Those who bothered showing up chose between two men: Harris Miller, an icon of the K-Street lobbyist crowd, and James Webb who advertised himself as a grass-roots populist who speaks for middle-class America.
James Webb won the primary by a 53.5% to 46.5% margin.
Miller's early clients included farmers who wanted cheap Mexican laborers. But he was best known for his recent stint as president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA)—an organization which promotes the expansion of H-1B visas on behalf of high-tech corporations such as Microsoft, IBM, and Sun Microsystems.
Miller was the kind of candidate who could only look good inside the Beltway: able to raise money from his Silicon Valley clients, sure, but an odd symbol for the Democrats—an unabashed champion of the corporations who want cheap labor at the expense of the American worker
Webb, some might argue, is as much of a Washington DC insider as Miller. He graduated in 1968 from the U.S. Naval Academy, served as a Marine officer in Vietnam, got a law degree at Georgetown University, worked as an assistant defense secretary, and was Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration. He was a Republican before switching to the Democrats in protest against the Iraq war.
The Virginia primary went into high gear on May 19th when Miller and Webb engaged in 21 minute televised debate.
Webb called Miller the "champion of outsourcing" and then immediately followed up by saying that some people consider Miller to be the "anti-Christ of outsourcing".
Miller counter-attacked up by raising a very legitimate question for which Webb had no answer:
"It's easy to say you are against outsourcing but what does that mean?"
When Webb stammered, Miller made the outrageous claim that he created 60,000 new jobs in Virginia. Webb could have pounced on that falsehood but missed his opportunity
Of course, labeling Miller as the "anti-Christ of outsourcing" was a great rhetorical move by Webb. It put Miller on the defensive.
But, while Miller has indeed lobbied for unfettered outsourcing, it was his activism on behalf of H-1B and other guest worker visas that made him so hated in the high-tech community.
And, although Webb briefly mentioned that foreign labor is being imported into the U.S. he never named specific programs such as H-1B or L-1. He made a milquetoast accusation that Miller supports visas to bring "people in" but didn't follow up about how the importation of foreign guest workers are being used to displace Americans—no doubt much to Miller's relief.
The Washington Post officially endorsed Miller. It didn't miss a chance to insult Webb by calling him a xenophobe. This is an odd characterization, considering that Webb has a Vietnamese wife—and how reluctant he has been to discuss specifics on immigration or global trade issues.
Webb seems to take a John Kerry approach to immigration—that is, tough talk about borders and soft on everything else. Webb's website says nothing about H-1B and only mentions guest-worker visas in the over-simplified context of (say it ain't so, Jim!) "undocumented workers" . (But it hints he favors the House Republicans' enforcement-first approach).
Allen, like most Republican Senators up for re-election, voted against the Senate amnesty bill. But he is otherwise is very vulnerable on H-1B and other immigration policies.
Here are just some of the issues Webb could use in his campaign against Allen.
Webb's victory against Miller is an accomplishment that will get him attention in the mainstream press. He could use that national spotlight as an opportunity to discuss Allen's weaknesses on immigration, globalism, and offshoring.
It's worth noting that a cadre of dedicated volunteers was crucial to pushing Webb ahead of Miller. Many of them were motivated because they hoped Webb would be an improvement on H-1B and off-shoring.
To keep their loyal support Webb needs to prove he can take tough stands that may go against the grain of mainstream Democrats.
But Webb's reluctance to attack Miller on H-1B may be a harbinger of things to come.
Perhaps Allen will get a free pass despite his dubious voting record.
Still, America's disastrous U.S. immigration policy has become a hot button issue.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith recently observed that newly elected California Rep Congressman Brian Bilbray's campaign "changed a lot of people's thinking" about illegal immigration as an issue and showed "how politically advantageous it is to talk about…"
Webb needs to start hammering away on immigration and non-immigrant visa reform today.
Rob Sanchez (email him) is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization and author of the "Job Destruction Newsletter" (sign up for it here) at www.JobDestruction.com. To make a tax-deductible donation to Rob Sanchez, click here.