On Thursday, four Senate candidates gathered in Verona to participate in the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party’s debate. These participants include three Republicans, Tim Donner, E. W. Jackson, and David McCormick and one Independent candidate, Kevin Chisholm. There were also three vacant chairs on the stage set aside for George Allen and Tim Kaine who both declined the invitation as well as one of Jamie Radtke who withdrew less than a week prior to the event.
The debate itself included a wide variety of issues: the size of the federal government, national debt, the 10th amendment and federalism, property rights, among others. It was gratifying, not only to be selected by the Tea Party to craft some of the debate questions, but also to hear the candidates discuss ideas that I think are important. However, I would have liked to have the four gentlemen share their thoughts on foreign policy. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time to cover everything. Hopefully, the next debate will delve into this topic and more.
Here are a few impressions of the candidates. In the early portion of the debate, Kevin Chisholm spoke favorably of Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations, and the United Nations. Presumably these viewpoints would not find much traction among the tea party faithful. In addition, he was either unfamiliar with or offered no strong opinions regarding the Patriot Act, Agenda 21, and Kelo vs. City of New London. Although no candidate can claim to know everything, this lack of knowledge could weaken his chances.
From earlier reports, I expected a great debate from both E. W. Jackson and Tim Donner. They both have a reputation as forceful speakers and I think that this debate reinforced this idea. Bishop Jackson seemed to win over the crowd as he garnered the most applause of any of the candidates. Given his statements, I have mixed feelings about him. He advocates removing U.S. involvement in the U.N. and supports state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws, which shows his commitment to federalism. Conversely his almost unconditional support for Israel may needlessly embroil the nation into another unnecessary war. Also, if I understood him correctly, although he opposes the invasive TSA searches, planning to vote to extend the Patriot Act creates worrisome questions regarding his support of civil liberties.
Switching to Tim Donner, his most memorable line came when he compared the government in Washington D.C. to our pre-Revolutionary oppression with Great Britain. Although he held his ground well, he didn’t offer much in the way of any other bold comments and thus lost a bit of ground to the other candidates.
Flanked by both Jackson and Donner, David McCormick remained in the background for most of the debate. His soft-spoken style seemed more akin to a storyteller than a debater. Nevertheless, as the debate continued, I began to pay more attention to Mr. McCormick once he stated that he would not vote to renew the Patriot Act as well as the idea that the federal government ought to have no role in our health care. He came alive toward the end of the event, but time expired before he could make serious inroads with the crowd.
There was also a straw poll at the debate. Yesterday, I thought I heard unofficially that E. W. Jackson emerged the victor with around 45% of the vote. A few moments ago, I received the official results and they are as follows:
George Allen 1%
Jamie Radtke 1%
Kevin Chisholm 1%
David McCormick 8%
Tim Donner 20%
E. W. Jackson 65%
Congratulations to Mr. Jackson for his convincing victory in the debate. I once again encourage you to learn more about Mr. Jackson and the rest of the field, but in recognition of this feat, I’ll include a link to his website here.
I appreciate that these four candidates faced the voters to answer some very difficult questions. Although the frontrunners were absent, one cannot win the hearts and minds of voters with mere mailings and T.V. ads. Clearly advocating shared principles through personal contact is a key to representative government.
Overall, although attendance was less than I had hoped, I rate the event as a success. Thanks to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party for this event. Hopefully all of the candidates will take the time to participate in the next debate.