Virginia Republicans hold the slimmest of majorities in the State Senate but sometimes that’s in name only. Often Republicans are having to watch close votes fail because moderate members of their own party swing to the Democrats on the issues that really matter – like standing strong against the federal Medicaid expansion of stopping tax hikes. This year Republicans will have a unique opportunity not just to pick up seats but finally swing some of these more moderate seats to reliable conservative votes in the Senate with the retirement of Senators Walter Stosch and John Watkins.
The 12th District race looks to be a madhouse to replace Stosch with up to five candidates announced including some strong contenders like former Delegate Bill Janis and Stosch’s hand picked Siobhan Stolle-Dunnavant but the 10th District so far leaves a lot of people wanting for a real choice for a Republican nominee.
So far two have announced for State Senate – former Richmond City Councilman Bruce Tyler and State Central member Stephen Thomas. While Thomas’s resume looks impressive from a party politics perspective his lack of political experience could hurt in a field of solid Democratic challengers including Chesterfield Supervisor Daniel Gecker among others. Though his ability to self-fund, including a $50,000 initial infusion of cash could help.
The current alternative Bruce Tyler, on the other hand, is a risky bet for Republicans, in part because of a gorgeous but very expensive alley as detailed by Steve Thomas (no relation to Stephen Thomas we think) on Virginia Virtucon:
For those not familiar, Bruce Tyler was a Republican member of Richmond City Council (1st District) until he was beaten by conservative Democrat Jon Baliles, son for former Gov. Gerald Baliles (D). Tyler had positioned himself as the moderate in that race.
Why is this relevant?
Baliles beat Tyler, in part, because of the “$316,000 alley”.
You see, it seems that Tyler steered $316,000 to create a “green alley” in the one behind his house, while Richmond City roads suffered (as anyone who has driven in the City could attest to).
“If you look at it, it looks like the Taj Mahal of alleys”
“I do support green alleys. I don’t support green alleys that cost [$316,000],”
That’s right, the Democrat was able to out-conservative the Republican because of cronyistic spending by the incumbent, who was bounced from office.
Tyler took a while to lose, fighting for absentee ballots and recounts for a while before eventually conceding the race.
But the self-serving and very expensive alley isn’t Tyler’s only problem.
Remember that economic downturn of 2008-2009 that we’re still trying to recover from? Right in the heart of that Bruce Tyler advocated for City Council members to receive a pay raise. At a time when families were being forced to scrimp and save, when budgets were being trimmed while families were losing their homes, Tyler wanted more money for elected officials.
Even after leaving office, Tyler has remained active in Richmond politics, advocating heavily for a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom, a divisive issue in the city and surrounded suburbs, but one made more interesting by the face that Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, a huge proponent of the stadium, is also the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, which owns property right in the heart of the proposed plan and would make quite a bit of money should the proposal go through. This ballpark debate is heated enough, but in one heated exchange, Tyler had a confrontation with Jon Baliles mother, leading Baliles to say:
[H]e hopes that going forward, constituents will bring their concerns directly to him: “If Mr. Tyler wants to tell me what he thinks then he should come to me rather than attack my mother.”
So this leads to the question (and the title of the post): Is Bruce Tyler the best Republicans can do in Virginia’s 10th Senate District?
Stephen Thomas may be that guy, but there are other appealing options open to Republicans that we can hope may enter the race. Multiple media reports have mentioned Richmond School Board member Glen Sturtevant who would be an interesting addition to the race.
With the fate of the Senate in the balance, this is a must win race for Republicans. And it needs to be a Republican willing to stand up for Republican values. We need to make sure Watkins isn’t replaced by another Watkins kind of Republican – or a Democrat.
Who would you like to see run? Share your ideas in the comments!