Watching the ‘Red Wave’ at the Fat Back Soul Shack
By WILLIAM P. PAINE, For The Patriot
The election in Virginia loomed large in everyone’s mind as Tuesday, November 2nd drew ever closer … and not just for Virginians.
It had been a year since Joe Biden had won the presidency in what was a questionable outcome in the minds of many Republicans. Be that as it may, Biden handily won the state of Virginia and as of just a couple of months ago, Terry McAuliffe was expected to easily win a second gubernatorial term in the Old Dominion.
Not only was a Democrat governor being readied to take the reins of power, but he could also count on democrat majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly to rubber stamp his far-left initiatives.
If Tuesday’s elections went as many in the establishment expected, the far-left wing policies implemented by Ralph Northam and McAuliffe himself four years before, would be put in high gear. This would mean further restrictions and red flag laws for gun owners and the tenants of Critical Race Theory being openly taught in all Virginia schools.
Here in Virginia’s New River Valley, two delegate races loomed large.
Marie March, a businesswoman from Floyd County, had wrested the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 7th House District from more established candidates and had wasted no time in campaigning hard for the seat. The 7th House District comprises all of Floyd County, about half of Montgomery County and most of Pulaski County.
Soon after gaining the nomination, March, with her trademark blond hair, red lipstick and cowboy hat, opened a campaign headquarters deep in the heart of Pulaski County.
March was running against Democrat Derek Kitts, a veteran who presented a moderate image, but kept to the Democrat party line in his policies. Whereas March was a firebrand who freely gave her opinion on any given topic, Kitts was more difficult to pin down. But he did clearly favor the idea of Critical Race Theory being established in Virginia Schools under the guise of “Equity.”
The 12th House District encompasses Blacksburg, Radford, all of Giles County and the Fairlawn area of Pulaski County and wasn’t thought to be in serious contention. Democrat Chris Hurst had first won the seat in 2017 and Jason Ballard, his Republican opponent had little name recognition outside of Pearisburg, where he serves as a member of the town council.
March was running for a seat that had been solidly Republican for many years, but she was not favored or even supported by moderates in her own party. Even so, the Republicans expected to hold on to the 7th District, just as most of them expected to once again lose the 12th District.
Hurst, a TV newscaster originally from Philadelphia, first came into the public consciousness when his fiancé was murdered while giving a news report. Hurst, who was deeply affected by this violent act, made restricting guns a major part of his legislative agenda and this proved to be especially appealing to those with a liberal bent in Blacksburg.
But Hurst was not untouchable. A few months back, he was caught driving under the influence and given what many believe was special treatment. That put a dent in his fresh-faced image, but likely would not lose him his seat in the General Assembly.
What may well have lost Hurst his seat was when, on the day before the election, he and a female companion decided to drive around Radford and vandalize Jason Ballard’s campaign signs. In addition to looking like an immature jackass, Hurst was driving on a suspended license!
Suddenly, the 12th District was in play and some even began hinting at the possibility of the Republicans taking back control of the House of Delegates in the General Assembly.
With this in mind, March invited her supporters to join her on Election Night at Fat Back Soul Shack, a restaurant in Christiansburg owned by her and her husband, Jared.
By 8:30 Tuesday evening, Fat Back’s was packed with Republicans who lived and worked in the 7th District and, most importantly, offered their support for March’s upstart campaign.
By 10 p.m., it was clear that March was on her way to victory, as her two-to-one vote margin remained in place well after half the votes had been tallied. When the race was called by local TV news, the crowd at Fat Back’s erupted in spontaneous celebration.
Ballard, the attorney from Pearisburg with a distinguished military career, was given little chance of winning this time last year, but by midnight with 40 of 44 precincts reporting, it was clear Ballard would retain his 55% to 45% advantage over Hurst.
Andy McCready, Chairman of Pulaski County’s Republican Party who was at Tuesday night’s gathering at Fat Back’s, said it was all about turnout.
“After the Trump election last year, people realized that being involved in their government was critical,” said McCready. “People have decided that they cannot stay on the sidelines anymore.
They must get engaged and be working with their local leaders to win races and make a difference.”
The turnout for this election was unusually high, especially considering the weather, which was cold and rainy most all day long.
“That played directly into what you’ve been hearing,” McCready explained. “The Democrats lacked enthusiasm and the Republicans were burning up with enthusiasm. I actually had a lady tell me last week that her son told her she should vote early. She said, ‘Son, if I have a heart attack on election day, that ambulance will stop at the polling place, and I will vote before I go to the hospital.’”
The gubernatorial race had yet to be decided when March took some time to reflect on her victorious bid for office.
March lists her involvement with the struggles of small business versus an unwieldy and overly bureaucratic local government, as one of her main motivations to consider running for office. Then there was the trip she took to Washington D.C. with her father on January 6. They went to see the president speak and visit the Washington Monument and that’s what they did. They were definitely not among those who illegally entered the Capitol Building.
“Chris Hurst came out against me for doing that,” said March. “He defamed me and said I was part of the insurrection, which I was not. When I saw a politician wield his power to go after a small business owner, I realized we’ve got big problems in Richmond. So that really caused me to decide that I was going to get involved.”
March, who was cautiously optimistic that she would win, said that realizing that she actually had won the seat felt “kind of surreal.”
That said, this political novice, who has only visited the city of Richmond on two occasions, plans to hit the ground running.
“I’m very excited and now begins the second phase, which is passing bills and getting folks on board with the legislation,” she said.
Some of her major priorities include repealing “Red Flag Laws,” which essentially allow a person to be stripped of his second amendment rights, if another party claims that person is a danger to himself or others. Moreover, March would like to see Virginia join the 21 other states in the Union which allow citizens “conceal carry” without having to pay for a permit or partake in onerous gun safety classes.
Another one of Marie March’s priorities includes the reform of Virginia’s education system. She is adamantly against the infiltration of Critical Race Theory into the curriculum of Virginia schools, and she is also a big proponent of school choice.
“It’s a very big deal to me,” said March. “I’m very much free market and school choice is how we can fix our schools right now. And not just that, school choice will also create entrepreneurialism. It’s going to be good on so many fronts. Private schools will pop up, homeschoolers will be able to get paid for homeschooling their kids, the voucher program will solve a lot of problems and it’s going to make public schools start working for us.”
It was late that evening before Fox News called the race for Glenn Youngkin and this resulted in yet another burst of celebratory whoops from those inside Fat Back Soul Shack.
By the end of the night, Virginia had entered into a new political reality. Marie March had won her seat with a 30-point margin and Jason Ballard had bested Hurst by a full ten percentage points.
This was a trend as the 2021 election resulted in the Virginia House of Delegates flipping from Democrat control to Republican domination.
Perhaps most significant of all, Republican Glenn Youngkin had won the governor’s race, along with Republican Winsome Sears, who won the Lieutenant Governor’s race and Republican Jason Miyares, who is set to become Virginia’s next Attorney General.
What had been a long cold slog for the Republican faithful, was now over. It had been over a decade since the formerly-Republican-dominated state of Virginia had a Republican as governor. The election of Tuesday, November 2 was nothing less than a Republican sweep, which serves as a clear signal that a new political era in the Old Dominion had now begun.