Thank You, D.D. Dawson

A little over three years ago, six individuals announced their intent to run for two seats on the Harrisonburg City Council. Among them were D.D. Dawson, running as a Republican, and myself, Joshua Huffman, who ran as an independent. Now, if you lived in the area and were paying attention you might have noticed that Ms. Dawson and I have fairly different ideologies. In fact, I would argue after listening to the debates and reading our campaign materials, with the exception of one of the two Democrats, she and I differed the most on our vision for the future of Harrisonburg. However, despite these philosophical disagreements, D.D. Dawson always presented herself with class and style, which are unfortunately becoming particularly rare in politics.

Running for public office can be a particularly nasty adventure. Yes, we may have been vying for the same position, but D.D. Dawson and her husband were always friendly throughout our journey on the campaign trail. Unlike some of our opponents, she never attempted to bully or threaten me into dropping out of the race or not entering in the first place nor did she tell lies about the other candidates.

I have two memories from the campaign regarding Ms. Dawson that I’d like to share. The first took place during a candidate forum on 550 AM, WSVA. The station broke us into two groups and mine included D.D. Dawson. Perhaps surprisingly, she had never been on the radio before and was quite nervous about the experience. Nevertheless, I thought that she handled herself quite well and afterward wore an “I survived being on the radio” sticker.

Another incident that stands out in my mind was an event that took place the night before the election. My church was hosting a fundraiser at JMU called Stop Hunger Now and, in an attempt to bring the six candidates together after a contentious campaign, I invited my fellow office seekers to volunteer at this event. One of our opponents was quite excited about the gathering. Two of them neither showed up nor even bothered to respond to the invitation. Another candidate did appear, but primarily used the opportunity to promote his campaign, thus missing the whole purpose of the event. Afterward, I thanked Ms. Dawson for attending and for not campaigning while it was going on. As she told me, she understood why we were there that night and, given that the election was the next day, the results were now in the hands of God. Given her great demeanor and positive attitude throughout the race, I pledged that if Ms. Dawson were elected, I would stop by the Republican Party headquarters to congratulate her in person for her victory, despite how upset it might make the Republican establishment for me to do so.

D.D. Dawson and I disagreed on many issues during the course of the 2014 campaign. However, if citizens were asked to vote on which candidate exhibited the greatest friendliness, poise, and respect as the six of us sought these two job openings, I think the choice would be quite easy. In a little over a month from now I will be leaving the Shenandoah Valley to pursue my doctorate in political science at West Virginia University, but before I go I’d like to say thanks publicly to D.D. Dawson for being both a good person and worthy opponent when we ran for city council.

The End of First Friday?

E.W. Jackson speaking to the First Friday group in 2013

Although I cannot recall when it began, First Friday has been a regular political event in Harrisonburg for quite a while.  Over the years, it has hosted a variety of candidates, politicians, and leaders of various groups.  It has served not only as a monthly gathering for local activists but also as a way to reach a wider audience of folks from Shenandoah, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, and sometimes Greene Counties.

First Friday is not a local Republican unit, but it typically hosts Republican speakers.  They’ve had Corey Stewart recently, and had a bit of a dust-up when Cynthia Dunbar ran for Republican National Committeewoman last year.  Suzanne Obenshain, who also sought the committeewoman position and was the longtime leader of First Friday, also spoke to the group last year.   Although he attended when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2014, Ed Gillespie has been a no-show this election cycle.  When I ran for local office in 2014 as an independent candidate, I was allowed to attend but not to address the crowd.  Nevertheless, the event was valuable; after my Republican opponents addressed the group, one attendee declared they were both socialists and wrote a check to my campaign.  Donna Moser, the former head of the Rockingham County Republican Party leads the gathering.

However, things have been a bit rocky for First Friday these last several months.  Several months ago Ms. Moser broke a bone while visiting relatives out of state and thus was unable to attend the May meeting.  Nevertheless, First Friday still took place with Senator Bryce Reeves, who is running in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, as the speaker.  Ms. Moser had the leader of the local tea party hold First Friday in her absence.  But, the meeting was very sparsely attended.  In fact, I cannot recall a First Friday with such a low turnout.  Usually, two factions attend; the conservative grassroots folks and the so-called establishment Republicans.  But, almost none of the establishment people were in the audience.  I asked the senator about this absence and he pointed out that although he is arguably the most conservative candidate running for the position, many of the establishment had endorsed his opponents and thus did not attend.

Shortly before the June meeting of First Friday, I’m told that Ms. Moser received a phone call from the chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party letting her know that the party had selected a replacement to host First Friday in her stead.  However, as she had returned to the area, she stated she was able to resume her duties in this capacity.  Delegate Ben Cline was the speaker, but, as with the previous month, the establishment Republicans boycotted the event.

After most folks left, Greg Coffman, the Harrisonburg GOP Chairman, sat at a table with Donna Moser.  Afterward, I asked her about the conversation and she said that the three local chairmen (Harrisonburg, Rockingham, and Republican Women), had decided among themselves that Ms. Moser would no longer be leading First Friday.  As none of these chairmen had elected her to her position, nor did any of these chairmen attend First Friday on a regular basis, my opinion was that none either individually or as a group would have the power to make such a decree.  However, the story does not end there.

Late last night, the Harrisonburg Republican Party sent out an email declaring that future First Friday lunches have been cancelled.  As the message states:

Consequently, the Committees’  leadership has decided to terminate the First Friday Luncheons program. The goal is to examine other venues that can provide more relevant opportunities for our members, community leaders, and political leaders to interact.  This was the original intention in starting the First Friday Luncheon program, but we’ve seen a continuous decline in participation and support to the extent that the program is no longer fulfilling its purpose.

Due to the upcoming election season and the demands on everyone’s time, no decision on alternatives to First Friday will be made until after the election.  Therefore, the County and City Committees are no longer endorsing, sponsoring, or supporting activities similar to or calling themselves “First Friday”  until further notice.

To the best of my knowledge, there was no vote or discussion among the attendees of First Friday or even the local Republican committees of such a course of action (according to those who attend these meetings), but rather a dictatorial decree from the local party chairman.  Perhaps this authoritarian push shouldn’t be all that surprising given that the Harrisonburg Chairman will not allow individuals to make any announcements at the city GOP meetings unless they have been submitted in writing at least five days prior to the meeting.

After speaking with Donna Moser, she has stated that First Friday will continue, whether the GOP chairmen support the idea or not.  Given my experiences in local politics, the Republican Party strives for strict control of political events and guards who have access to their candidates and elected officials.  Given this attitude and several other factors, it shouldn’t be surprising that every candidate except for one who has run under the Republican banner in the last seven years has lost to a Democrat in Harrisonburg.

I would expect that local activists will continue to gather at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg for First Friday with or without the blessing of the local GOP chairmen.  True, it will be a smaller affair as most of the establishment Republican crowd likely won’t attend, but perhaps First Friday will become a gathering for conservative activists and candidates of all stripes, not only those who bind themselves with the increasingly rigid rules of the Republican Party.  If so, the local chairmen’s declaration of disavowing First Friday is a blessing in disguise for the citizens of the central Shenandoah Valley.

The Conservative Kobayashi Maru

Photo by Steve Helber of the Associated Press

In two weeks, on June 13th, the Republican Party of Virginia will be holding a statewide open primary to determine their nominee for governor.  On the ballot will be three choices: former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart, and State Senator Frank Wagner.

Typically, at least one authentic conservative runs for the Republican nomination in statewide contests.  For example, in 2014, Shak Hill sought the GOP nod.  However, all of the choices for governor are poor this year.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a moment to go through each option.

Besides being the former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie has also been the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a lobbyist for companies such as Enron,  a counselor to the Bush White House, and the 2014 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.  Seen by some as the consummate Republican insider, he is in many ways a milquetoast candidate, reciting typical Republican talking points while not providing many details of how he wishes to accomplish anything and avoiding saying anything controversial or of much substance.  According to reports, he has avoided attending a variety of candidate forums and events.  It seems he is coasting through the nomination process by trying to say as little as possible.  Even worse, when he served as RNC Chairman, he repudiated limited government conservativism.  According to National Review, “Gillespie basically said that the Republicans’ long-time war against big government has now ended.  Government won.”  and “the party’s new chairman, energetic and full of vigor, said in no uncertain terms that the days of Reaganesque Republican railings against the expansion of federal government are over.”  And, despite my repeated requests, the Gillespie campaign refuses to state where Mr. Gillespie stands on political freedom and third party rights, leading me to believe that he opposes them.

Next, we have Corey Stewart, certainly the most controversial of the three candidates.  Last year, he served as the Virginia chairman for the Donald Trump campaign until he was fired for insubordination.  No stranger to controversy, he has relentlessly attacked Ed Gillespie for not being sufficiently pro-Trump and for Mr. Gillespie’s refusal to take a stand on a number of issues.  As I’ve told some people, I think Mr. Stewart is the most dishonest person I have met in Virginia politics.  This opinion took form in 2011 when Mr. Stewart toured the state denouncing former Senator George Allen for being a poor conservative and a poor senator.  However, once Corey Stewart decided he was no longer interested in running for Senate, he endorsed his former rival.  That stunt earned him a flip flop from PolitiFact.   In addition, there was the 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor when Corey Stewart hired Senator Obenshain’s former campaign manager who was supposedly fired due to theft from a rival campaign who then tried to extort $85,000 from Pete Snyder in what has been colorfully called “The Richmond Screwjob“.  These incidents show that Mr. Stewart will do or say just about anything to gain political power and thus one cannot be sure if he is elected what his true intentions are.

Last, there is Frank Wagner, who has been in elected office since 1992, first serving several terms in the House of Delegates before joining the Virginia Senate in 2001.  Curiously, unlike his Republican opponents, Mr. Wagner is currently advocating raising taxes on Virginians.  In addition, he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia, when he voted for the 2013 transportation tax hike.  In 2015, he authored a bill to keep the earnings of Dominion Power, the state-supported energy monopoly, secret.  Amusingly, in early 2014 a Republican activist added me to a Facebook group called “Primary Frank Wagner” after Mr. Wagner supposedly employed a tactic known as slating to disenfranchise those who oppose him.   Frank Wagner supports higher taxes, government monopolies and more secrecy, and silencing opposition.  Are these conservative values?

Image from http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru

In Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Starfleet officers are presented with the Kobayashi Maru, an intentionally unwinnable scenario which serves to test the character of those who participate in it.  Unfortunately, this year, conservatives who participate in the Republican primary for governor face a similar dilemma. Which do you think will uphold the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia?  Dodgy, establishment Ed Gillespie? Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth, populist Corey Stewart?  Or liberal, big government-loving Frank Wagner?  It’s a tough pick, isn’t it?  None of the three choices, Gillespie, Stewart, or Wagner, are desirable, and each has exhibited principles or character flaws which ought to disqualify all of them from the Republican nomination.  As one elected official who is supporting Ed Gillespie told me, it is unfortunate that there isn’t a better candidate to head the Republican ticket this year.  Are you looking for a consistently conservative candidate who is trustworthy and will work to reduce the size and scope of the state government?  If so, you better hope a third party or independent candidate makes the ballot because none of the three Republican candidates come anywhere close to that standard.

How will you react to this conservative Kobayashi Maru?  If I end up voting in the Republican primary, I’ll be leaving the ballot for governor blank as I think none of them are acceptable nor do I plan to vote for whoever wins the Republican nomination in the November general election.

Partisan Hypocrisy

On Friday afternoon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email entitled “Longer Than They’ve Been Alive.”  Here’s what it said:

Hey there –

Some things you can just count on. Fireworks on the 4th of July. Turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner. And if there’s an election being held, Tim Kaine is probably running for some political office.

Tim Kaine is giving two commencement addresses this weekend: Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sunday at Northern Virginia Community College. And to celebrate, the NRSC is debuting a new Snapchat filter, reminding 2017 graduates that Kaine’s political career has been going on longer than most of them have been alive! Over the past 23 years, Tim Kaine has run for every political office imaginable. City Council, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Senate, and Vice President. As these new college grads head out into the world, there’s always one thing they can count on – Tim Kaine will always be out there looking to collect a taxpayer funded salary!

So happy snapping! And be sure to send your pics to the NRSC on Snapchat (theNRSC) and Twitter (@NRSC)!

As the email mentions, it also includes the graphic that you see to your left, comparing the amount of time Tim Kaine has either held or run for office and the average age of a college graduate.

The message of the email is obvious.  Tim Kaine has been in politics a long time.  He is a career politician and, by phrasing it as “longer than they’ve been alive”, the NRSC is saying that being a career politician must be a bad thing.

Given that the NRSC is saying that Tim Kaine is a career politician and that that is a bad thing, I thought I should ask them if they have created a similar graphic about my representative, Bob Goodlatte, who has been in the House of Representatives even longer than Tim Kaine has held or run for any office.

Hello.  Do you have one of these for my congressman, Representative Bob Goodlatte, who has been in office since 1993 or 24 years?

Thanks!
No, in case you are wondering, I don’t actually expect the NRSC to reply to me.  However, if we rewind the clock, in early April the NRSC sent out another email attacking Tim Kaine.  This one centered on the confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  It read:

Hey there –

Failed Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine joined Chuck Schumer’s ill-fated filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch today, attempting to block an up or down vote for the Supreme Court nominee.

Kaine is guilty of the most egregious flip-flop on filibustering Supreme Court nominees (no small feat considering the blatant hypocrisy coming from Senate Democrats this week). During the 2016 campaign, Kaine said that Democrats would change the rules if Republicans attempted to filibuster Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, but now says if the minority party won’t agree, the President must change the nominee. We’re sure his change of heart has nothing to do with the fact that he lost the election.

“Tim Kaine is among the most transparent hypocrites in his conference,” said NRSC Spokesman Bob Salera. “By ignoring voters and attempting to deny a qualified Supreme Court nominee an up or down vote, Kaine is proving his only concern is staying on the good side of liberal activists ahead of the 2020 presidential primary.”

Given that the Senate Democrats attempted to block Mr. Gorsuch in a similar fashion to how the Senate Republicans blocked then President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Garland, I felt like I had to send them an email.

Good afternoon, Mr. Salera.

I agree that Mr. Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote by the Senate.  I’m wondering though, did you similarly call out Senate Republicans when they refused to have an up-or-down vote on Mr. Garland last year?
Thanks.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Salera actually replied to me.
Is your question whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee called out Republican Senators?
To which I answered:

I suppose you could say that, yes.  If not, would you consider such behavior to be hypocritical?  If not, why not?

Thanks!

It shouldn’t be too shocking that Mr. Salera didn’t respond to that message.  In fact, I didn’t get any more messages from the NRSC for several weeks which led me to assume that I had been removed from their email list.  However, later that month, the emails resumed.

Is holding one or more political offices for decades a bad thing?  If so, the NRSC should call out all politicians who have been there too long, regardless of party.  Are Senator Kaine and the Senate Democrats hypocritical for condemning the Republican blocking of Garland and then working to block Gorsuch?  And are the Senate Republicans and the NRSC hypocritical for preventing an up-or-down vote on Garland and then complaining when the Democrats tried to do likewise?

Personally, I find that this behavior of the NRSC and others of promoting partisanship regardless of principles to be grossly hypocritical.  However, in today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I’m sure that the NRSC reaches a lot of folks who don’t even realize that they are engaging in this kind of political doublespeak.  And, although I don’t subscribe to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I wouldn’t be surprised if they engaged in partisan hypocrisy too.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLVI)

On the morning of May 3rd, Andy Schmookler and I appeared for our 46th time on 550 AM, WSVA.  For the first time, neither of us were live in the studio today as Andy lives a good distance away and although I presently live in Harrisonburg, unfortunately, my car repairs are taking longer than anticipated.

Today, we spoke about Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and his lack of accessibility to the average person in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as President Donald Trump, his various proposals, and whether what he is doing is constitutional.  We also briefly touched on the recent Democratic primary for the 26th district House of Delegates race.

Our next show will be at 9 AM on June 14th, the day after the Republican and Democratic primaries.

In case you missed the show live, you can find it here.

WSVA EARLY MORNINGS , 5/03/17 -TALKIN’ POLITICS WITH JOSH & ANDY

Freedom Gulch #22

Last night, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I got together online for the twenty-second Freedom Gulch podcast.  The conversation mainly focused on Donald Trump and his failures to uphold the Constitution as well as the 2017 elections here in Virginia, including the Libertarian Party of Virginia convention, which is coming up this Saturday.

If you missed it live, you can catch the podcast below.

The Gillespie Runaround

Before I get into the meat of this article, let me preface this piece saying that I neither voted for nor supported Ed Gillespie when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.  Early in his last campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Gillespie and asked him, if elected, what specific agencies or departments in the federal government would he work to eliminate if he were elected to the Senate.  He couldn’t give me an answer when I asked him in person, so I emailed his campaign seeking a response.  Despite my repeated inquiries, I never received any reply.  Given this experience, along with what else I discovered about him, I did not believe that Mr. Gillespie shared my philosophy on the proper role of government.

This year, Ed Gillespie is running to be the governor of Virginia.  Rather than simply dismissing his campaign out of hand based upon his previous attempt, I thought in fairness I ought to try again to learn about him and his ideas for Virginia.  In February, I attended a well-run event in Staunton and, although I didn’t get to ask my question in person, afterward I spoke with several of his staffers about my desire for greater political freedom and more open and fair elections in Virginia.  Based upon their suggestions I emailed my questions to them.  A week passed with no response…and then another.  I reached out to them again and was greeted with silence.  In this way a month passed.  Only after I wrote about their failure to communicate did the Gillespie campaign finally reply to me.

For about an hour or so I spoke with one of his staffers on the phone.   He apologized for the delay and declared it to be unconscionable. However, during this conversation, I didn’t get any sort of tangible answers to any of my questions. Instead, he encouraged me to send them specific pieces of legislation that I feel would advance political freedom in our Commonwealth.  Although frustrated, I did as the staffer asked and sent them text and links for several possible laws asking if Mr. Gillespie would support or oppose these pieces of legislation.  They included: making ballot access requirements equal for all candidates regardless of party affiliation, lowering signature requirements, making it easier for other political parties to be recognized, and doing away with legislation that some candidates be listed first on the ballot simply due to their party ties.  The idea is to adopt free market principles in Virginia’s political system.   And, as was the case previously, the campaign did not respond.  Now, almost two more months have passed without any sort of communication.  As they say…fool me once…I assure you that I shall not try a third time.  I cannot help but feel as if they have wasted my time.

I do have to wonder, is this how the Ed Gillespie campaign operates?  Do they have no intention of answering open and honest questions about their campaign?  Do they enjoy giving voters the runaround, confident that they have already secured the Republican nomination and the general election victory and thus have no need to be truthful or upfront about what their candidate stands for?

As a former campaign staffer myself for several election cycles, the way a campaign acts can either elevate or degrade a candidate.  So far, the Gillespie campaign has behaved shamefully.  If they would like a bit of free advice, I would recommend hiring a new political director, one that actually believes in honoring his word.

Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to speak, one-on-one, with several statewide candidates such as Jeannemarie Davis, Pete Snyder, and Ken Cuccinelli.  In fact, I would argue that all ten Republican campaigns that year were more open and responsive than the Gillespie campaign has been in 2017.  Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, I cannot get a straight answer from the Gillespie campaign which leads me to believe that they are being led by deceivers and cowards, running a campaign that doesn’t deserve to win.

So far, Mr. Gillespie and his campaign have been quite vague on their platform and what he hopes to accomplish if he is elected.  However, I can tell you, not even considering policy positions and based on nothing more than my experiences these last several months, that if the Republican primary were held today, I would not cast a vote for Ed Gillespie.  Nor would I cast a vote for him in the general election this year or in any future year.

It is my sincere hope that in the months that remain the Gillespie campaign will do a much better job of responsive and timely answers when it comes to reasonable inquiries.  Otherwise, I expect that many conservatives and libertarians that I know who often vote for the Republican candidate will reject him as they did in 2014.  And, in that case, I assure you I won’t shed a tear when Mr. Gillespie loses this election.

That Contemptible Oath

On Friday, April 28th, the Democratic Parties of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held a firehouse primary to determine the Democratic nominee for the 26th district House of Delegates seat.  The two choices were Cathy Copeland and Brent Finnegan.  Although I met first Ms. Copeland at her announcement, I’ve known Brent many years.  Facebook tells me we’ve been friends since 2010.

Unlike a traditional primary, a firehouse primary has fewer polling locations (there were two, one in Harrisonburg and one in Rockingham County).  In addition, the process is run by the party and not the state.  However, unlike a convention or some caucuses, the primary is held in public facilities and is open to the general public, not simply party members.

When I first learned about this contest, I was interested in learning more about both of the candidates and their positions.  After all, I would want the candidate I agreed with most to win this primary, in the same way, I would want the candidate who most was in line with my positions to win the general election.  However, when I discovered that the Democratic Party would require each voter in the primary to sign a loyalty oath, I lost interest in the process.  I was told that each participant in the 26th district Democratic primary would be required to sign an oath to agree to support whoever won the primary regardless of who he or she was or what he or she may stand for.

It reminded me a bit of the 2014 Republican Party of Virginia Convention.  As someone who attended the previous three conventions, I looked forward to the one taking place that year.  Although I had been expelled from the party months before I was told I could still participate.  However, I was dismayed to discover that each attendee was required to sign a loyalty oath to support all of the Republican candidates in the following general election.  As I was running for local office, I could not honorably sign a document pledging support to my Republican opponents.

Although I didn’t vote, I stood outside of the polling place for several hours on Friday in order to collect signatures for Cliff Hyra, a fellow seeking the Libertarian nomination for governor.  I overheard Kai Degner, a former Democratic city council member, wondering if I would sign the pledge.  While there, I ran into my first college professor.  She taught Intro to International Relations at JMU which I took while a student in high school.  However, she came back out of the building after waiting in line for some time stating that she didn’t cast a ballot as she refused to sign a document automatically pledging her support to whomever won the primary.  I spoke to one candidate, Mr. Finnegan, about the matter, and he said he wished that instead voters were asked to state their support the principles of the Democratic Party rather than their wholesale support of their candidate.

For a party who prides itself for sticking up for the rights of the poor, marginalized, and those discriminated against, the idea of a loyalty oath ought to be repugnant to both rank and file Democrats and independents.  In addition, the thing is completely and legally unenforceable so what purpose does it serve other than trying to guilt trip voters into supporting candidates they might not otherwise vote for simply because they wish to express their opinions?  Should such a thing even be legal given that the primary was held in a public place, inside Harrisonburg’s City Hall?  I wonder how many people who planned to vote in Friday’s contest, like my former professor, were turned away for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the Democratic Party and her candidates? My advice to the local Democrats is, don’t hold your party nomination contest in a public place and invite the public to attend if you are planning to make voters sign a pledge to support you in the process.  Not only is it bad public relations, it is also an insult to the principles of political freedom.

Lastly, congrats to Brent Finnegan for winning the primary.  Unless another candidate enters the race, the choices for the voters of the 26th district in November are Brent Finnegan (D) and Tony Wilt (R).  It should be interesting to see how they compare.

Rasoul at Rocktown

Last night, Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) spoke at the April gathering of the Rocktown Libertarians in Harrisonburg.  He has represented the 11th district in the House of Delegates since winning a special election in January of 2014.  Mr. Rasoul is the second member of the House of Delegates to visit with the group this year as Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) attended the previous month.

Although the attendance last night was higher than meeting in the early party of 2017, it was a little lower than the previous month.  Several folks who had RSVPed didn’t end up making it.  In terms of partisanship, the group was fairly diverse.  Not only were there Libertarians at the table but there was also a contingent of Republicans and a Democrat or two.

After speaking about a number of issues of importance to him, Delegate Rasoul fielded a bunch of questions from the audience.  During this time he mentioned that sometimes he works with Republican legislators, such as Delegate Ben Cline, on issues related to protecting liberty in the Commonwealth.  The audience asked him about a variety of topics including criminal justice reform, political freedom and ballot access, drug policy, hemp, and, given that he is the only Muslim legislator in the General Assembly, about his faith and Sharia Law.  One particularly interesting tidbit was unlike most legislators, Delegate Rasoul was sworn in with his hand on a copy of both the Virginia and the United States Constitution.  As he explained, those were the documents he pledged to uphold.

Although I’ve written some critical pieces about Delegate Sam Rasoul before he was elected, since that time I have appreciated a number of the bills he has sponsored and votes he has taken in the last several sessions of the General Assembly.  Do we agree on everything?  Of course not.  And were there areas of disagreement with him in the audience last night?  Absolutely…but there were also differences of opinions between the regular attendees too.

Some people may be more liberal while others are more conservative, but it is my hope that through dialogue, including with those in other political parties, we can begin to counteract some of this nasty partisan fighting that was especially prevalent during the 2016 elections and find areas where we can work together to promote the cause of liberty.  As Delegate Rasoul indicated, he shared this desire.

Let me close by saying many thanks to Delegate Sam Rasoul for coming to Harrisonburg to speak to the Rocktown Libertarians last night.  Next month, Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) will be in attendance.