The wide open, no-holds-barred race for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia took a bare-knuckle turn this past week when a controversy exploded over a pair of anonymous internet campaign videos that attacked one of the seven declared candidates, technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder, and some anonymous direct mail pieces that attacked another candidate, Prince William County Delegate Scott Lingamfelter.
Unlike Virginia Democrats, who will select their nominees for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in a primary on June 11, Virginia Republicans will pick their nominees in a May 18 convention of several thousand delegates that will be held in Richmond.
Most political observers are focused on the race for Governor, where Ken Cuccinelli has the Republican nomination wrapped up, and Clinton confidante Terry McAuliffe will be the Democratic nominee. Recent polls show Cuccinelli with a ten point lead.
But this year in particular, the usually insignificant Lieutenant Governor’s race matters a great deal. Under the Virginia Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor casts the deciding vote when there is a tie in the State Senate. Since the 2011 elections, Democrats and Republicans have each held 20 seats. Republican Lieutenant Governor Bolling has cast the deciding vote in several instances.
The members of the State Senate are elected every four years, and do not stand for re-election until November 2015. Consequently whoever wins the Lieutenant Governor’s seat may wield extraordinary influence in the state for the next several years, possibly positioning them for a run for Governor in 2017.
(The curse and blessing of Virginia politics is that there’s an election every year. Federal elections are held in the even years, and State elections are held in the odd years. Political consultants love the scheduling, but volunteers find it wearying.)
Since the nomination will be determined in a convention, not a primary, polling of the Republican Lieutenant Governor’s race has less predictive value than is usually the case. Depending on who you talk to, The buzz is that the front runners are Snyder, Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, and Susan Stimpson, Chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
Some put Chesapeake minister and perennial candidate E.W. Jackson among the front runners. Most observers have former State Senator Jeannemarie Davis, State Senator Stephen Martin of Chesterfield, and Lingamfelter in a lower tier.
With so many candidates in the race, and with the usually dominant campaign tool of television advertising of less value as the key influence on the voting behavior of convention delegates, all seven campaigns have paid a great deal of attention to word of mouth, social media, and securing endorsements.
In late April, Corey Stewart’s campaign received a boost when he secured a highly sought after endorsement from the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, an organization of more than 40 tea party groups in the state, and a political action committee that has aligned with the Tea Party, the Middle Resolution PAC.
But last week, Stewart’s campaign’s took a hit when it reacted slowly–and some say ineffectively–to allegations that it was behind the two anonymous campaign Internet videos that attacked fellow front runner Pete Snyder and the anonymous negative direct mail pieces aimed at back of the pack candidate Scott Lingamfelter.
The allegations were made by Jim Riley, an attorney and veteran of Virginia’s Republican political battles. On Wednesday, Riley wrote that two anonymous video attack ads on Pete Snyder were “inaccurate and illegal,” since they failed to state who paid for them, as is required by Virginia law. Later on Wednesday, Riley wrote that “evidence pointed” to a person with an indirect connection to the Stewart campaign as the source of the anonymous video attack ads on Snyder.
On Friday, Stewart denied “any involvement in the internet attack ads.”
Scott Lingamfelter, the target of some of the anonymous direct mail attacks, told the John Fredericks Morning Radio Show on Monday that “I think it goes to the character of the candidates responsible…When you’re out doing these kind of dirty tricks, when you’re not being truthful about your record, then you destroy trust.” Lingamfelter pushed back at Stewart’s denials. “I was born in the morning, but I wasn’t born yesterday morning…Mr. Stewart has some explaining to do, and the denials are just that.”
Steve Waters, senior advisor to the Stewart campaign, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview Monday night that “the Corey Stewart campaign had nothing to do with any of the internet attack videos on Pete Snyder…There’s absolutely no proof that we did have anything to do with it. Going by the circumstantial evidence presented, any campaign could have made these videos.”
As for the anonymous direct mail attacks on Scott Lingamfelter, Waters later texted Breitbart News that “some think the Lingamfelter thing was a revenge piece for Lingamfelter’s comments attacking Ron Paul earlier this year.”
Brian Baker, President of Ending Spending, a group that backs Cuccinelli for Governor and Snyder for Lieutenant Governor, told Breitbart News “it took Stewart’s campaign several days to respond to the charges that Stewart violated the law.”
With less than two weeks until the convention, the dust up over which campaign did or did not put out the anonymous and illegal internet campaign attack videos and anonymous direct mail attack pieces did little to inform the Republican voters of Virginia what differentiates the policies of the seven candidates–and especially the front runners–from each other.