Column by Chris Graham
Divided as Shenandoah Valley Republicans might be, the local GOP is still the hegemon on the Valley political scene.
“Republicans in the Valley, north to south, have virtually a stranglehold on the electorate,” Bridgewater College political-science professor David McQuilkin said.
But that’s only part of the equation explaining why Valley Republicans are so dominant at the polls every November, according to McQuilkin’s calculus.
The other side of the story – “You’re dealing with a very conservative electorate in the process, and that makes it that much more difficult for the Democrats to separate themselves clearly, that they are going to offer an alternative program or an alternative policy, because they’re not going to get any kind of traction,” McQuilkin said in an interview on last week’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”
The problem that Democrats face in the Valley is in trying to tailor their arguments more to a conservative electorate, McQuilkin said.
“What happens when you do that is, you’re going to get is you’re going to have the electorate say, Well, why should I vote for someone I don’t know when there is someone I do know, because their policies are not going to be all that different?” McQuilkin said.
McQuilkin, a longtime observer of the political scene in the Central Shenandoah Valley, saw that as the big issue in the 2005 election cycle – which saw Democrats put up several well-funded challenges to local GOP incumbents that fell well short of the mark on Election Day.
The relative lack of activity in the 2007 elections – four Central Shenandoah Valley members of the House of Delegates, Republicans Ben Cline, Todd Gilbert, Steve Landes and Chris Saxman, are running unopposed this fall, while Republican Del. Matt Lohr and Republicans senators Emmett Hanger and Mark Obenshain are heavy favorites to beat back their November challenges – might just be a sign of the times, in McQuilkin’s mind.
“Basically you’ve got here a recognition that this is going to have to be seen as virtually Republican territory,” McQuilkin said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.