Of more interest are the "what next" discussions. Very few buy the school choice campaign that he floated. Yes, he may do that, but only as a stepping stone to something else. Could he have advance word that Bob Goodlatte may not seek reelection in 2010 and he's prepping and posturing for that? Is he betting (far from a sure bet) on an appointment in a McDonnell administration? Or, are there other plans? Yeah, the rumors are all over the board - about the only thing we can be sure of it this - Chris Saxman won't be staying home to redecorate the house. One hint may be what he does (or doesn't do) with campaign funds he's amassed - follow the money, as they say.
The other part of the rumor mill has to do with who (and how) the local GOP nominates as a replacement candidate. Most of the speculation and rumors have swirled around Staunton councilman Dickie Bell. Will the Augusta County School Board give him the leave to run, and if elected, to serve. The running point is really the issue - if elected he'd quickly become the new best friend of the School Board and they'll figure a way to make it work. At least the teaching part; the coaching is probably something he'd have to give up. Other teachers have, and do, serve in the General Assembly.
For about 24 hours it looked like the local GOP committees would rush to anoint Bell, but then a pause. Was it for appearances of fairness? Probably. So now they are going to have a "public" forum and are accepting "nominations." But, make no mistake about it, in spite of this forum, this will not be a public decision. They'll make a display of listening, and the media will report on it, but the deal will be made behind closed doors, maybe before that forum is even held. Unless there's some SNAFU for Bell, or he opts out, if I had to bet it would be on him. But, the delay and the inevitable behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing may give a dark horse an opportunity. Plenty of rumors on that point, including some in CCC's previous post. The scariest and most absurd is about Lynn Mitchell, aka swacgirl. While some Democrats may welcome the right wing gadfly as easy to defeat, any sane person would have to be afraid, very afraid, that she'd somehow back into the seat.
Some pundits are saying the district leans (was gerrymandered) so Republican that Saxman's withdrawal and an open seat won't alter the outcome. But, make no mistake that the dynamic has now significantly changed. Erik Curren, who was out of town on a business trip when the news broke, reacted quickly. Responding to the local media and getting a fresh appeal out to supporters, his campaign took on a new urgency. After wishing Saxman well in future endeavors, Erik said:
"I can win in November. The experts say so. But I can't win without your help."
An open seat, an unknown and unproven opponent, Democrats eager to pick up six seats and capture control of the House of Delegates. You can bet this is a whole new ball game - back in the spring when Curren announced nobody expected the campaign ball to take this bounce. Consider - if Erik hadn't stepped forward and the Democrats hadn't nominated a good candidate, we'd now be leaving the choice of delegate to a backdoor deal made by a handful of Republican activists. That's scary.
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