel with the sudden and quite unexpected midsummer departure of the incumbent Saxman from the race leaving things wide open.
Del. SWACGirl? Stranger things have happened. Not much stranger, but still.
– Column by Chris Graham