Commentary Magazine


Topic: Keith Fimian

The VA-11

My district is a competitive one this year. Rep. Gerry Connolly has embraced the Obama agenda and faces a self-financed businessman, Keith Fimian. The precinct where I voted at a non-peak time had a line more akin to a presidential year. In our state, electioneering is permitted in the parking lot, but not inside the voting area. (My son was urged to put on a sweatshirt over his partisan T-shirt.)

On the way in, voters passed in the parking lot booths for each of the candidates. A gentleman in a maroon sweater snarled at the Connolly volunteer, “You’ve cheated our country.” He tells me his wife was once a liberal  Democrat and is now a Tea Partier. He is most upset that lawmakers don’t read the bills they are voting on. “If they get a $5,000 bill, they’d read it. But health care they don’t read.” A small and unscientific sample, to be sure, but the  “throw the bums out” mood is prevalent.

My district is a competitive one this year. Rep. Gerry Connolly has embraced the Obama agenda and faces a self-financed businessman, Keith Fimian. The precinct where I voted at a non-peak time had a line more akin to a presidential year. In our state, electioneering is permitted in the parking lot, but not inside the voting area. (My son was urged to put on a sweatshirt over his partisan T-shirt.)

On the way in, voters passed in the parking lot booths for each of the candidates. A gentleman in a maroon sweater snarled at the Connolly volunteer, “You’ve cheated our country.” He tells me his wife was once a liberal  Democrat and is now a Tea Partier. He is most upset that lawmakers don’t read the bills they are voting on. “If they get a $5,000 bill, they’d read it. But health care they don’t read.” A small and unscientific sample, to be sure, but the  “throw the bums out” mood is prevalent.

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The Voters Won’t Notice?

The Hill, in two separate reports, details the efforts by Democrats to run from their party. First, pretend you are neither a Democrat nor an incumbent:

With voters in an anti-incumbent mood and a national headwind against their party, some freshman Democrats are touting themselves as unaffiliated outsiders — and it may help them win reelection.

Running against Washington isn’t easy when you’ve got an office on Capitol Hill. But Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) has effectively positioned herself as a challenger in her race against Republican Mike Kelly.

So far, it’s not working — Kelly leads in the polls.

Then the candidates from the mystery party who have occupied a job of unknown origin try to flee from the Democratic agenda:

House Democrats in tough races are running away from their party’s legislative record as they face an electorate that’s skeptical of what the party has accomplished over the past two years and rates Congress at historic lows.

A Gallup tracking poll from the end of September shows that only 18 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing while landmark legislation like healthcare reform and the stimulus remains unpopular.

My Democratic congressman person running for office, who has been in office somewhere, is a case in point:

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is a Republican target this fall. “Moderates and Blue Dogs in our caucus have grown increasingly antsy about that agenda and whether it was or is overly ambitious.”

Connolly voted in favor of healthcare reform, the stimulus and Wall Street reform, but over the past two months the Virginia Democrat has emerged as one of the loudest Democratic voices urging the leadership to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans.

He also voted against adjourning without a vote on the Bush tax cuts. But Connolly’s elective-eve conversion isn’t carrying the day. Here, too, the challenger, Keith Fimian, is leading, running tough ads pinning Connolly down on his record.

It is rather silly to suppose that the most engaged voters — those who turn out for a midterm election — can’t figure out who the incumbent Democrats are and can’t recall what the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda has been for the past two years. It does suggest, however, that any survivors from the mystery party will be wary of once again putting their careers on the line by following the White House’s lead.

The Hill, in two separate reports, details the efforts by Democrats to run from their party. First, pretend you are neither a Democrat nor an incumbent:

With voters in an anti-incumbent mood and a national headwind against their party, some freshman Democrats are touting themselves as unaffiliated outsiders — and it may help them win reelection.

Running against Washington isn’t easy when you’ve got an office on Capitol Hill. But Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) has effectively positioned herself as a challenger in her race against Republican Mike Kelly.

So far, it’s not working — Kelly leads in the polls.

Then the candidates from the mystery party who have occupied a job of unknown origin try to flee from the Democratic agenda:

House Democrats in tough races are running away from their party’s legislative record as they face an electorate that’s skeptical of what the party has accomplished over the past two years and rates Congress at historic lows.

A Gallup tracking poll from the end of September shows that only 18 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing while landmark legislation like healthcare reform and the stimulus remains unpopular.

My Democratic congressman person running for office, who has been in office somewhere, is a case in point:

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is a Republican target this fall. “Moderates and Blue Dogs in our caucus have grown increasingly antsy about that agenda and whether it was or is overly ambitious.”

Connolly voted in favor of healthcare reform, the stimulus and Wall Street reform, but over the past two months the Virginia Democrat has emerged as one of the loudest Democratic voices urging the leadership to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans.

He also voted against adjourning without a vote on the Bush tax cuts. But Connolly’s elective-eve conversion isn’t carrying the day. Here, too, the challenger, Keith Fimian, is leading, running tough ads pinning Connolly down on his record.

It is rather silly to suppose that the most engaged voters — those who turn out for a midterm election — can’t figure out who the incumbent Democrats are and can’t recall what the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda has been for the past two years. It does suggest, however, that any survivors from the mystery party will be wary of once again putting their careers on the line by following the White House’s lead.

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The Virginia 11th

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

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Rubber-Stamping Obama’s Agenda Can Be Hazardous to Democrats

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

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Northern Virginia Up for Grabs

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

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