Tom Davis Retires-RPV Central Commitee now Reaps the Whirlwind

Obscured by the today’s withdrawals by John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani from their respective presidential races is the announcement today that Tom Davis will not run for reelection in Virginia 11.

The WaPo reports that Davis said:

It’s time for me to take a sabbatical,” Davis said. “I would say I’m not ruling out future public service, but it’s time to be refreshed, to see what it’s like in the private sector. That doesn’t mean I will or won’t come back.”

The paper went on to offer reasons for the retirement:

Davis is steadfast in his belief that his own moderate politics, focused more on economic growth and less on divisive social issues, is the right direction for the state GOP. The steady lean toward Democratic candidates of his own district, which encompasses such Fairfax County communities as Vienna, Oakton and Annandale as well as a sliver of Prince William County, shows that hard-core conservatism doesn’t work anymore on statewide ballots, he said.

But RPV did not agree with him:

But Davis didn’t count on the vehemence with which the GOP’s conservative wing would resist his efforts to move the party to the middle. His opt-out of a Senate bid was spurred in part by an ugly battle within the Virginia Republican Party, which decided to hold a convention instead of a primary to choose its nominee. The decision favored former governor James S. Gilmore III, a more conservative candidate viewed as likelier to win over the party faithful who typically attend conventions.

Virginia 11 just became one of the marquee congressional races in the country…an open seat held by the GOP in an area strongly trending blue. Doug Denneny and LB3 have already announced for the Democratic nomination, and with Davis out of the way I expect Chairman Gerry will join the field. I have no idea who will be the GOP nominee, but I do know one thing-the RPV state central committee really screwed the pooch on this one.

Let’s count the ways:

1. Decided to have a primary to select presidential delegates AND a convention to select a senate nominee…doubling and duplicating the effort involved.
2. Chose a method of nominating a senate candidate that overrepresents ROVA vis-a-vis the state population, casting out one of the GOP most consistent vote getters in Northern Virginia.
3. And-this is just a guess-having gone with the method that will likely choose Jim Gilmore, a man who has not run in a general election for over ten years, to be the nominee for Senate, the RPV did not do all it could do to keep Davis running for re-election.

The RPV Central Committee has sown the wind-now it will reap the whirlwind.  Now they have to defend an open seat in Northern Virginia as well as running Captain Charisma against Governor “I didn’t want to raise taxes” in the Senate race.

Can Gilmore win in November? Yep. Can the GOP hold Va-11? Absolutely.

However, both jobs just became much more difficult…and I cannot help but think that this entire series of events could have been better handled.  Maybe many of the same decisions would be made, but I think the way it all came down will be terribly harmful to the Va GOP

Also lets disabuse ourselves of one notion right now. To repeat, in his statement Davis said:

“I would say I’m not ruling out future public service, but it’s time to be refreshed, to see what it’s like in the private sector. That doesn’t mean I will or won’t come back.”


First, it does mean he will or won’t come back…I mean, what other choices does he have? 😉

Second, Tom Davis won’t be back. There are several potential candidates who may want a shot at Jim Webb in 2012. The same folks who didn’t want Davis to be the Senate nominee will do flips to keep him from running for Governor. If the democrats win Va-11 in the fall, the GOP will blame Davis for losing the seat and will not give him a new shot at the seat. If the GOP wins, then there is no opening for him to gun for.

This is an unfortunate decision for the state, for the Republican party, and-I think-for Mr. Davis. If he really is the political wonk he claims he is, he will regret this decision and want to reenter politics down the road-but by then it will be too late.


4 thoughts on “Tom Davis Retires-RPV Central Commitee now Reaps the Whirlwind

  1. Pingback: Bearing Drift - Virginia Politics and Podcasts » Tom Davis retires

  2. Insightful post, Bwana. I sense that the seismic pressures within the state and national GOPs are getting sorted out, for good or ill, all at once this year. Davis got jobbed, pure and simple, by State Central. Even some of the NoVA members who should have had better situational awareness did nothing to help him. I can appreciate that he is not everyone’s cup of tea in Virginia, but he has been generous, party-oriented, and helpful to any number of people in the region and the Commonwealth who speak ill of him behind his back and who used him for their own shallow political purposes. He didn’t fully appreciate how unreciprocated his support has been in this fractious state.

    On the more sunny side, the Dems may have a fairly nasty internal contest if Connolly throws his hat in the ring. Byrne is extreme even by NoVA standards. The Rs may find a candidate who doesn’t have to put up with a lot of internecine violence and vulgarity, simply because there appear to be so few choices. I am not prepared to write off the 11th.

  3. The Puritan wingnuts are also waging an across-the-board attack on the State Central members who dared to vote for a primary in the US Senate race. Unfortunately they will probably succeed in many cases, further marginalizing RPV in the process. I see some dark days ahead for RPV.

  4. Bwana:
    My friend once again a very well written and reasoned piece. I think Tom Davis’s retirement from congress is very unfortunate. A brand new congressman will not even come close to filling the void that will be left. From a political and leadership standpoint, he will be sorely missed.
    I agree with Nova Scout that Tom, more than anybody else was “generous, party oriented, etc” only to be ridiculed by the more conservative wing and the downstate Republican Mafia. I think it is shameful what was said and done.
    Overall Tom has done an excellant job for all of us in the 11th and for Northern Virginia. He has been an dedicated public servant.
    I will have to disagree and say never count Tom out. I have feeling if he decides to hold office again, he will be welcomed back. I would be happy to support him if he does.
    Take care,

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