By Lynn R. Mitchell
Impressive. That was my first thought reflecting on Thursday’s fundraiser with Governor Jeb Bush to help Republican state senate candidates retain their majority in Virginia’s General Assembly. In an election year when all 40 seats are up for reelection, Republicans hold a slim 21-19 lead. Demonstrating the team effort that has been stressed as absolutely necessity, Governor Bush emphasized, “We have to be a team of conservatives that reach out to everybody to win.”
It wasn’t his first time helping Virginia Republicans. Earlier this year he donated $10,000 to the cash-strapped Republican Party of Virginia.
Thursday’s mid-day event at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol was a fundraiser, not for Jeb, but by Jeb, for the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, drawing many notables from the 9th Congressional District and beyond including Senator Bill Carrico, Senator Ryan McDougle who moderated the event, Senator Bill Chafin, Delegate Israel O’Quinn, Delegate Will Morefield, Delegate Terry Kilgore, and senate candidate Nancy Dye.
There was an air of excitement and those attending were eager to hear from the former Florida governor. First thought when he walked into the building was that he is tall — very tall at 6’3″ — and handsome, cutting a striking figure in suit, white dress shirt, and blue tie. Smiling and comfortable, he moved easily from media cluster to greeting attendees to talking policy including his goals in the 2016 quest to win the Republican presidential nomination. He never mentioned the large field of contenders but indicated to press afterward that he was in for the long haul.
As he spoke, he demonstrated his knowledge and experience that were indicative of a very successful two-term governor with a proven conservative track record in finding solutions to issues that concern Americans, such as jobs, the economy, and EPA regulations.
The latter is an especially inflammatory subject in the coal country of southwestern Virginia that has been hit hard during the Obama administration resulting in shutdowns and worker layoffs. Governor Bush called for a roll-back of aggressive EPA regulations, as noted by reporter Robert Sorrell with the Bristol Herald Courier:
“I think we need to roll back the aggressive EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] for starters, not just as it relates to coal, but water and air,” Bush said.
“There’s always a need to protect the environment for sure, but also to protect the economic interest of communities and people trying to make a living.”
Governor Bush was at ease as he sat at the front of the large crowd, flanked on both sides by the Virginia state senators and 21st senate candidate Nancy Dye. The delegates were sitting in the front row as well as a Tennessee state senator (Bristol is, after all, half in Virginia and half in Tennessee) as the governor conveyed his thoughts about the future for the country. On display was that always-present Bush family optimism that we are a great nation. He also showed the family traits of wit and easy laughter.
His response to questions asked by the crowd was not sound bites or platitudes but rather a demonstration of his thorough understanding of deeply complicate issues: job creation, economic growth, the need to rein in taxes, spending, and EPA regulations. He is strong national defense … I want the country to be safe for my family.
It was interesting to read about a local resident who was interviewed by reporter Sorrell:
Local resident Roger Graham, a retired professor, did not attend the fundraising event, but managed to greet Bush outside the museum.
“I encouraged my students years ago to be up front and see what’s really going,” Graham said. “I like to see them. I’ve gone out of my way to do this.”
Graham added that he’s interested in Bush because he believes the candidate wants to talk about the issues and represent the common man.
Quite frankly, Jeb Bush is exactly the kind of leader I want, and Thursday confirmed that. He’s a policy wonk who studies and reads and researches to increase his knowledge of far more issues than I can wrap my brain around. I don’t want a showman or a reality television star, and I certainly do not want anyone who has never held public office so would enter the White House on Day 1 with a hugely steep learning curve. Jeb’s conservative record proves he doesn’t just talk the talk but that he also walks the walk. I also like an optimist — not a sky-is-falling-everyday-of-the-week person but rather someone who sees that we are already a great nation and who is willing to roll up his shirt sleeves to make it even better.
Three of us traveled to Bristol together and we realized later that the vehicle that Jeb was riding in to the event was the one following us as we drove down the street to the venue location. I certainly hope he enjoyed the view of the “Jeb!” bumper sticker we sported on our bumper. We saw them stop a block or two before the museum, and later read news reports that he had surprised employees when he dropped in to get a cup of coffee from the nearby Blackbird Bakery. I don’t doubt he needed coffee with the schedule he is keeping these days. Later he tweeted, “If you’re ever in Bristol, Virginia —@Blackbirdbake is the best spot for a cup of coffee. Hands down.”
In southwestern Virginia they take their country music seriously, and their politics even more so. Both points were proven Thursday.
Rollin Reisinger who now writes at Bearing Drift with Jeb.
Michelle Jenkins in the black dress and pearls. I didn’t get a photo of 9th Congressional District Chairman Adam Tolbert before he left but he was there welcoming folks from his district. It is always good to see him.
Delegate Terry Kilgore. I’ve always liked the Kilgore family and respect their long years of leadership and work for the Republican Party of Virginia. Not to mention that Terry and Jerry are always smiling.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
September 24, 2015