Opinion | Virginia’s Daniel Gade could help bring his state’s Republican Party back to relevance

Adella Miesner

In their Oct. 3 debate at Norfolk State University, Gade did something unusual for a Republican: He publicly criticized President Trump for a “badly fumbled” response to a question on white supremacy: “If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t […]

In their Oct. 3 debate at Norfolk State University, Gade did something unusual for a Republican: He publicly criticized President Trump for a “badly fumbled” response to a question on white supremacy:

“If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money, and shame on your attitudes and disrespect. Now, the president badly fumbled that question.”

Right on both points. And the Trump criticism? That immediately set Gade apart from the Virginia GOP pack.

Gade also had a kind word to say about the Black Lives Matter movement, which put even further distance between him and his Republican brethren. This makes Gade a heretic in some GOP circles. Remember: A cabal of 5th District Republicans tossed incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman aside because Riggleman dared officiate at the wedding of two men. That move put GOP control of the district at risk.

Gade urged his fellow Republicans to join him in support of the movement’s social justice aims and agreed with Warner that “violent actors within protests should be prosecuted.”

Gade said he supported an array of criminal justice reforms, including changes to qualified immunity. He’s been consistent on that issue, telling Richmond’s WRIC TV back in July that qualified immunity “sometimes let’s bad cops off with, you know, on a technicality kind of, created by the courts years ago.”

That not only sets Gade apart from Republicans in the General Assembly, whose authoritarian streak runs very deep, but it also puts him out front of a number of Democrats.

But there’s a big difference between distancing yourself from the pack and making wild accusations about people who aren’t on the ballot.

That latter occurred when Gade took a big swing at Warner’s long-ago role in putting Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo on the bench. Readers may recall Cavedo initially blocked Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) effort to remove the Robert E. Lee Statue from Richmond’s Monument Avenue back in June.

Cavedo recused himself from the case in July after admitting he lived in the Monument Avenue Historic District that includes the Lee statue. In August, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned Cavedo’s order.

Agree or disagree with Cavedo’s ruling all you want. Tag Warner with the rulings and Cavedo’s appointment, too? That’s politics.

But Gade went off the rails when he called Cavedo a “known segregationist” and a “racist judge” based, in large part, on a 1977 column Cavedo wrote for the University of Richmond student newspaper. Understandably, Cavedo calls those charges an “appalling and disgusting lie.”

Gade’s desire to get Republicans to escape the shadow of the Confederate Stars and Bars is laudable and long overdue. But he undermines himself and his cause when with such accusations.

On balance, however, Gade’s quixotic campaign has shown Virginia Republicans that it is possible to productively talk about social justice and police reform. There is still work to be done on the Confederate obsession. But just two years ago, the GOP nominated alt-right favorite Corey A. Stewart to run against Sen. Tim Kaine. Gade represents a step toward rationality and relevance.

Not everywhere, of course. Republican Bob Good’s campaign in the 5th Congressional District and Sen. Amanda Chase’s unhinged gubernatorial bid are both signs of how far the party has to go before it can again legitimately lay claim to being the party of ideas.

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