Valley Republicans hope party getting back on message
Story by Chris Graham
The new Senate GOP leadership team looks … different … than the one that was in place this time last year.
Conservative Lynchburg Sen. Stephen Newman is the new caucus chair, replacing moderate Glen Allen Sen. Walter Stosch, who barely survived a party-nomination challenge from the right wing in June – and also on the leadership team is conservative Harrisonburg Sen. Mark Obenshain, who will serve as a whip.
It is a clear change in direction for the Republican caucus, which lost the majority in the Senate in the Nov. 6 elections.
Valley Republicans are doing their part to play down the new course in favor of preaching the message of unity.
“That has been something that detractors of Republicans in the state senate have pointed to – the fact that we didn’t always get along,” Warrenton Sen.-elect Jill Holtzman Vogel told The Augusta Free Press.
“I think that that has hurt us, and I would like to think that the fact that we are in a minority status, and looking at how much more important it will be now more than ever for us to work together, for Republicans to decide that we need to rally around our Republican agenda and get back to what we really believe in. And to let the other stuff becomes background noise,” Vogel said.
Obenshain offered a similar message.
“I’d rather be in leadership in the majority rather than in a leadership position in the minority,” Obenshain told the AFP. “I think that it was a good time with the election results this year to step back and reassess where we are, what fights we’re picking, and try to figure out whether we can link arms and find issues that unify and unite Republicans, issues that are going to make a difference for Virginians. That’s the message that I think we need to focus on – to show people that we Republicans can effectively govern the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“We are obviously now in the minority in the Senate, but I don’t plan to stay there very long in the minority,” Obenshain said.
Augusta County Sen. Emmett Hanger, a self-styled conservative who has been allied with the moderate camp that includes Stosch and retiring senators John Chichester and Russ Potts in recent years, also seems to be on theme.
“If we’re going to reestablish itself as the majority party, some of us are going to have to enter the debate in a more meaningful way statewide and really reenergize what I think is a strong base in the Republican Party,” Hanger told the AFP.
“An overwhelming majority of Virginians, I think, identify with our platform – but we’ve been positioned so that the Republican Party has been portrayed as being a bit extreme in some areas,” Hanger said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.