- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RICHMOND — Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s maverick style has Republicans split over whether he is their best candidate to defeat former Gov. Mark Warner in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.

“I support him because he is not a team player,” said Shaun Kenney, who recently resigned as spokesman for the state Republican Party. “There are a lot of conservatives who are so disappointed in some Republicans that they are really looking for people who will go to Washington, speak their mind and not go along with the establishment.”

The delegate from Prince William County, first elected to the House in 1991, will fight for the nomination against former Gov. James S. Gilmore III at the Republican convention this summer. Mr. Gilmore is considered the front-runner. Mr. Warner is the presumptive Democratic candidate.

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, also of Prince William County and a Gilmore backer, said Mr. Marshall’s arguments “most of the time are solid and he is right and most agree with him, but his methods are usually the problem.”

“Whether it’s the legislature or with your wife, you have to pick your battles, and I’m not sure how Bob discriminates between which battles he should pick and which he shouldn’t.”

A Republican delegate who asked not to be named said Mr. Marshall, a staunch pro-life advocate, forgets that he has to “have a seat at the table” if he wants to “eliminate abortion.”

Patrick McSweeney, a former state Republican Party chairman, said Mr. Marshall has the “spunk of Patrick Henry.”

“Marshall is running against the prevailing political class that got us in the position we are in, not to be another member of that class. … Without a voice insisting that we confront our grave problems head-on, we may hit a wall very soon,” he said, referring to the souring economy and Congress’ “impulse to spend blindly.”

In recent months, Mr. Marshall has led a constitutional challenge to the financial underpinnings of the transportation package that state lawmakers passed last year, called for a no-confidence vote for House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, and criticized Mr. Gilmore’s record on abortion.

The moves won him attention in the press but eroded his relationships with some lawmakers.

After criticizing Mr. Howell, Mr. Marshall was passed over as chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, of which he was the most senior member.

“I didn’t take an oath to play on a team,” Mr. Marshall said. “I took an oath to defend the constitution of Virginia, and I was selected to do so by my constituents. So my first loyalty is to my constituents. It is not that I am annoyed with people; it’s just that my allegiance is to the citizens of Virginia. If that gets me in trouble with leadership, I will smile and deal with it another day.”

During a debate on gun control last week, House Republicans who appeared to agree with Mr. Marshall became alienated by his tactics. They cut off Mr. Marshall when he offered an amendment to allow college administrators and professors with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on campus.

“Are we losing the sense of decency and comity in this place that you want to duck from the public so much that you want to treat one of your colleagues this way?” said Mr. Marshall. “I don’t think this is the way this body should operate.”

Mr. Marshall’s supporters say his record will deliver strong support at the party convention, particularly among the thousands of grass-roots activists, many of whom share his pro-life stance.

Mr. Gilmore has been accused of being soft on abortion. He says he opposes the procedure but that a woman should be allowed a choice in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

“People may come after him and say he is not a team payer, but Bob Marshall never has to apologize for a bad vote to his conservative base,” Mr. Kenney said.


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