I worked as the lead political reporter in the Roanoke Times’ newsroom for more than seven years, but since leaving I really haven’t written a politics story (** well, aside from this Jan. 2014 Roanoke Business story about how western Virginia businesses make political contributions — but it’s more of a business story**).
That changed Saturday when the Washington Post published my story on former Virginia House Speaker Vance Wilkins’ attempt to comeback from political exile. Wilkins helped build a Republican majority in the state house, and in 2000 he became Virginia’s first Republican speaker. He resigned only two years later, one week after the Post published a story that he’d paid a former staffer $100,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim.
He’s quietly worked with a few candidates in Republican primaries but mostly had remained out of site in his Amherst County home. After a string of statewide Republican defeates, Wilkins re-emerged this spring to challenge Wendell Walker, a man who came up working with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority group in Lynchburg, for 6th District Republican Committee chairman.
The result, as reported yesterday after the convention: Wilkins failed.
Although he outperformed expectations of many Republicans I spoke to, but Wilkins ultimately couldn’t overcome Walker. The defeat means that although Wilkins may continue to be active in Republican politics, he won’t play nearly as central or public a role.