Ron Paul vs Mike Huckabee in the 8th District?

By VA Blogger

In the last few months, libertarian-leaning and Ron Paul supporter Amit Singh has joined the Republican primary to face off against entrenched incumbent and general embarrassment Rep. Jim Moran (D) in the 8th district. Singh joins Mark Ellmore in the primary, who ran and lost in the 2006 primary to Tim O’Donoghue. In just the last few days, this primary has exploded and clear-cut lines have been drawn between these two candidates. And in many ways, their respective candidacies mirror that of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul in the presidential primaries.

I’ve met Ellmore on a few occasions, and I’ve been impressed with his commitment to the race and the campaign he’s run so far. I’ve only encountered Singh once, and admittedly did not know much about his background (he had just gotten into the race). I’d like the opportunity to hear from each of the candidates directly, whether through a print interview or statements if not in person, rather than through surrogates. However, there’s plenty of material from said surrogates to get a handle on the race.

In this article printed right after O’Donoghue won the ’06 primary, the Connection Newspapers describe Ellmore as a religious evangelical Christian who ran on a campaign of “compassionate” Republicanism. Or, as one other pol may put it, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mean about it.” In the pre-Huckabee era, evangelicals got a bad rap, due to associations with its leadership. Hopefully now that has changed.

One of Ellmore’s greatest outreach programs (to both the community and the media) is the Save Larry campaign, focusing around assistance for a 105-year-old resident in assisted living. This has caused Ellmore to place on his website that he is dedicated to increase federal assistance for assisted-living communities. That is, putting the government to work to help those who cannot help themselves.

In the same article as above, it stated that Ellmore tried to reach out to constituencies that aren’t typically Republican, such as African-Americans and labor organizations. This mirrors the campaign of Mike Huckabee, a strong social conservative who nonetheless was successful at getting the minority vote in his statewide bids in Arkansas during the Clinton ’90s, and who made the centerpiece of his campaign providing a voice for lower-income and bluer-collar workers who often don’t feel as if they have a voice in the modern Republican Party.

Due to Ellmore’s prior bid and his long-running campaign, he is sort of the presumed front-runner for the nomination. Enter Amit Singh from stage right. Singh, inspired by Ron Paul’s insurgent candidacy, is running on a very similar platform: drastically reduce the size and scope of the federal government, untangle the U.S. from foreign involvement, and a hardline on illegal immigration. Singh’s supporters describe his candidacy as a “grassroots”-based, in support of a “movement” conservative running against the “establishment”. Those are pretty loaded words that are completely subjective to the speaker, but nonetheless that is how the race will ultimately be defined.

So who would be the best pick?

First, let’s establish what we all know, even if we all won’t say it: Jim Moran will be re-elected in 2008. As I posted this week, the 8th was drawn to have a Democratic Congressman. In a favorable year, we might be able to turn it into a sleeper race and sneak an upset. 2008 isn’t looking like a favorable year, and that’s even before we consider that the NRCC is virtually broke. That takes out a large consideration, electability, though both candidates will have to credibly argue that they can (potentially) win, and therefore can appeal to enough non-Republicans to win the general election.

To that end, who would be best suited? According to some sources, like the GMU College Republicans, describe Ellmore as a “moderate” compared to the “conservative godsend” that is Amit Singh. Others, like the Ron Paul blog where Singh’s assistant campaign manager announced his candidacy, describe Singh as the moderate and Ellmore is “far-right”. I’m more interested in calling a spade a spade. Ellmore is more of a moderate in the Mike Huckabee sense of strong social conservatism running on a platform of a distrust of government, not a dismantling of government. According to some, we do have an obligation to those who can’t help themselves, which is where programs like Save Larry and expanded assistance to assisted-living centers comes into play. Singh is more of a libertarian, who appeals to Independents and Democrats with his anti-war stance and his anti-status quo approach to Republican politics. Both have aspects that appeal to non-Republicans, for vastly different reasons.

While the 8th district is far from a microcosm of the country, let’s look at national politics for a second. Mike Huckabee was successful in building a crossover coalition in a state that votes Democratic on the state level, then proceeded to perform well in Republican primaries in Iowa, South Carolina, and Southern states on Super Tuesday. Ron Paul, while constantly and unfairly dismissed as a fringe candidate by the media, was nonetheless able to achieve a broad level of grassroots support, specifically financially, though he was not able to turn that into actual votes in primary or caucus states. It’s not fair to judge Ellmore vs Singh by looking at Huckabee and Paul’s relative successes this cycle, but the arguments of Singh’s supporters that he will ride a “movement” to victory in November just like Ron Paul should read that sentence again.

Since a Republican victory is virtually guaranteed to not come in November, then the nomination sends a very important message about where our party is going, at least in the 8th District. That, I suspect, will be the argument we hear a lot during this primary. Singh supporters will say that Ellmore is a Democrat-lite who compromises conservative positions to the point of ineffectiveness, and thus nominating Ellmore is a step backwards for conservative principles. It was an unfair attack when Fred Thompson used it against Mike Huckabee, and it remains unfair now. We can have a healthy debate about the proper role of government, about the social obligation to the less-fortunate among us, and about what is truly the most “conservative” approach, but accusing your opponent of being spineless for political expediency for something he legitimately believes crosses a line that belies such a debate. There’s no reason to suspect that Ellmore isn’t sincere in his compassion, for example, for those living in assisted-living centers.

Which brings us to my biggest problem with Amit Singh: I respect the role that contrarians play in the public discourse, but you can’t be a contrarian and a standard-bearer at the same time. Earlier this week, Singh’s supporters labeled Congressmen Tom Davis and Frank Wolf as “crap”. As an incredible admirer of those two men in particular, I take offense to the suggestion that they are supported by Republicans simply because they have an (R) next to their name. Crystal Clear Conservative takes Ellmore to the cleaners here, and his aforementioned assistant campaign manager calls Ellmore a “hack” here. No matter what principles you have that you think the rest of the country should follow behind you with, that kind of firebrand politicking doesn’t win much respect except from those who agree with you; this cuts deeply into any arguments of being an “inclusive” candidate with crossover appeal.

Ron Paul, for his part, has stated publicly he probably won’t vote for John McCain the general election. Not terribly surprising, but I wonder what Amit Singh will do if Mark Ellmore wins the nomination.

Of course, the three of us here at Too Conservative are Mike Huckabee supporters, so labeling Mark Ellmore a Huckabee-esque candidate sets myself up for typecasting. However, I insist that I haven’t made up my mind yet. I pledged this week to learn more about each candidate, and I hope to do so from statements directly from the candidates, and not from surrogates and supporters. As has been amply demonstrated, Ron Paul supporters aren’t always the most diplomatic bunch. I hope that Singh’s campaign is able to focus more on their vision for the country, and less on what’s wrong with the people that don’t agree with them on every count. And I hope Ellmore is able to focus on why his vision for the role of government deserves to be considered by those who consider themselves conservative, and what specifically he will do to allay the concerns of fiscal conservatives.

In the meantime, I hope we can all remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment, and find a way to agree with each other on the best direction for our party and our country.


  • Darel says:

    I have been member of the GOP for over 20 years… The only real member of the GOP who has effected change was Ronnie…

    Bush has been nothing but a supporter of Global Gov views and he lied to congress with his WMD, BS. After Bush’s own affirmation that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 I urged my Christian leadership, local GOP and Congressional member to support Impeachment for having lied to the people of our nation. It just seemed as if those I urged ran away from the truth..

    I’m proud to be a Ron Paul Republican and willl support those who pass a litmus test who support the same themes.

    Amit, as we grow to undertand your postions you will have the support of many and if you lie to obtain our support we will be the first to vote to oppose you.

  • While it may have sounded like I broke the 11th Commandment, I was actually exposing the truth about Mark Ellmore to others. I always favored Shakespeare’s quote “To thine ownself, be true.” This applies in politics and the views that you share. I disagree with those who think ill of Frank Wolf and Tom Davis, because they are great public servants. I admire their service to Virginia and our country.

  • PAFreedom says:

    I double checked the website, and yeah, Amit is right on the issues.

    This blog is interesting in two points in regards to Gov. Mike. 1) he reached out to minorities 2) this election may be more about defining the party than overcoming the odds of low GOP ratings.

    Amit is the man for both points. We need to re-define the GOP so we can have a take-over of Congress and a Contract With America like we did in 1994, this time the contract should be followed though.

    If we support people like McCain over Paul, it will be a while before people view the GOP with interest and many, like Alan Keyes is rumored to, may decide to go the route of the Constitution Party or some other real conservative party.

  • Tom says:

    OMG, Mark Ellmore just FLIP FLOPPED on the Health Care Issue! So not only is he a liberal, he’s a flip flopper!


  • NOVA_GOPguy says:

    When I attended one of Amit’s meetings in Arlington off of the meetup group, he told all of us that Mark Ellmore is not “pro-life” so I asked Mark about that and he said he received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life PAC. Now that Amit has realized he is wrong on that he is attacking Mark Ellmore and calling him names on other issues.
    Btw, the email from this morning when talking about the state of our economy said “Our dollars are worth crap” –> very well put and becomming for a supposed Congressional Campaign. I’m forwarding that to Mark’s campaign so they have it on record.

  • 200 Grande says:

    Perhaps Crystal Clear Conservative and Singh’s assistant campaign manager are reminding people of the principles that used to unite this Party. We need discussion like this.

    Both (especially Crystal Clear) bring ,up solid points. You never respond to the arguments presented. While firebrand politicking may not win much respect, neither does running away from important discussions.

    You are calling for unity yet failing to state what we should be unifying around. This is why Republicans in NOVA have generally lost for three years in a row. Something is wrong and hacks like you are in utter denial and, for some reason, cannot even bring yourselves to an honest discussion.

  • Mark says:

    I don’t think Ellmore is anything like Mike Huckabee. I’ve seen him at our Fairfax meeting and he doesn’t have nearly the charisma and likeability that Huckabee has. All he seems to talk about is ‘x’ number of people he’s reached and ‘y’ number of ads he’s wasting money on.

    And you actually have respect for Tom Davis and Frank Wolf?? Tom Davis is my Congressman and there is no difference between him and a Democrat. They vote exactly the same. Look at his record.

    I can understand not talking crap about a Republican but these liberal Republicans are killing our party and have no allegiance to conservative principles. All they care about is getting reelected and “winning”. Whatever that means.

    These two Republicans are the very epitome of RINO – Republican in Name Only. If they could win as Democrats, they’d run as Democrats. All they care about is themselves. Milk toast!

    Maybe “Too Liberal” is a more appropriate name for your blog.

  • novamiddleman says:

    ok its reality check time

    In case you haven’t noticed the whole entire NoVa region is trending blue

    The only way to WIN around here is to run a different kind of campaign than you would in many other parts of the state.

    Feel free to stick to your “100% litmus test rules” but pretty soon you will be the only people standing around much like the pathetic numbers in the current county committees.

  • VA Blogger says:

    Mark, if supporting Tom Davis and Frank Wolf makes me a liberal in your eyes, then I’ll just have to find a way to live with that.

    I agree that Ellmore doesn’t have Huckabee’s charisma; that kind of charisma is one-of-a-kind, and is the reason why Huckabee was able to become Governor for ten years in a Democratic state, and why he was able to connect with enough people to turn his no-name-ID bid to the cusp of the Republican nomination for President. The comparisons between Ellmore and Huckabee are more from a governing and campaigning philosophy.

    200K, if you read the post you’ll see that I fully encourage a healthy debate. The only thing I’m pressing for is for this debate to be had between Singh and Ellmore, not their supporters or detractors. However, if you’re interest is in a debate, then calling the other side names should the last thing we see. However, unfortunately, this is rarely the case, especially among Singh’s supporters.

    CCC made good points about Ellmore’s website, and I hope Ellmore addresses them. The reason I didn’t respond to any of her arguments presented is 1) I’m not in the business of using this blog to respond to other blogs—If I have a comment, I’ll post it in their comments section, and 2) I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the points she raised, nor do I feel obliged to defend Mark Ellmore from criticism. The reason I referenced CCC’s blog is because she called Ellmore “Moran-lite”, which in my opinion crosses the line.

    The reason I’m calling for unity without specifying what they should unify around is because there are two good candidates for office, and I think the voters should make up their mind based on what those candidates have to say, not what I have to say. That’s what campaigns are for, and we’re in the middle of one. If the Republican voters in the 8th prefer Ellmore to Singh, then so be it. If vice-versa, then so be it. The voters will have made their voice heard, and we will have a standard-bearer in the 8th going into November. That’s the way it should be.

    What it *shouldn’t* be is a primary where one side or both sides needlessly attack the other. That doesn’t promote a healthy debate and it doesn’t unify the party. It makes us look like fools. That’s why I challenge each side to drop the attacks, focus on their vision of governance, and support the other if they win the nomination.

  • RichmondDem says:

    I think Mike Huckabee is a far-right lunatic on a lot of issues, but I can’t help but respect a Republican who talks about working class economic issues and isn’t a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street.

  • Dan says:

    RichmondDem, I think Huckabee is not a knee jerk idealogue who sees government as inherently evil. Therefore he is better equipped to engage in that great American virtue of finding realistic solutions to the problems at hand.

    There are lots of things I disagree with Huckabee about, but I wouldn’t describe him as a lunatic. I certainly think he would have done a better job than the current President.

    I have a generic question about this thread. In a district that overwhelmingly favors one party over the other there seems to be two schools of thought.

    One is that you shouldn’t waste resources and effort and should concentrate on winnable races. The other school sees value in contesting everywhere to show the flag and build participation in the party.

    I’d be curious to learn what others think is the wisest approach in such districts.

  • Va Blogger says:

    Dan, as I mentioned in the Congressional recap in reference to VA-03, I have absolutely no problem with contesting unwinnable races. I think it gives the local party something to fight for, it rallies the base and can come in handy for other elections on the ballot, and in the event of a career-ending mistake, we have someone there as a viable alternative. However, I agree with the sentiment that it should not take resources or attention away from targeted races, which is why I don’t have any objection to letting some races go uncontested, nor do I have a huge desire to put on a show for symbolism.

    If someone wants to run, by all means the local party apparatus should support their bid, regardless of how much of a longshot it is. However, and this is a piece of advice our Democratic friends should take to heart, at the end of the day it’s not how many races you had candidates in, it’s how many races you won. There is a great, almost perverse, joy in the Democratic blogosphere for having a large number of races contested, yet there is little benefit other than artificial joy. Myself, I prefer alchohol as a source of artificial joy, but to each their own.

  • RichmondDem says:

    Dan, I find him to be a bit nuts about the role of religion in public life and his hardline anti-choice stance. IMHO putting women and their doctors in jail is nuts.

    But if Huckabee was running for Governor–where he could have little effect on those things anyway–I’d seriously consider a vote for him. Seriously. Calling the Club for Growth the “Club for Greed” made me want to cheer.

    But for President? Never. The thought of the kind of appointments he’d make to the Supreme Court sends a very cold chill down my spine.

  • RichmondDem says:

    “There is a great, almost perverse, joy in the Democratic blogosphere for having a large number of races contested, yet there is little benefit other than artificial joy.”

    Dean’s 50-state strategy on the federal level has been extremely effective thus far.

    I believe a 95 County/35 City strategy will be just as effective right here at the state level.

    The biggest criticism I have is my party runs candidates in conservative districts that are way too liberal. The candidate must be able to appeal to the district they run in.

  • novamiddleman says:

    Richmond Dem you aren’t alone

    “The biggest criticism I have is my party runs candidates in conservative districts that are way too liberal. The candidate must be able to appeal to the district they run in.”

    The biggest criticism I have is my part runs candidates in liberal districts that are way too conservative The candidate must be able to appeal to the district they run in

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