We are ten days removed from the GOP primary for Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff. However, I wanted to offer a few more observations regarding the race before it is shelved to memory.
If you will recall from my last post, both the local paper and TV news station reported differing vote totals. The Daily News Record stated that Hutcheson won by about 500 votes (2,963-2,414), while WHSV had a margin of about 1,500 (3,963-2,414). Given my expectations regarding the race, I assumed that the DNR’s statement was closer to the mark. However, according to the July 14th issue of the DNR, the Rockingham County Republican Party released that Hutcheson triumphed by about 1,100 votes (3,224-2,153). Breaking the total down further, Hutcheson lost Harrisonburg 493 to 670, but won the county 2,731 to 1,483.
What makes this election particularly remarkable is Hutcheson’s victory (not to mention his margin of victory). If you will recall, back on June 26th I wrote, “I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee”. But why did I reach such a conclusion?
Let’s consider their perceived efforts. For many months leading up to the primary, I saw Boshart at just about every Republican function while Hutcheson was more or less absent. Sure, Hutcheson was the featured speaker at one of the First Friday functions (which unfortunately I missed), but why didn’t he do a better job reaching out to the Republican activists? After all, active Republicans are far more likely to vote in Republican primaries than the average voter. To compare politics to an orchard, if you have a limited amount of time, shouldn’t you harvest the low hanging fruit first before using a ladder to reach the upper branches?
What about direct voter contact? Although I personally received nothing from either campaign, I hear that Boshart was far more prolific when it came to direct mail.
Third were the endorsements. It seemed that just about every elected Republican official in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were on the Boshart bandwagon. State Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegate Tony Wilt, Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood…the list goes on.
So, why did Hutcheson win? Well, as far as I can tell, there were three major reasons.
First, he expanded the base. When I went to vote, I did not recognize a majority of the folks there. I’d bet that many of the people who voted either never attended an official Republican function or only did so sporadically. Although Rockingham County is among the most Republican counties in the state, I assure you that there are not 4,000 regularly active Republicans within the borders. It seems that Hutcheson not only appealed to the more casual Republican voter, but also convinced them to come out to the polls.
How about the Hutcheson endorsements? As mentioned, the Republican leadership favored Boshart, but Hutcheson seemed to have an edge when it came to law enforcement. Shortly before the election, Hutcheson put an advertisement in the paper that listed a multitude of retired law enforcement officers who supported him for Sheriff. I thought the ad was exceedingly effective. After all, wouldn’t law enforcement personal know the demands and required qualifications for Sheriff far better than the average citizen?
Last, we have to ask; can too many endorsements be a bad thing? Again, it seemed that every elected Republican supported Boshart. As a result, on more than on occasion I heard the term “good old boys network” to characterize the situation. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, according to Wikipedia, it “describes a system of social networking/cronyism perceived to exist among communities and social strata…Some negative effects of the good ol’ boy network are its exclusion of others, leading to leaders of a community possibly limiting business transactions to other elites, or to friends or acquaintances from within the network, to give friends better deals, and generally to reinforce traditional power structures over any other elements in the society.” Thus, among some people, the fear was that Boshart was not the most qualified candidate, but rather the one selected in advance by the party machinery.
Here we are, Hess versus Hutcheson. Although I originally expected Hess to emerge victorious, that was before Hutcheson’s strong showing. Before I make another incorrect prediction, I’ll have to wait and see what the next few months bring.
So, if you voted in the primary, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Did you vote for Hutcheson or Boshart? More importantly, why did you vote the way you did? What influenced your decision to vote for (or against) a certain candidate? Is it one of the reasons that I listed above, or something totally different? Share with us.
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