Back in 2017, Del. Tim Hugo only defeated Dante Tanner by 99 votes (or .36 percent) in what was by far the closest election he’s faced since being elected to the House. In a sign of how the District’s leaning Democratic, however, voters in the 40th also voted in favor of Ralph Northam for Governor that same day. And they’ve largely supported other Democrats during the last five years (including Kaine winning 59% in 2018), which means Hugo’s managed to stay in office despite the district trending more Democratic.
With all this in mind and polls showing Northern Virginia voters prefer Democrats by a 25 point margin, Hugo has been trying to cast himself as a moderate Republican who’s above partisan politics. After joking about how he apparently has the nickname “Delegate Pothole” (a nickname I’ve never heard used for him in the almost two decades I’ve known him) at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, he began listing off some policies he gave some attention to when he wasn’t focused in on his role as the Republican Caucus Chair.
It was in that roll where he’s taking some rather extreme steps like helping kill a special session the Governor called on gun violence before any discussion could take place. This move was made after the Republicans literally allowed the NRA to set up a war room in one of their conference rooms. But it didn’t stop there as he was in the GOP leadership when they ensured bills that would make it illegal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in public employment and housing were defeated in committee. This is despite the bills receiving bipartisan support on their way to passing in the Senate multiple times and many pundits believing the bills would pass if they received a vote from the full House.
Nonetheless, he still went on to claim he was actually dedicated to sound policy work. He claimed to have done some movement on environmental policy with Dick Saslaw (the Democratic leader in the state Senate who has ties to Dominion Power and their anti-environment record), claimed he’s been focused on increasing the number of well paying jobs, and a few other issues he suggested “are the important things that we work on day, after day, after day.” While these are great talking points to use during a forum where you’re trying to sound like you’re above the political fray, the record clearly shows Hugo hasn’t been focusing in on the non-partisan things like potholes like he wants voters to believe.
After speaking about his passion for service that led him to serve in the military and providing some insight into why he’s running, it became clear Dan Helmer wasn’t going to let Hugo get away with promoting the false narrative he wanted folks to believe.
“He’s voted with his party nearly 100% of the time,” Dan said. “Voted to put more guns at school and at work. Voted to mandate that women seeking reproductive healthcare have unnecessary transvaginal exams. And voting to deny equality under the US constitution, casting the deciding vote, against every single american woman, including those who I served side by side with in Afghanistan.”
Redistricting was another area where Hugo tried to appear as though he was a big supporter of bipartisanship when he praised Sen. Janet Howell for her work on the issue and said “I think it’s time, as Sen. Howell said, to put it nonpartisan.” The delegate also said this could help address “the vitriol” of politics, which clearly ignores how Donald Trump in his role as the highest ranking Republican has been the one driving a wedge into our communities with his divisive and hateful rhetoric.
“Hopefully some of the vitriol. Hopefully some of the, I don’t want to say meanness, but some of the nastiness of politics will get out of it,” Hugo said. “I think people will feel a little bit better. They’ll feel a little bit better represented and they’ll have an opportunity for them to have a say in the drawing of the lines.”
Again, this is something that sounds great at a forum, but is far from the actual reality of where the Republican caucus has been going while Tim Hugo’s been serving in a leadership role. Just this year, for instance, Virginia had to redraw some of the legislative lines due to racial discrimination playing a role in how districts were drawn. The Republicans were so opposed to creating fair district that they tried appealing the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, but the Court ruled the House Republicans didn’t even have the legal right to challenge the ruling after Virginia’s Attorney General refused to block the creation of fair districts.
Towards the end of the forum, it appeared as though Hugo decided to simply drop the charade. Apparently confused at how some people are willing to stand up for what they believe in even if a member of their own party has a slightly different view, Hugo launched into a rant about how “the same thing [Helmer] said about me on guns and everything else, he also said about Congresswoman Wexton when he ran against her.”
As if expressing some sort of shock that someone would publicly disagree with a member of their own party wasn’t enough, he decided to add to it by taking a couple cheap shots at his challenger. “He’s a rich guy that just moved from Jersey who’s already on his second race,” Hugo said about Helmer before adding “some people will say anything to get elected.”
What made this line of attack rather interesting is Fairfax County is home to a very large number of people who came here from other parts of the country. When people find out I was born and raised in Northern Virginia (in Hugo’s district, actually), people often jokingly say something along the lines of “oh, you don’t find many lifelong Northern Virginia residents.”
On top of that, Dan’s lived here for years and hasn’t lived in Jersey since before he was deployed overseas twice. Plus, his wife’s a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher and they’re raising their kids in the community, which shows the family has a commitment to the area that expands well beyond Dan’s political aspirations. But, Hugo still decided to take a few cheap shots to see if he could win some political points.
During his closing statement, Hugo apparently couldn’t even bring himself to return to his previous poor attempts at trying to appear above the “nastiness of politics” that he claimed to abhor. Instead of trying to give a recap of his record, he went after Dan for being a “left wing boy scout” and even managed to bring up allegations against other Democrats that aren’t even on the ballot this year.
Especially when you consider this was the only time he seemed to show any sort of passion or emotion during the forum, his closing statement clearly did not help his initial cause of trying to convince everyone the nickname “Delegate Pothole” was something he was proud to have earned.
For those who are interested in watching Hugo’s closing statement, here’s the video: