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Where the bigger picture and the process come into play — and where the accolades are deserved — is the speed at which Attorney General Jason Miyares went to work mediating the problem.
There’s an old line from Cicero which reads summum ius summa injuria. Simply put, the extreme application of justice is an extreme injustice.
Nowhere was that more self-evident than in the strange case of Matt Strickland’s Gourmeltz Restaurant.
After two weeks of shock and bewilderment, Virginia ABC asked for a ceasefire; Strickland was having none of it and declared open victory.
Strickland was very clear — Virginia Republicans campaigned on his plight. To add salt to the wound, the press statement from the Governor’s Office was the equivalent of high fiving a drowning man. Why pretend to be sympathetic only to capitalize on Strickland’s demise?
The press statement from Youngkin’s press shop was poor form in the extreme — and Strickland is (and was) absolutely right to be angry about it.
Of course, thankfully Strickland carried the day. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine whose version of events has the better argument:
Virginia ABC and Gourmeltz LLC have entered into a Consent Agreement resolving all issues associated with the serving of alcohol products without the requisite license to do so at the restaurant. Effective December 23, 2022, the mixed beverage and wine and beer licenses of Gourmeltz will be reinstated. Alcohol products, less beer and wine products that have expired, are unsaleable or not safe for human consumption, seized pursuant to a search warrant on December 2, 2022, will be made available to Gourmeltz on December 23, 2022. It is understood and agreed by the Parties that the Consent Agreement and related obligations are neither an admission nor denial of liability or wrongdoing on the part of any of the Parties.
So what the heck went sideways in this saga?
Here’s a simple answer — while Governor Youngkin is indeed in the Executive Mansion and Attorney General Jason Miyares is often billed as the “top cop” of the Commonwealth, the Office of the Attorney General advises the ABC, but does not control the ABC.
So who does control the Virginia ABC?
Northam-era Democratic appointees.
If we are looking for a villain, there it is.
Miyares was in no position to put pressure on an independent board (hence the definition of the word independent). Independent boards do what they want; the OAG can advise, but they cannot demand.
With that missing piece of information, it all makes a ton more sense. Strickland raised the flag, the OAG advised, the Democratic-controlled Virginia ABC Board (whose term doesn’t quite yet expire) acted upon the legal advice from Miyares’ office — and in effect, they cracked after Strickland refused to back down.
Of course, you’re not going to read this in the media.
But the simple truth of the matter on the process side is that the Democratic-appointed Virginia ABC Board was looking to punish, and after days of advisement (not pressure, mind you) from the Office of the Attorney General, they finally compromised with Gourmeltz.
Like Patton at Bastogne, Miyares came to the relief of the 81st Airborne here.
Strickland probably sees this. Which, if true, Strickland is a savvier political operator than many folks recognize. Yet Miyares managed to get a handshake while maintaining the principle of the rule of law — which is no small feat if your definition of conservatism is anywhere close to constitutionalism.
AG Miyares: Credit Where Credit Is Due
Where the bigger picture and the process comes into play — and where the accolades are deserved — is the speed at which Attorney General Jason Miyares went to work mediating the problem.
Now obviously, many of Strickland’s supporters are not going to feel this way. After all, isn’t the Attorney General the “top cop” of the Commonwealth?
But that’s precisely how the media frames this argument, omitting that super-relevant portion of the argument that a Democrat-run board made the call.
Now Miyares could have run the Virginia ABC over, but that would have violated the very process Republicans are trying to restore after the McAuliffe-Northam era. Miyares could have left Strickland to hang. . . but who does that? Or Miyares could have turned his back to the whole thing — which to his credit, Miyares refused to do.
If you are a process and rule of law kind of Republican, Miyares did the impossible and cut through the Gordian Knot. The fact that we weren’t told by the media about the imposition of Democrats playing politics makes all the more sense — they want us fighting among each other rather than fighting Democrats.
If it was soccer? A mighty Strickland goal with a gentle Miyares assist. What Miyares did was nothing short of brilliant — and better still, it was fair.
Yet Strickland sticking to his guns? YES — and rightly so.
Sack This Virginia ABC Board. Today.
So what about the villains at the Virginia ABC Board?
The laws are supposed to be a shield — not a sword.
More to the point, it is a stark reminder of what Democrats do with power; Soviet-era lawfare should be punished in the most public and severe terms, and not merely passed by.
The good news is that the Virginia ABC Board serves under the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security under Governor Youngkin.
Whether the board members serve at the pleasure of the Governor — and can therefore be sacked immediately — or whether they must fulfill the remainder of their term is a question worth raising. By the merits, they should be sacked immediately.
If not, why not?
One Very Important Item of Note
We are about to engage in the silly season of Republican nomination contests. Some people are going to get very nasty and stupid slamming the very same people and personalities we will need for the general election.
Don’t fall for that trap.
Keep in mind that the Democrats are watching us fight.
There is nothing they want more for Christmas (if they still believe in that sort of thing) than Republicans fighting Republicans.
Of course, when it is easier to fight Republicans than Democrats, some people take the low-hanging fruit.
All of this is to say that no matter how you choose to express your support during the nomination contests, the vitally important thing is to select the most conservative candidate that can win — and then hold their feet to the fire when they do.
Honest and fair processes are part of the conservative canon, and everything we can do to create that environment only helps the movement going forward.
Fair process is the name of the game. If we cannot govern our own behavior, then we do not deserve to govern Virginia. QED.
So excelsior and all that. Go forth and stay awesome.
Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.