LEESBURG, Virginia — Republicans in northern Virginia are fighting over the soul of the Republican Party, as “the Great One” Mark Levin gets personally involved to help Geary Higgins win a state senate seat in an evenly divided legislature.
Once reliably red in presidential politics, Virginia shifted to purple around a decade ago and now could be described as indigo as the Old Dominion trends toward blue. This is driven by the leftward slide of Northern Virginia (NOVA), whose population is dominated by federal employees. “The Swamp” has gotten organized, desperately resisting President Donald Trump’s efforts to drain it.
Democrat wins in Virginia’s 2017 election showed how far a formerly conservative state has slipped. A transgender activist became the first transgender lawmaker in the nation, defeating Rep. Bob Marshall, a full-spectrum conservative lawmaker and devout Christian. The House majority whip was defeated by a Democrat endorsed by avowed socialists.
Overall, in the 100-seat House of Delegates, Republicans retained control only 51-49. That number would have been 50-50 except that both candidates in House District 94 received precisely 11,607 votes. The tiebreaker came from randomly drawing a name out of a canister.
Similarly, the 40-seat Virginia Senate is now only 21-19 Republican. The GOP cannot afford to lose a seat. Conservative leaders are concerned not only to keep the state senate in Republican hands, but also to ensure that GOP seats are held by a supporter of President Trump, not Republicans who will vote in lockstep with Democrats on key issues.
Democrats are determined to turn Virginia into the next California. Gov. Ralph Northam’s public support of allowing children who survive an attempted abortion to be left to die so long as the baby is made “comfortable” as she dies shocks the conscience of many Americans and was condemned by President Trump. But even when coupled with photographs and statements suggesting that he wore blackface during medical school, Northam is still holding onto power.
In this environment, there is serious talk amongst Virginia Republicans in NOVA about whether to embrace an agenda based on conservative principles versus embracing ideas that might appeal to liberal-leaning voters. It is a vigorous debate on whether Virginia can be restored to a red state, and if so, what sort of leaders will get it there.
Virginia Senate District 13 is a microcosm of this fight. Sen. Dick Black is retiring, and a classic conservative versus establishment-moderate primary matchup will determine his successor. Senate District 13 includes parts of Loudoun County and Prince William County, which are among the highest-income, highest-cost counties in the nation. They are situated west and northwest of Washington, DC.
Black is a longtime conservative stalwart in the Virginia Senate. The two Republicans vying for his seat are both currently county supervisors in Loudoun County.
First is Geary Higgins, a conservative. Higgins is a pro-life Christian who is endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his support for the Second Amendment. He strongly advocates cracking down on MS-13 gang members from Mexico, supports President Trump’s border wall, and wants aggressive new measures to combat sex trafficking.
The other is Ron Meyer, who leans to the political left within the GOP spectrum. Meyer’s opponents criticize him for being pro-abortion, and he is actively opposed by the NRA for his support for gun control. Meyer’s critics include Black himself.
“I have deep concerns about Ron Meyer’s support for late term abortions and gun control,” Black said on his Facebook page, explaining why he decided not to remain neutral in the race to succeed him. “Furthermore, Ron had to be escorted from a committee hearing in Richmond where he was extremely impolite and disrespectful toward a female senator.”
The race has even attracted the attention of Mark Levin, the constitutional conservative hero who has become such a household brand name that he goes simply by the moniker, “the Great One.”
“Geary is a consistent principled conservative with a record of getting the job done,” Levin said in an endorsement statement for Higgins. Levin also headlined a campaign event for Higgins.
Other nationally prominent conservative leaders who live in Virginia are weighing in for Higgins. Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — who previously served in the Virginia Senate and whom President Trump has tapped for a top position at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — endorsed Higgins in the final days of the campaign.
“Geary Higgins is exactly the type of conservative we need in the Senate,” declared Cuccinelli, highlighting Higgins’ fight to stop higher taxes as well as his conservative record on other issues. Cuccinelli added that voters should choose Higgins if they support “a small, more effective and accountable government.”
This race is in large part a debate about electability. On one side are those who argue that the best candidate to win a competitive district is the one closest to the 50-yard line, to maximize the number of crossover voters.
On the other side are those who believe that conservative principles are winning issues when properly communicated and, therefore, a bold conservative will turn out on the base to deliver victory. With no candidates for president, governor, senator, or Congress on the ballot, 2019 should be a low-turnout election, one where base turnout might be the decisive factor.
But first, Republicans need to select party nominees. The Republican Primary in Virginia will be held on June 11. The fate of a Democrat-leaning swing state may hang in the balance.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.