[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]
Jennifer Wexton and her assorted hangers-on sure were irked when the Sun Gazette opined, in the days leading up to the November 2018 election, that she’d run a listless, consultant-driven, paint-by-numbers campaign in her bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th).
Our concerns have proved justified: Although it’s hard for any freshman legislator to stand out unless he or she is truly wacko (and 2018 brought its share of those to Congress), Wexton – while no wacko – has proved a doctrinnaire Democrat who thus far, publicly at least, has shown little interest in thinking outside the partisan box to move the ball forward in dysfunctional Washington. She’s sometimes even less visible to her constituents than was Comstock, which is saying something.
But, in politics, it often is better to be lucky than effective, and as thoughts now begin turning to the 2020 race, Wexton is primed for what could be an easy re-election, due both to the ever-changing demographics of the 10th District and the hapless state of Republicans in Virginia.
Last week, Jeff Dove (who in 2018 attempted, quite unsuccessfully, to take down U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly in the adjoining 11th District) became the first Republican to enter the fray against Wexton. Other Republicans may follow.
Dove made almost no impact on the public consciousness in his run against Connolly (the Sun Gazette endorsed the incumbent and the voters agreed), and we assuredly are not fans of political aspirants hopping from district to district – or political office to political office – in search of the next campaign.
But at least Dove has the mark of relative sanity about him. One wonders whether others who enter the GOP fray in the 10th District might be a little too far out on the right-wing fringe even for us, let alone for a district that has been trending left for more than a decade. (It was not a surprise that Comstock went down to defeat in 2018; the surprise was the she managed to hang on that long in the face of the seismic political shift in the district in preceding years.)
So to win re-election, all Wexton probably will have to do is lie low and let the ongoing civil war among Republicans in the district and statewide play out. Her ultimate opponent is likely to be little-known and little-funded at best, or, alternately, so far out on the political spectrum that he or she will further tarnish the GOP brand.
And as was the case earlier with Connolly in the 11th, Republicans will have one and only one chance to knock off the Democratic incumbent in the 10th. If they blow it – as the GOP did with Connolly – Wexton’s got the job for as long as she wants it.