Honorable Conduct, Lamentable Ambition in Va-1

The tragic passing of the late Representative Jo Ann Davis has set off a scramble in Virginia’s First Congressional District.  This district strongly trends GOP, and it is a safe thought to say the next representative, to be elected in a special election (date TBA) will be from the GOP.  Many have voiced an interest in running, including Mrs. Davis’s widower, Chuck Davis.

 As we survey the field, I find once again that it is amazing what ambition will drive men to do, and at the same time am almost awed what honor will drive other men to do.

When NLS and Too Conservative announced that former state Delegate Dick Black was moving to Fredericksburg so he could run for the seat, I assumed this was just a hot rumor spicing up a boring day.  Apparently my thinking was way off base, somewhere over China.  In fact Black, defeated in 2005 for re-election and apparently seeing no political future for himself in Loudoun, is moving.  As reported in todays WaPo:

Richard H. Black, a conservative Republican from Loudoun County who served four terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, said yesterday that he has rented a house in Fredericksburg and is considering a run for Congress. Black said he expects to announce soon his bid to fill the 1st Congressional District seat of Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R), who died Oct. 7 of breast cancer. Davis’s successor will be selected in a special election that has not yet been scheduled.

“I have a lot of attachments here, but there have been a lot of folks in the 1st District who have asked that I come down there to run for this, so that’s what I’m doing,” Black said yesterday, adding that he has helped several candidates win office there. The district stretches from the Hampton Roads area through Prince William and

Black represented Virginia’s 32nd District until 2004, when he was unseated by David E. Poisson (D). He was known as one of the House’s most conservative members, and he once promoted his strong antiabortion views by sending small plastic fetuses to his colleagues.

Black fostered many conservative Loudoun candidates, including his son-in-law, Loudoun Supervisor Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run). Black said he does not plan to sell his Sterling home immediately.

Let’s double check that last line:

“Black said he does not plan to sell his Sterling home immediately.”

What he really means is “I don’t know that I can win, so I will give this is a shot and move back to Sterling if things don’t work out.”

Oh, my goodness. Moving to a new home, keeping the old home, solely to run for office because he knows he cannot win at his current residence? So, so honorable of the man. In fact, it reminds me of a comment from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

 “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Dick Black makes James Socas look like a model of stability, and makes Mark Siljander look like a long time resident. Both of these men were rightly tagged as carpetbaggers when they ran for Congress (Va-10 general 2004 and va-11 GOP primary 1992, respectively), but at least their primary residence was in the district they were running in.

Now, back in the First District there is a gentleman named James Atticus Bowden (JAB). Bowden is a long time resident of the First, a top rank blogger, and until recently was the Chairman of the First District GOP Committee. He is considering running for the Va-1 GOP nomination. Only considering. There is nothing preventing him from running for the nomination while keeping his party position. After all, it’s only a special election, right? Nothing in Virginia law or the RPV rules that prevent him from being a candidate and keeping his position.

Nothing save honor.

Bowden has resigned his position as Chairman. His resignation letter is as eloquent and honorable as Black’s actions are base and lamentable. His letter says, in part:

I am resigning because I consider Party office a public and personal trust. Some of what I must do as a Party Official is governed by the Code of Virginia, thus, I serve our Rule of Law – which is the key aspect of the public trust. There is also an associational trust from the rank and file members – all members of the RPV who live in the First District. And, there is a personal trust which you established with me when you elected me on September 21st.

I believe that my public trust is significantly less than the legal, ethical and moral responsibilities of any elected official from cities and counties on up succeeding levels of government. Yet, elected political office remains a trust – a duty – not a position and not a job.

Consequently, I find, for myself, the seeking of an elected public office while holding on to an elected party office to return to if I fail to earn the nomination for the House of Representatives, First District Virginia to be unseemly. I choose not to do so.

Appropriate language for a man who shares a middle name with Atticus Finch, the hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

I proudly state that I am a longtime JAB fan. His blog writing is meticulous, his reasoning always logical and sound, and his sense of honor and what is appropriate always on point. How many of us, no matter how honorable, would do this? How many political figures would surrender a ranking party position when they did not have to? Some might do it, but only after a careful calculation of the political pros and cons. For Brother Bowden, I don’t think it was ever a choice-I think it was a moral imperative, part and parcel of his character, as natural and essential as breathing.

How marvelous an example he sets, especially in comparison to the lamentable ambition and unseemly conduct of Richard Black.

This is not a man who moves few blocks because of a political gerrymander. No…Richard Black is a man who seemingly holds himself in such high esteem and so derides the ability of anyone else to carry on his causes that he feels compelled to move across the state into a district where he has no ties or connection to try to win political office. Richard Black, who apparently has no confidence in his ability to win election to public office where he resides.

“I have a lot of attachments here, but there have been a lot of folks in the 1st District who have asked that I come down there to run for this, so that’s what I’m doing,” Black said.

I wil be interested to see that list of “a lot of folks in the 1st district”. What a pile of happy horselaugh. I wish he had the wherewithal to admit his ambition…that would be honorable. Instead, he hides behind some general reference to supporters and keeps his house in Sterling. Such a show of support! Such a show of commitment to the district he claims to want to represent!

Untrammelled honor is as glorious as unbridled ambition is ugly. Bowden and Black’s comportment and actions make eloquent statements about what we need and what we don’t need in public life.

I do not live in Va-1, and watch this only as a political junkie from afar. I am sure others will run, but the voters of Va-1 could do much worse than to get behind Bowden, and I don’t think they could do much worse than to support Black.

Top drawer, or bottom of the barrel. It’s a matter of respect, it’s a matter of courage, it’s a matter of discretion…but most of all it’s a matter of honor.

Update: A little bird pinged me after seeing this and noted that unbeknownst to most of us officials in this situation do have to step down.  The thing that impressed him about JAB was that JAB stepped down without knowing the requirement existed…which to me underscored his admirable conduct.  Let’s face it…JAB could have done his work and then resigned/announced at the last second, which would have met the letter of the law.  But the truly honorable follow both the letter and spirit of the law.

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10 thoughts on “Honorable Conduct, Lamentable Ambition in Va-1

  1. Bwana, that is one fine piece of writing. I agree wholeheartedly about the outstanding character and intellect of James Atticus Bowden. Of course Chuck Davis will be the sentimental favorite if he should decide to run, but JAB would make a fine Congressman. Dick Black isn’t even worth talking about anymore.

  2. While I agree with you about JAB, I strongly disagree about Richard Black. He has always been about serving Virginians. The passing of Jo Ann Davis was sad, but it does leave a hole where we need a good conservative candidate who will represent the people of the 1st well. JAB could do that; so could Richard Black. While I would prefer that he would stay in Loudoun and try to win back his seat, this is a case of two great candidates, not a great candidate and a poor one.

  3. Pingback: Modeling » Honorable Conduct, Lamentable Ambition in Va-1

  4. CR UVA, I guess we will just have to disagree. I consider being “about serving Virginians” to be the minimum requirement to holding office in this commonwealth, and I just cannot get my arms around the idea that the First District of Virginia is so lacking in qualified conservatives that Dick Black just had to move there to save the district from having to select a less qualified person.

    I don’t like carpetbaggers, and I don’t like opportunists that run from the fight they should make and grab another one that seems easier to win. If Black really was as into “serving Virginians” as you say, he would have had sought a re-match with Poisson or taken a crack at Herring.

    This moves smells of either political opportunism OR political desperation, and tain’t neither of them pretty. Let’s just say I would be more convinced that this was a “serving Virginia” move if he had put his home in Sterling on the market.

    I hope all is well in C-ville, and the next time you swing by the White Spot be sure to remember me kindly and have a Gus burger.

  5. As a Mississippian, I don’t have a dog in this fight. However, I have had correspondence with James Atticus Bowden, and he has been very kind to me.

    The big majority of Americans expect their Congressmembers to live in the districts they represent. When a non-resident runs for a seat, it’s almost always made an issue in the campaign. But there is no requirement that a U. S. House member live in the district he represents. A state could elect its House members at large, which at one time was a common practice in the U. S.

    Today it’s common in such places as the U. K. and Canada for parliamentary seats to be held by non-residents of the districts they represent.

  6. I understand there is no requirement, but this commonwealth is a “no carpetbagger” zone…in fact, I understand Mississippi doesn’t smile up on the practice, either. 😉

    Actually, I get the feeling it is almost the rule in those other countries to go outside the district…that is why in Great Britain when Churchill lost seats in elections there were numerous constituencies ready to take him on as their parliamentary candidate in the next election.

  7. Bwana:
    You are dead on target with this one. Dick black needed to take on Poisson or Herring. I personally believe that Dick Black is part of the problem in our party and not a solution. We need people like JAB, with honor and integrity, that realize that once elected, they represent everyone, not just the people that voted for them. Good on you and good on JAB

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  8. Pingback: An Absence of Malice in Va-1 « Renaissance Ruminations

  9. JAB is impressive. Black is a friend. But someone who knows the district and is conservative is a better bet than someone who is simply conservative.

  10. I’m glad I found a site that deals with the same thing I’m dealing with. I always read the whole post and keep an eye on other comments too before commenting myself. In this way i have found some good site that I now follow beyond the purpose of getting links from them. For example, this is my second coming by your website. I always like the content and the way you write .

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