Exclusive: Former Rep. Tom Davis Says Virginia GOP Establishment Isn't at War with Tea Party

Exclusive: Former Rep. Tom Davis Says Virginia GOP Establishment Isn't at War with Tea Party

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Monday, former Republican Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) said that Bloomberg News/Business Week got the headline wrong in an article that reported “Virginia Republicans Organizing To Blunt Tea Party Power.”

To the contrary, “it’s hardly an anti-tea party effort at all, ” Davis told Breitbart News.  

Bloomberg News/Business Week reported that “[a] group of Virginia Republicans [including Davis], stung by the loss of the governorship after voters this month rejected Attorney General and Tea Party leader Ken Cuccinelli, are readying what would be one of the toughest intra-party revolts yet against the anti-tax movement.”

Davis, who represented Northern Virginia in the House of Representatives from 1994 to 2008, was described in the Bloomberg News/Business Week article as one of the nascent group’s three leaders, along with Bobbie Kilberg, President of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and Richmond attorney Wyatt Durrette, who was the GOP candidate for governor in 1985, a race he lost to Gerald Baliles by 55% to 45%.

But Davis told Breitbart News that no organization has yet been formed. “I think the three of us and other people are in point of fact meeting. We are concerned about the direction of the party and the exclusivity of the party.” 

Davis is no stranger to hardball politics. A close ally of former Congressman and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), he headed up the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee from 1998 to 2002. He resigned from Congress in 2008 and is now Director of Government Relations for the the national accounting firm Deloitte, LLP. 

Until recently Davis was also the President of the Republican Main Street Partnership, now headed up by recently retired Congressman Steven LaTourette (R-OH). In December 2012, the Main Street Partnership formed the Defending Main Street Super PAC, which has publicly declared war on Tea Party candidates.

On October 24, LaTourette told the National Journal “[h]opefully we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them [Tea Party candidates] . . .  We’re going to be very aggressive and we’re going to get in their faces. ” According to the Journal, “Defending Main Street aims to raise $8 million to fend off tea-party challenges against more mainstream Republican incumbents.”

Unlike Defending Main Street, which has openly declared its intent to take on Tea Party candidates, Davis focused more of his fire on the Republican Party’s state infrastructure. He was highly critical of the Republican Party of Virginia’s messaging and operations. “We have to go after ethnic voters and suburban voters,” he said. “We have to have a broader base. We’re ignoring the urban areas.”

According to Davis, “the Republican Party is not competitive in Northern Virginia.  We divorce Northern Virginia.  We don’t carry our message there.  There’s nothing liberal about me, but I didn’t talk about the social issues in Northern Virginia.”

“You can’t win with what you’re doing,” Davis told Breitbart News. “The party’s not going to do it. Somebody’s going to have to step in, maybe a Statwide PAC.”

Davis skewered the Republican Party of Virginia’s operational efforts. “The Republican Party of Virginia’s get-out-the-vote effort is miserable,” he told Breitbart News. “Their lists are terrible. The turnout was higher in the 2013 gubernatorial election, the president’s numbers were worse, we did a little better with turnout, but they did a lot better.”

Earlier this month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinell by a 47.7% to 45.2% margin.

From a messaging perspectives, “we’ve got to add to the coalition,” Davis said. “The goal here is to keep everybody together. The party is not interested in that. They like this to be a little club.”

Though he argued in favor of adding to the coalition, Davis could not resist taking a shot at some members of the Tea Party. “The Tea Party people are an important factor, the average Tea Party person wants to win,” he said.”Some of the Tea Party leaders on the blogs in Virginia don’t want to win.”

Shaun Kenney, a member of the board of directors at Bearing Drift, the leading Virginia blog on conservative politics, told Breitbart News that Davis’s claims that his efforts are not anti-Tea Party should be taken with a grain of salt.  “The rumor here is that between Lieutenant Governor Bolling and former Congressman Davis, there’s one million dollars being collected to knock off Republican Party of Virginia Congressional District chairmen,” he said. “That’s not an anti-Tea Party effort, that’s an anti-conservative effort.”

According to Kenney, such an effort “is very much addition by subtraction. If they subtract the conservatives, they believe they will have the latitude to expand the base.”

As to Davis’s criticism of conservative blogs, Kenney told Breitbart News “new media in Virginia is the pulse of the Republican Party. While various factions are attempting to breathe with one lung, we’re breathing with both.”

Davis was especially critical of what he described as the failure of Republican candidates and the Republican Party of Virginia to engage with the voters and business community of Northern Virginia. He told Breitbart News that “the business community of Northern Virginia wrote the Cuccinelli campaign off,” because “we didn’t have anyone on the ticket who made the case to the Northern Virginia business community. There’s no welcome mat out there in the Republican Party of Virginia  for Northern Virginia technology executives.”

According to Davis, Cuccinelli lost the support of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce because their number one priority was rail to Dulles. “The technology leaders didn’t give him any money. No one on the campaign identified with their business issues. Mark Warner [Virginia’s Democratic Senator] hangs out with them, but we’re not talking to them.”

For Republicans, Davis considers this a lost opportunity.”These technology guys are culturally libertarian. They’re with us on the economic stuff. A lot of it’s in the presentation.”

The Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Political Action Committee’s endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli over Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe six weeks before this November’s election was widely reported as a controversial and hotly contested decision. That endorsement wasn’t all that meaningful, according to Davis, because the PAC consisted of only 16 members who voted for Cuccinelli over McAuliffe by a narrow 9 to 7 for margin.

The PAC members weren’t the technology leaders themselves, according to Davis. They were, instead, the government relations staffers who worked for technology companies.

The PAC’s decision making process was independent of the Council itself. After word got out of a pending Cuccinelli endorsement, a furious behind-the-scenes effort to reverse that endorsement by many well connected Northern Virginia technology executives failed.

Davis’s wife, Jeannmarie Devolites Davis, is a former Virginia delegate and state senator who ran for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2013 and was eliminated in the first ballot at the party’s Richmond convention in May. Ms. Davis immediately endorsed E.W. Jackson, the Tea Party candidate in the race, upon her elimination. Jackson went on to win the party’s nomination at the convention, but was defeated in the general election by Ralph Northam, 55% to 45%.