Republicans Face an Uphill Battle When it Comes to Challenging Tim Kaine

Mar 13, 2018

Corey Stewart, who nearly beat out Ed Gillespie for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year, leads among GOP Senate hopefuls in a recent poll from Christopher Newport University. However, 66% of party respondents to that poll said they are undecided on who they will vote for in the June primary.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

Voters are only a few months away from primary elections that will shape the 2018 race. But, Republicans are having a hard time attracting candidates who can raise enough money to take on Senator Tim Kaine.

When Tim Kaine was running his first statewide race back in 2001, Virginia was solid red. The following year, Democrats didn’t even bother fielding a candidate against longtime Republican senator John Warner. Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says Republicans are having a hard time attracting a candidate to run against Kaine. He says they need someone with name recognition and fundraising ability.

“A lot of the Republicans are getting the message, the more experienced Republicans — people who have previously statewide elections — are not jumping at the chance to wage another statewide campaign.”

In recent years, Republican candidates for the U.S. senate have included former governors or people with national fundraising operations. So far this year, six Republicans have announced to run against Kaine: two people who worked on the Trump campaign, a state lawmaker, an evangelical preacher and two political newcomers.

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says the race is not attracting people who have already proven themselves statewide.

“I don’t think the Republican Party wants to invest a lot of money there because I don’t think they see it as fertile ground," says Shafroth. "The other thing I sometimes think about, if you do it and you get badly trumped it probably harms your chances of running ever in the future.”

This weekend, the Republican candidates will meet in Richmond for a debate hosted by the Tea Party.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.