A Message From Paul
In its Nov. 16 edition, the Free Lance-Star published an opinion column by University of Mary Washington Professors Stephen Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna conveying their interpretation of this year’s election in the Virginia House of Delegates’ 28th District.
Then the Free Lance-Star published a different analysis of the results by George Mason University Professor Dan Stimpson in its Dec. 15 edition.
While it may be flattering on some level to have an election in which I stood as a candidate analyzed by several academics, it might be instructive to consider the perspective of the candidate whose campaign they are analyzing.
As a candidate for state delegate this year, I defeated incumbent Del. Bob Thomas in the Republican primary, but lost to Democrat Josh Cole in the general election. We all ran good races and played by the rules. I am sure two of the three of us hoped for a different outcome.
That said, the analysis by Farnsworth and Hanna was less than accurate, as Stimpson pointed out in his response.
Farnsworth and Hanna asserted that I “made it much harder for Republicans to keep the 28th in their column,” suggesting that my candidacy was “more extreme” and “out of step” with the voters in the 28th.
But as Stimpson’s column pointed out, my issue positions were largely indistinguishable from those held by state Sens. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) and Richard Stuart (R-Stafford).
What neither mentioned is that I matched Congressman Rob Wittman’s 2018 results in the 28th. And unlike Sen. Stuart’s district, Wittman’s district contains the city of Fredericksburg. We both lost the 28th by four points.
To the Democratic campaign, it did not matter who I was or what positions I held. I was attacked for being pro-life and supporting the Second Amendment to the Constitution, two issues on which Delegate Thomas’ campaign insisted that we did not differ.
What’s more, the Democratic campaign falsely assigned to me statements about abortion that were made by Delegate Thomas. It has become a staple of Democratic campaigns to falsely claim that every Republican wants to put women who have abortions in prison. That is not my view, nor have I ever expressed anything approximating that position. But the Democrats said it anyway.
The other attack made on me, which has also become a favorite swindle of Democratic campaigns, was that I opposed insurance coverage for preexisting conditions. Democrats make this claim against every Republican who opposed Obamacare.
That is false. Like most Republicans, I supported coverage for preexisting conditions apart from Obamacare. But that fact did not stop the Democratic campaign from spending $500,000 on Washington network television ads to falsely characterize my position. And that was spending I could not afford to match.
So the Democratic campaign attacked me for a statement I did not make and for a position I do not hold. They also attacked me for “standing with Republicans.” That is true. I have been known to stand with Republicans. I also stand with Democrats, teachers, women and men.
Evaluating the substance and specifics of the Democratic campaign in the 28th, who I was irrelevant to their message or campaign. That’s what made the criticism by Professors Farnsworth and Hanna so disingenuous. To assert that I was “extreme” would imply that they believe virtually every Republican is extreme.
They don’t believe that, do they?
As Professor Stimpson pointed out in his column, the spending disparity likely played an important role in the outcome. In the primary, Del. Thomas and I spent nearly the same amount of money on cable and radio ads, and had nearly the same number of mailings to voters. That made for a very close race.
In the general election, from July 1 to Election Day, my campaign spent approximately $527,000. By comparison, the Cole campaign spent over $1,263,000 during the same period. That $736,000 spending advantage, most of which came from out-of-state, paid off.
I actually received more votes in the 28th District in 2019 than either Bob Thomas or Ed Gillespie did in 2017. But Josh Cole surpassed my record performance by just over 1,000 votes.
Professor Stimpson talks about Republican votes I may not have received. He cites a 3 percent higher total for Stuart in common precincts. True, but those votes do not correlate exactly as, thankfully, Stuart’s Democratic opponent did not spend $1.25 million against him.
All of the sophisticated analysis and complicated efforts to explain an election result ultimately come down to something remarkably simple: One candidate received more votes than the other. In this race, that candidate was Josh Cole.
I congratulate him and hope he represents our community well.