Elections have consequences.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in this winter’s session of the Virginia General Assembly. For the first time in 25 years, Democrats control both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, as well as the Governor’s Mansion. And to say they are exerting that control would be an understatement.
The session is barely half over and already the legislature has passed the Equal Rights Amendment, ended a state holiday recognizing Confederate leaders, and adopted significant gun-control measures.
None of this should be of any surprise, however. Democratic legislative candidates campaigned on these issues (and, in fact, some of their positions have wide support around the state). They won, and they took control of the legislature, so why wouldn’t they enact legislation they promised?
Yet the local business community is up in arms in particular about bills to increase the state’s minimum wage and to end or weaken its right-to-work law. Business leaders contend these actions could have a negative effect on local businesses and dampen business growth.
So we thought we’d look back to the fall campaign and the endorsements of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. (Full disclosure: InsideNoVa is a member and sponsor of the chamber but was not involved in its endorsement process or decision.)
Among races for the state Senate, the chamber endorsed Democrat Scott Surovell, whose 36th District includes portions of eastern Prince William.
On Sunday, Surovell was one of just three members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee who voted against killing legislation that would have significantly weakened Virginia’s right-to-work law. Virtually every chamber and business leader in the state was opposed to the bill, and the Prince William chamber’s lobbyist testified against it. To make that clear, Surovell voted to keep the legislation alive.
On the House side, the Prince William Chamber did endorse Republican Ian Lovejoy, who fell short in his effort to unseat socialist Democratic Del. Lee Carter of Manassas, but it only endorsed one other GOP candidate.
Carter introduced a complete repeal of right-to-work, which survived one subcommittee vote but died in the House Appropriations Committee. His co-patrons on that bill included three other Democratic members of the Prince William delegation: Jennifer Carroll Foy of the 2nd District, Elizabeth Guzman of the 31st, and Dan Helmer of the 40th.
To the chamber’s credit, it did endorse Helmer’s opponent, incumbent Republican Tim Hugo, but it issued no endorsements in the 2nd or 31st district races, leaving voters to assume the chamber didn’t mind those liberal Democrats being re-elected.
Endorsements by organizations such as the Prince William Chamber may not carry a lot of sway with voters, but candidates certainly like them and tout them. The chamber only damages its reputation when it endorses candidates whose positions could hurt local businesses – or when it fails to support strong business-friendly candidates.
If the chamber is trying simply to curry favor with local politicians, it would be wise to stay out of the endorsement business.