The US Senate election was a story of contrast in style, rather than substance. Make no mistake about it, Bob Marshall showed up in force, and his supporters were just ravenous and in every district. Gilmore's name was the first placed into nomination and it was Eric Cantor who placed it, followed by a plethora of names from the party all over the state and of diverse background. Gilmore came out to a very good reception and gave an excellent speech, speaking about his own conservative values and expanding on his Declaration of Energy Independence. He vowed to stop pork barrel spending and talk a lot about Mark Warner supporting the liberal Democrat platform of the US Senate and Harry Reid. Gilmore made an interesting point that he wasn't running against the Democrats, per say, but against the liberal agenda of Congressional Democrats that Mark Warner will most certainly support.
Bob Marshall was next. Pat McSweeney gave a dreadful nomination speech that was rambling and slashing against Gilmore - not the kind of speech for someone nominating a candidate. Ken Cuccinelli came out to second the nomination and gave what might have been the best speech of the night talking about Marshall's personal courage in the General Assembly. His sons also spoke. Marshall came out and his ovation was ravenous and a lot of the Gilmore supporters were looking around thinking "are you serious?" Marshall gave a long and fiery speech attacking Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore. As usual, Marshall went too long and the mic was cut (Convention Chairman Bill Bolling explained that every candidate had only 20 minutes, and Marshall went over).
The voting commenced in earnest and went off well. The shocking news was big Marshall won the 10th and 11th. What cost Marshall was his poor showing in the more rural counties. The drama was heightened when the 7th district (Gilmore's home) deferred and waited to go last. When the 11th returns came in I thought it was over and Marshall had pulled off the amazing upset. But the 7th came in at the end, Gilmore's home, and put him over the top. Barely.
Marshall's concession speech could hardly be called that, as he talked about the need to unite behind principle and beat Mark Warner. Perhaps realizing he had said nothing about Gilmore, he turned back around and said he was going to shake Jim Gilmore's hand in the back. Gilmore came out to a big ovation and gave a great speech blurring the lines between policy and political - he attacked Mark Warner, supported John McCain, and made the case that he was the conservative candidate who can win. A video was shown that outlined Gilmore's life with the theme that every race he ran he was the underdog, and his two statewide victories where over rich "glib" Northern Virginia Democrats.
Gilmore has some work to do to keep the Marshall supporters active, and it is my hope that many of them will understand that Jim Gilmore and Bob Marshall agreed with each other probably about 90% of the time on the issues and the cost of staying home and allowing Mark Warner to win is not with the damage it will cost the country as the Democrats grip on Congress would strengthen. I ask Bob Marshall's noble conservative army, STAY WITH US, and that Jim Gilmore IS a conservative and WILL run on the issues that you, and all of us, hold dear. Jim Gilmore needs you, Mark Warner is afraid of you, and together we can win.
PART 2: Jeff Frederick's Stunning Victory
While the US Senate race was a game of inches, the Chairman's race was a stunning game of miles. John Hager's name was placed into nomination by Susan Allen (and I don't remember who seconded it) and Hager came out and gave a short and odd speech. He talked about the AG-LG-RPV Challenge, asked us if we were ready to win, and declared that Jeff Frederick was a liar and bi stated that Frederick did not want Bob McDonnell to win the governorship (which implied and endorsement that wasn't there).
Jeff's name was put into nomination by former Del. Jack Reid and seconded by House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, which in my opinion was a huge endorsement because Griffith is part of the House leadership and helped with Frederick's narrative that all is not well in the kingdom. Frederick was then introduced next by his wife, and a future delegate, Amy. When Jeff came out, I was stunned. The blue "Frederick" signs where everywhere! The ovation for him was thunderous, as if Frederick was the unifying force in the convention because I saw plenty of Gilmore supporters supporting Jeff. He gave a great speech about the need for new leadership, effective leadership, and a return to power of the grassroots in a bottom-up party rather than a Richmond dictated top-down.
To say that Jeff Frederick destroyed John Hager can only be seen by what happened next. While the votes where being counted, George Allen came out and gave the keynote address. Things then got interesting. Soon after, John Hager came out and made a motion to wave reading of the votes and have the Convention vote Jeff Frederick chairman by acclimation. It was a classy move by Hager, and spoke to the depth of Frederick's support. While some may think that Frederick is divisive or whatever, he proved today that he can bring this party together because he brought together Gilmore and Marshall voters behind his candidacy at the Convention and won in such a stunning fashion that the previously divided convention really came together.