Can a populist, pro-life candidate win in a congressional district that has never gone Republican since its creation in 1982? That theory is about to be tested and, if successful, should not only help Republicans keep control of their razor-thin majority in the Virginia legislature on Nov. 5, but prove a happy harbinger for the party in the presidential and congressional contests next year.
Non-politician Nick Bell has decided to take on the “extremist views” that he says have permeated not only the state’s Democratic Party but the national party as well. He jumped into Virginia’s House of Delegates contest when he realized that leading party legislators and elected executives, including the governor as well as the delegate in his own district, were now comfortable supporting infanticide, the killing of babies at the moment of birth and even after they have physically left the womb.
Mr. Bell can’t believe that such “barbarity” is backed by even the majority of those who consider themselves pro-choice.
Mr. Bell thought about running after a pro-infanticide bill was introduced in 2018 by Delegate Kathy Tran, which Ms. Tran has admitted would permit third-trimester abortions even when the mother shows “physical signs that she’s about to give birth.” Two days later, Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, defended the right of doctors to allow a perfectly healthy newborn to die after having been completely separated from the mother.
It was Mr. Northam’s “consoling defense of infanticide,” as Mr. Bell puts it, that prompted him to challenge 79-year old Democrat Vivian Watts, who has continued to represent the 39th House District in Northern Virginia since 1996. He describes her as an “enthusiast of late-term abortion and infanticide.” He notes Ms. Watts was a keen backer of the Tran bill and even opposed the state’s 2003 “Born-Alive Protection Act,” which prohibits killing babies born alive after a failed abortion attempt.
Though a passionate pro-life candidate, what propelled Mr. Bell into the race was not the abortion issue per se, but “the fanaticism of some Democrats on this issue, including the governor and my opponent.” He’s also concerned that such views are taking hold in other states as well.
Mr. Bell has other issues he believes will appeal to the more moderate and centrist voters in his district. He is flatly opposed to corporate political donations, insisting they “badly corrupt the political process. Corporations have the incentive to direct unlimited sums to any candidate, no matter how extreme, as long as he or she panders to those very corporations. Why make it easy for businesses and candidates to engage in these corrupt bargains?”
Mr. Bell weighs in on financial transparency as well. Ms. Watts hasn’t revealed her tax returns during four decades in public office. Mr. Bell proudly posts his returns on his website. His opponent is a major fan of toll roads, but Mr. Bell says the way they work in Virginia only high-income commuters can afford to use the toll roads regularly during rush hour.
It costs $159 to save one hour’s worth of commute time using the Beltway HOT lanes, Mr. Bell laments, “so the average worker can’t afford to use these faster lanes on a regular basis.” Mr. Bell would do away with the tolls altogether or, at the very least, consider substantially reducing the “toll price so even those with modest incomes can wake up a little later in the morning before they go to work and return home for family dinners at a more reasonable hour.”
The 32-year-old Bell has a unique pedigree for a budding politician. He grew up in his district, graduating from W.T. Woodson High School and William and Mary college. He went to the Dominican Republic as a missionary for six months in 2010. He also lived in Spain for awhile, mastered Spanish, taught English as a day job and played semi-professional basketball at night. Most recently, he was in the policy division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
His personal hero is his father, the late Jeff Bell. The legendary conservative author, intellectual and political activist played a major role in the triumph of Reaganomics, an economic school of thought which revived the American economy during the Reagan era and, critically, even won over Democrat Bill Bradley, the Hall of Fame basketball star who defeated Jeff in that historic 1978 New Jersey senatorial race.
When Jeff Bell died in 2018, Mr. Bradley wrote a glowing tribute to “that young conservative” who “became a good friend” and who had run against him on a tax reform program that Mr. Bradley would eventually embrace.
“When I would later become the advocate for tax reform, lowering rates and cutting loopholes, Jeff became an ally,” Mr. Bradley recalled. “I remember after final passage of the ‘86 act going back to my office with my staff and toasting our victory with a bottle of champagne. Jeff was there.” The ’86 tax reform not only generated a major economic boom during the Reagan years, but became a model for pro-growth economies around the world.
Nick Bell says he’s convinced that if he wins there are still enough “Bradley Democrats” in the Virginia legislature that will help him advance his pro-life, pro-middle class agenda.
• Allan H. Ryskind, a former editor and owner of Human Events, is the author of “Hollywood Traitors” (Regnery, 2015).