Who is the mystery primary challenger in Virginia’s House District 17?
I received an email and text from a good friend that said Republican Delegate Chris Head was getting a primary challenger. My first thought was how could someone primary my delegate, and who was that person?
Delegate Christopher Head was originally elected to the House of Delegates in 2011, beating his Democratic opponent Frieda Cathcart 65 percent to 34 percent, and then Delegate Head beat Cathcart a second time in 2013, 67 percent to 32 percent. He currently sits on the House Finance Committee; House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee; and House Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee. Delegate Head is the chairman of the bi-partisan Virginia House of Delegates Business Development Commission.
According to the Sunlight Foundation, “85% of bills he copatroned were introduced by Republicans. Of all of the copatrons of his bills, 93% of them are Republicans. Of all of the copatrons of all of the bills that he also copatroned, 73% of them are Republicans.”
All in all, Delegate Head has a solid record and, to top it off, you could not meet a nicer guy. He owns the local Home Instead Senior Care and is involved in his community and church, and has been a great friend to not only me but Roanoke as a whole.
So who in the world would primary Chris Head?
There was a clue when I looked at a Roanoke City Republican Committee email from Roanoke City Chairman John Brill with the call for the next meeting. The meeting is scheduled for this coming Monday, March 9, and the guest speaker is Delegate Head’s primary challenger, a man named Harry Griego. Who is Harry Griego, I wondered.
So I went to the Virginia State Board of Elections website but Griego had not filed. I then went to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) but there was no record of him filing so he could raise money. Checking Google, I saw there was no campaign page. On LinkedIn it provides his job and that he lives in Vinton but nothing about running for the Virginia House of Delegates. So I looked on Facebook and found his personal Facebook page but no mention of him running for delegate.
I have three thoughts:
1. Who got him to run?
I would be willing to bet that either the Roanoke Tea Party, City Committee Chairman John Brill, or a combination of the two got this guy to run. I have been in Roanoke politics for two years and have never heard of Mr. Griego.
If they are behind this candidate, it would make sense because Mr. Brill and the Roanoke Tea Party were unable to find a candidate of their choosing for the 21st State Senate District seat that they so desperately wanted. Mr. Brill was looking for a candidate who would advocate his extreme libertarian policies. Maybe in the Roanoke Tea Party folks’ minds, this is the tradeoff they “deserve.” The establishment got their candidate for the state senate so they may reason they “deserve” a tea party person in the State House.
2. Why run?
Why run against a sitting delegate with a decent war chest and a great record? I wonder if it is the tradeoff for not challenging Nancy Dye for the 21st State Senate seat.
3. How ridiculous is this quixotic endeavor?
Wasting money on a primary when we need money, volunteers, and resources during a year like this is a bad idea. We have one job as the Republican Party of Virginia, and that is to hold onto the House and Senate majorities. We need our resources going to Nancy Dye to defeat John Edwards, not wasting that money on a gadfly primary candidate running against a perfectly good delegate. The tea party plays on a 5,000-foot level and doesn’t look at the 100,000-foot level. They do not seem to see that to maintain the state senate majority in Virginia we need to retire John Edwards. The blinders of the ideologically pure are truly blinding, never seeing the end game.
We need to work together to stop Terry McAuliffe’s liberal legislative agenda and save the Commonwealth from his job-killing agenda straight from President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Yet the tea party is more concerned with purity, thus making sure we never solve problems. They seem to think if they just yell louder than the other guy then one day everyone in America will agree with them. We need to stop yelling and start solving problems. Rational Republicans stand for solving problems and vetting electable candidates to win. We need to be playing at the 100,000-foot level, and looking at the big picture. Gadfly candidates cost money that could actually be used toward winning the big picture elections.
I’ll definitely be at that meeting on Monday to support my friend Chris Head. And I want all of his supporters to be there, too.
Matt Colt Hall is the proud son of two blue collar workers from Carroll County, Virginia. He has been in the Republican Party since the age of 16, and along the way has interned and worked with many great Republican candidates. Matt is a graduate of Ferrum College, where he graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Political Science degree. He currently lives in Roanoke with his amazing wife Lauren and is a member of both the Roanoke Valley Young Republicans and the Roanoke County Republican Committee.