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THE 1989 campaign: All good things must come to an end – Newsom 1622 Sanders 1500.

The campaign was wrapping up and we decided to do a mailing.  I had a nice slim jim piece with my bio and an outline of several major issues:  Cut the Car Tax, Abolish parole, reform domestic relations laws, collect child support, and a couple of local issues (The tax on federal retirees was one at the time).

I was also invited to be interviewed for the endorsement of the local teachers’ group.  I was actually fairly moderate – most of the issues were economic and I stated my position:  Help the teachers if the budget allows but no new taxes.  The teachers’ group asked me about the ERA and I asked:  What does that have to do with better education?  I briefly explained why the ERA is a bad idea (Go here for more info on that) they were attentive but not convinced.  The local teachers’ group endorsed Del. Brickley.  I tried to get them to endorse me in the primary but they refused.

The mailing was ready and it was discovered that the long form slim jim was too long for the mail without a surcharge.  So we had to reluctantly take out the issues.  I think this was a critical error in that I sent them to the people who signed my petitions and the GOP committee.  I wish we’d had extra money and I should have run a small ad in the Potomac News.  I was interviewed for the election guide in the Washington Post, the Manassas paper (The Journal-Messenger – talked about alternatives to incarceration and how I wanted to do something about recidivism) but not the Potomac News.

Meanwhile, my opponent was after me again:  He accused me of discussing issues that did not matter:  Sovereign immunity and domestic relations law reform. There was a update article by the reporter for the Potomac News where Newsom asserted I was discussing issues that did not matter.  “I don’t have people interested in sovereign immunity and divorce law reform like my opponent is!”  I retorted that he needs to ask ten women at random (or the reporter for that matter) about domestic relations law reform he’d discover how important the issue is.  The Potomac News was trying to paint me as a one-issue zealot.  I objected and discussed other issues.  The article was actually good (the reporter was against me in my view) and my retort about asking ten women actually made the paper but it was morphed into my one-issue campaign.

A few days before the election, there was a scheduled party meeting with the main feature being our campaign.  Before the event, Larry Newsom and I were invited to a secret meeting presided over my an important GOP activist I had a lot of respect for.  The subject was a potential breaking scandal involving Del. Brickley allegedly trading on land information he knew as a delegate would be acquired by the state.  I heard the evidence and decided I would not use it.  It was smoke but no fire (David Brickley thanked me years later for not being negative towards him) so I felt in conscience I could not use it. I figured Newsom would.

At the event, Newsom savagely attacked Brickley on this and question and I concentrated on my Vision for a New Dominion and exhorted the party faithful for their support.  The Potomac News ran an article that highlighted Newsom’s attack and showed me as just another hopeful.

The day of the election was nice and pleasant – June 13, 1989.  We had a family member or a trusted supporter (One of my best poll workers was a fellow lawyer named Chuck Crum – Crum actually was crucial to the election of former Del. Jack Rollison in that he flipped a Democratic district to Rollison) throughout Lake Ridge and immediately west.  Newsom was at one Lake Ridge precinct and I had a valiant helper there but she was overwhelmed by the opponent.  Lord bless her!

Tobey had heard that the stalwart she felt would deliberately hurt me (by the way, I never said or did an unkind word to her and repsected her for her work for the party and thanked her publicly for that help!) was at a precinct down by the Manassas-Dumfries turnpike.  I trusted her – go there.  At another precinct, there was a long time African-American activist who came all the way from Gainesville to help me.  Boy I was touched by that.  I throughout the day covered several places.  It was a long day – putting up signs and taking them down after the election…

There was a contested primary for Governor between former VA AG Marshall Coleman, former US Senator Paul Trible and then Congressman Stan Parris.  Parris was popular up in NOVA but had issues in the rest of the state.  Coleman was favored over Trible largely because Trible had refused to run for reelection against Chuck Robb in 1988.  I think I voted for Parris.  So, people came out knowing who to vote for Governor but largely were ignorant of this race.  So the results tended to illustrate that:  I carried every precinct where I had people at the polls except the one at Newsom stationed himself at (Woodbridge HS) all day.  If I had had more workers in Dale City, maybe the result would have been different – I lost Dale City by a small margin.  Some of the turnout in Dale City (more Democrat than Lake Ridge) was terrible:  One precinct Newsom won with 20 votes and I had 18 or 12.  That’s it!  All the votes cast in that primary.

The returns were an anticlimax:  Newsom had a small but steady lead and finally I decided to concede.  Tobey, faithful to the end, drove me (she insisted I had to be driven to the headquarters) to GOP HQ as I prepared my concession speech. The final vote was 1622 Newsom (52%) and 1500 Sanders (48%).

I started with a joke:  That if voting earned you the right to gripe about politics for the next term, running for office ought to earn you the right to gripe for the rest of your life!  I congratulated Newsom, thanked my supporters, spoke of how we have presented a vision for  new dominion, encouraged those who voted for me to remain faithful to that vision and promised we might call the roll again in the future.

When I returned home I saw it:  In my kitchen, sitting with my parents (I lived at home at the time) was a woman I had been interested in and was a friend.  She had come back to the area just before the election but I did not expect her to come out in defeat to encourage me.  But encourage me she did and I was thrilled to sit on the front step with her.  She feared I would lose and hoped I did not take it too hard.  I really appreciated her coming over.

Lessons:  I have never run for office since!  I made more mistakes than the Confederates:  No ads in the Potomac News/unreadable signs/I did not ask people for money nor really go out and campaign like Newsom did.  I thought people would compare us and vote for the best.  No, you must ASK for support!  Even those who you expect to do so need that asking.  One person came up to me after the election and said, “I liked you better but Newsom asked me for support and you didn’t.”  I thanked him for that honest word.  I do not think there was either significant electoral malpractice from the Democrats (based on the tiny turnout in their precincts) or I am afraid significant African-American support for me at the polls.  I am proud to have reached out to the African-American community. I am open to running again but I have to sense God’s calling in it.

Finally, the best comment was made by a fellow lawyer some time after the election something like this:  “You talked about great issues but people did not want a clean campaign – they’d rather see dirt thrown about instead.”  Did you vote for me, perchance?  “No, I lived outside of your district!”  That about sums up 1989 in a nutshell.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood “Sandy” Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia’s first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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