Tom Sherwood’s Notebook: Losers and winners …


The U.S. Capitol building at night. (photo by Prisca Lo Surdo)

We just can’t let go of the Virginia elections.

Republican Ed Gillespie got his head handed to him.

As everyone now knows, the soft-talking Democrat Ralph Northam won going away, 53.9 percent to 44.9 percent. The Libertarian Party’s Chris Hyra barely broke 1 percent.

The post-election analysis seems to agree that Gillespie’s heavy-negative closing with fearful crime and immigration ads was his undoing. Analysts mostly believe it drove minority and independent voters to Northam.

And here’s the rub. Gillespie, an establishment Republican who is considered a decent man by many who know him, knew he was playing with fire by running those ads. How did he know? He said so himself way back in 2006.

Conservative Republican Jerry Kilgore in 2005 had just lost the governor’s race to Democrat Tim Kaine, who had trailed for much of the cycle but ultimately prevailed with his centrist campaign. Kilgore had leaned heavily on death penalty ads — Kaine opposes it — and anti-immigration ads.

Back then, Gillespie as head of the Republican National Committee had supported expensive outreach to immigrants. Washington Post reporter Fenit Nirappil and others pointed out the contrast in this campaign. Here’s what Gillespie wrote back in 2006:

“In my home state of Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore ran last-minute anti-immigration ads that didn’t move his numbers with swing voters and probably cost him important votes in the Hispanic enclaves of Northern Virginia. … Anti-immigration rhetoric is a political siren’s song, and Republicans must resist its lure by lashing ourselves to our party’s twin masts of freedom and growth, or our majority will crash on its shoals.”

The national Republicans made similar arguments after presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost in 2012 to President Barack Obama by a margin of 51 percent to 47 percent. We all know what happened in 2016. Trump played the immigration card and won, but “Establishment Ed” was just not that kind of candidate. Even Northam’s campaign had seen in its internal polls that Gillespie was pretty well-known and well-liked. But voters mostly didn’t like those ads, and it showed.

This is not just backward-looking politics. Kaine is up for re-election in 2018. His only announced Republican opponent is Corey Stewart, the campaign-fiery conservative who says Gillespie didn’t do enough to turn out the conservative Trump voters in Virginia. There’s no doubt Stewart will try. Out of the gate, he promised to run a “ruthless, vicious campaign.”

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile in Maryland. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was keeping more than an eye on Virginia.

The popular governor — with approval ratings in the high 60s — traveled to Northern Virginia to campaign last Saturday for Gillespie. Hogan was positive and upbeat, and never mentioned Trump. He did denounce Democratic ads against Gillespie.

“With a great candidate like Ed Gillespie [and] enthusiastic supporters like all of you … this should be a walk in the park, a piece of cake and a slam dunk,” Hogan said.

At week’s end, we were in Annapolis for NBC4 to get Hogan’s take on the disappointing Virginia outcome.

“I’m not a political pundit,” he demurred. “I think it was interesting.”

Hogan mostly has kept his distance from divisive, national issues, including Trump. Hogan stepped outside of his self-imposed bubble this past weekend. He called Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore “unfit” and said he should drop out of the Senate race because of allegations of sexual conduct with minors and teenagers.

All well and good, but Maryland Democrats say the Virginia results are a clear warning that Democrats in Maryland will do all they can to take on Republican Hogan, notwithstanding his popular numbers.

“Virginia is a threat to Larry Hogan,” said Kathleen Matthews, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. She said the party already is organizing precinct-level Democrats. Maryland is a blue state. The Democrats don’t want to relive the disaster of 2014 when Hogan upset favored Democrat Anthony Brown. But Democrats have a lot of work to do.

Taxing issues. Everyone knows the Washington region is wealthier than many other places in America. Our houses cost more and our salaries are higher comparatively despite serious poverty.

Officials say about 40 percent of regional residents take advantage of the federal tax deduction for mortgages. Even more benefit from deducting high local and state taxes from their federal returns.

Republicans in Congress are pushing tax code revisions that could mean big changes for our area.

The state and local tax deduction — in place since 1913 in the federal code — could be eliminated. A GOP compromise proposes to limit the deduction on local property taxes to the first $10,000. That’s far less than what many people pay in wealthy areas like this one. And for new mortgages, the proposed deduction for homebuyers on interest payments would apply only to the first $500,000 worth of loans.

A fight to keep the state and local tax deduction brought out local and national leaders on Monday. They gathered on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to reconsider its tax revision plans even as House leaders geared up for a Thursday vote.

“The state and local tax deduction prevents double taxation,” said Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg, saying any move to make citizens pay federal taxes on state and local taxes is an assault on “hard-working Americans.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton told NBC4 at the news conference that Republicans around the country would pay at the ballot box once middle-class voters get wind of their budget plans. Several speakers said the GOP tax plans — one in the House and one in the Senate — would hurt middle-class taxpayers to pay for cuts for the wealthy.

“To be fair,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, Congress should “make sure that middle-class families aren’t paying for tax deductions for the super-rich.”

And Silberberg noted another sticking point for her, fellow Democrats and some Republicans: “So this flawed proposal to eliminate state and local taxes would mean double taxation on individuals while allowing corporations to continue [that] deduction. This is unbelievably unfair.”

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.