Calling your party’s leadership “radical, extreme, out-of-touch” and bypassing its primary to challenge its standard-bearer in the general election is not a good way to endear yourself to your fellow members, Virginia State Senator Russ Potts is finding out the hard way. Just a few weeks after Potts’s declaring himself an “independent Republican” candidate for governor, the GOP regulars fought back. The Winchester City Republican Committee has formally disowned Potts as a member and has called on him to step down from the Senate. Across the state, Republican organizations are finding ways to rebuke Potts for skipping the primary and trying to get on the general election ballot as an independent, where he would run against former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (the GOP regular) and Democrat Lt. Governor Tim Kaine. Party leaders want Potts expelled from the Senate caucus and stripped of his committee assignments, where he has repeatedly blocked conservative social measures. For his part, Potts said defiantly, “they don’t have the power to tell me whether I’m a Republican or not. Only God and myself have the power to do that.”
As I wrote before, I don’t think Potts will make much of an impact in the gubernatorial election this fall. Recent events show he’s not going to draw much from the GOP regulars, and unless he gets some big cash and free media time from the DC networks, he’ll go unnoticed. Virginia’s governors race is important because it and New Jersey’s governors race are the only major elections in 2005, and could portend what is going to happen in the 2006 congressional races. I see the VA race as a tough battle between Kaine and Kilgore, with Kilgore winning and Potts making little if any impact.