I didn't care when I first heard about Dickie Cranwell stepping down as Chairman of the Democrat Party of Virginia. I cared even less when I heard that former Delegate and Democrat primary bronze medalist Brian Moran was the shoe in to replace him. Trading one liberal out of touch elitist for another. His ties to the corrupt lobbying firm PMA through his brother Congressman Jim Moran, now barely ahead in the polls, make Brian Moran the perfect face for a disorganized party going into the 2011 elections trying to defend their vulnerable State Senate majority. Thank you Democrats! Can you make this any easier for us?
But then I noticed Virginia's leading investigative blogger, Ben Tribbett, blog about the selection process behind Moran. According to Tribbett, Moran was the pick of Senator Mark Warner, with Senator Jim Webb going along with no real interest (2012 retirement please?). This confirms what I've heard from other sources that Moran is the consensus pick of established Democrats. What surprised me is that Tribbett ties the selection process to former lobbyist David Hallock, who as of October 1st is working for Senator Mark Warner. Hallock, as a lobbyist for Kemper Consulting, supported the efforts to end the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia and is one of several Kemper Consulting lobbyists who have contributed to Robert Hurt during his ten year career.
Why is Warner backing Moran as Chairman of the Democrat Party of Virginia? Jeff Schapiro of the Richard Times outlines several of Moran's problems, including his ties to the for-profit college industry that is coming under attack from President Barack Obama and other Democrats. So we have a lackluster liberal loser with ties to earmark corruption and questionable institutions as the pick for rebuilding the Democrat Party of Virginia?
Something doesn't smell fresh in the land of Arlington.
Paul Goldman, who's years in politics makes him a walking history book of Democrat Party politics, points out that Moran is giving up an almost certain shot at a safe Democrat State Senate seat in 2011 by becoming Chairman. Why would Moran do this? Either Moran didn't feel secure in his chances at the nomination, making the Chairmanship a silver medal at best for a candidate that couldn't even win a Democrat primary for a State Senate seat. Or Moran is being tempted with something bigger and better than a State Senate seat.
It's clear that being state party chair following what is sure to be another pathetic election for Virginia Democrats isn't a great gig. Trying to organize the party in advance of what could be another bad year in 2011 isn't exactly an easy job. Moran has ruled out a run for office in 2013, but has been mum on other years. Warner, the former state party chair who used the position to leverage himself into a statewide run, is now claiming that he doesn't believe the chairmanship should be used for higher office. Hah! I wouldn't be surprised if a slot opens up for Moran in the future, after 2013, that becomes payback for his willingness to take the Chairmanship.
There's one question that we haven't answered yet. Why would this deal even take place? Moran could just as well go for the State Senate and sit around waiting for a better job to open up after 2013. By doing this, he's probably locked down Warner's support for future office. But what's in it for Warner? Why would Warner and the other insiders even entertain this deal, with all of the political baggage that comes with Moran.
Just weeks before the November election, Warner is moving to lock down the Chairmanship for Moran and prevent anyone else from mounting a bid.
The plot thickens.
It's likely that three, potentially four, Virginia Democrats will be looking for a job after November. I rank Connolly as a likely Democratic hold, so we'll put him aside for now. Boucher has had a good run and would be an unlikely pick for future office. Nye has so alienated the Democrat base I can't see him having a future in politics. That leaves Tommy Boy.
If Dickie had announced his retirement some time after the election, there's a good chance that Tom Perriello would be out looking for a job. And a good chance that Perriello could make a bid and block Moran from the Chairmanship. Warner has been publicly supportive of Perriello, but this whole situation makes me wonder if Warner and other Virginia Democrats are just going through the motions to show support while working behind the scenes to kill off any Perriello comeback in the future.
Look at the facts. Warner is selecting Moran through a former lobbyist who has contributed to Robert Hurt. This lobbyist was also involved in the push to end the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia, a key issue in this year's election between Hurt and Perriello. It's widely known that the moratorium will be addressed in the 2012 General Assembly Session, shortly after the scientific study of mining is finalized and released. Do the powers that be in Virginia politics want a heated debate over uranium mining that allows treehuggers and luddites to kill this major economic development project? Or do they want to make sure that both parties remain silent on the issue so it can sail through the legislature easily?
That's just one reason why Warner and others want to push Perriello permanently from the public light. A 2013 gubernatorial run by Perriello would resemble the days of Henry "Howlin'" Howell. The Big Boys don't want to go through that again and are calling on their long friend and ally, Mark Warner, to make sure the Democratic Party, while hopelessly liberal and out of touch, remains a pawn of the lobbyists and special interests just as much as the Republican Party is. These are the same "respectable" folks that Warner trotted out in 2004 to make the case that raising taxes was necessary and had to be done. Aren't you glad that Warner's looking out for the best interests of Virginia?