Warner v. Gilmore (Best we can do pt 2)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is always pleased when he gets feedback (via e-mail or comment or trackback*) on something he writes. It seems as though some want to take to task your Maximum Leader’s conservative credentials after reading his recent post about the upcoming Virginia Senate race.

In that earlier post, your Maximum Leader expressed his preference for Mark Warner, the Democrat, over Jim Gilmore, the Republican. The major point of contention seems to be the issue of cutting or raising taxes. Mark Warner being seen (rightfully) as a tax raiser and Gilmore being seen (rightfully) as a tax cutter.

For those of you not familiar with Virginia politics, Jim Gilmore won the Governorship of our Commonwealth on a pledge to eliminate the most hated of all taxes, the personal property tax on cars. During Gilmore’s administration a plan for phasing out the car tax (as it is known) was enacted into law.

Mark Warner succeeded Jim Gilmore as Governor, and was faced about halfway through his term with a significant budget shortfall. This shortfall was the result of a slowing economy and bad revenue projections. Local governments were hit harder than anticipated by this slowdown in part because they no longer got as much car tax money. (Local governments still got car tax money, because the phased elimination of that tax was halted. It remains halted to this day. Indeed, your Maximum Leader recently received his car tax bill…)

The budget crisis (such as it was) was ended when a tax increase was enacted and the budget balanced. Mark Warner has been able to take most of the credit for this move. It was seen by many Virginians as a smart move that kept the Commonwealth’s coveted AAA bond rating intact, as well as a deal that kept many programs from being cut.

Of course, the key figure in the budget deal wasn’t Mark Warner. Well… That might be a bit of hyperbole on your Maximum Leader’s part. Mark Warner was the key figure for taking all the credit and glory for the good parts of the deal. Warner deserved much credit; but he was able to duck all the “bad credit” from the deal. The negative fallout from the deal fell on the shoulders of the real architect of the tax increase. That person was State Senator John Chichester. Chichester was the President Pro Tempore of the Virginia Senate at the time. Chichester was your Maximum Leader’s Senator. Chichester is a Republican. (He has since retired from the Senate and has been replaced by Richard Stuart – a Republican your Maximum Leader endorsed in this space a while ago – and for whom he subsequently voted in the general election.)

Senator Chichester was able to get a small block of “moderate” Republicans in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates to break ranks with the “conservative” Republicans led by House Speaker William Howell. (Howell is both a Republican and your Maximum Leader’s delegate. Speaker Howell has received your Maximum Leader’s vote as well.) Chichester’s maneuvering facilitated the tax increase and the end of the budget crisis.

Now… One can debate if the size of the tax increase was too great, and your Maximum Leader understands the arguments put forth by those who believe it was too large an increase. But the deal was what was needed at the time to solve the fiscal problems faced by the state.

Here is the part of the post that some “conservatives” might not like…

Your Maximum Leader is not a Libertarian. He believes that government has a role and purpose in our lives. He believes that government should be limited in its scope. He firmly believes that his state government provides – and should continue to provide – an array of services. These services range from police functions, to roads, to education. Now, in most cases the services provided by one’s state should not be interfered with by the Federal government. (But we’re only talking about state government here.)

Now one can debate all you like about how many and what type of services a state government should supply. Indeed, your Maximum Leader is happy to debate you if you like. But at the time of the budget crunch, there weren’t many solutions on the table that were workable. The Warner (Chichester) plan was the soundest plan at the time and was enacted. And for the sake of full disclosure, your Maximum Leader was more in line with Speaker Howell than Senator Chichester and Governor Warner at the time of the tax increase.

So… Your Maximum Leader now must have you really confused.

To recap. Your Maximum Leader is a conservative. He’s voted for Gilmore and against Warner. He is generally against raising taxes, and didn’t think increasing taxes were the way to go at the time; but he is now thinking of supporting the man who raised taxes on him once and for whom he has never voted. That is about it.

You see, loyal reader, your Maximum Leader believes that Mark Warner is a better man in general. While Mark Warner and your Maximum Leader probably don’t see eye to eye on many issues we both (apparently) believe in being fiscally responsible. At this stage of the game in national politics, fiscal responsibility is something that your Maximum Leader seeks. He is more inclined to respect a man who can look at the current state of our national finances and seek to find a reasoned solution – and look for help from across the aisle to make something happen. On the issue of our national finances, your Maximum Leader would like to see real work accomplished – and not gridlock (which he otherwise prefers in most cases). Alas, gridlock will not pay down the national debt, or balance the budget. Both of which must be done.

Your Maximum Leader thinks it is highly improbable that Republicans can win the Senate back next year. He also thinks that it is improbably that Republicans can win the House of Representatives next year. He would rather vote for a Democrat who might work with fiscally responsible Republicans (if any remain in DC) and really try and sort out our financial mess. (It is better to have a Democrat who will work with Republicans because try as they might, the Dems will not get 60 seats in the Senate. Republicans in the minority have no incentive to work with Democrats as long as they can obstruct.)

Your Maximum Leader knows fully well that Mark Warner (should he win the Senate seat) will likely cast many (too many) votes in the Senate with which he will disagree. And if Mark Warner does get to the US Senate and turn into a typical Democrat, then he’ll not get a second vote for your Maximum Leader. But, your Maximum Leader is willing – perhaps naively willing – to give Mark Warner a go.

One more thing… For the sake of full disclosure… Mark Warner seems like a good man (on the very few occasions your Maximum Leader has met him). Jim Gilmore, on the other hand, seemed like a complete and total arse.

That said… November 2008 is a long way off. And who knows what will happen between now and then. Warner could say something that just sets your Maximum Leader off. Warner could have a “Howard Dean” moment and implode. Who knows? Your Maximum Leader hopes that some other Republican will enter the race. That is, however, unlikely.

Carry on.

* - in a comment on the “Not Larry Sabato” site a commenter muses on why conservatives stay with the Republican party. Your Maximum Leader will suggest that it is because they have nowhere else to go.

1 Comment »
Polymath said:

I long for a Reagan type conservative to run at any level of government. He (or she) would get my vote, and would most likely be elected anywhere but the most rabidly liberal enclaves such as Charlottesville.

Since there is no “Conservative Party,” I am sticking with the republicans. There is always hope.



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