Sparks Fly At Debate!

On Tuesday night, like many Americans, I intently watched a hotly contested political debate.  However, unlike most of the folks, the debate I sat in the audience of didn’t feature presidential hopefuls, but rather the three candidates for Sheriff of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County.  As opposed to the Tea Party forum that was held previously, this event last night was a full-fledged, no holds barred debate.  And let me tell you that the attacks came fast and furious as the night went on.

I’ll start by mentioning the particulars of the debate that I thought went well.

First, the fact that all three candidates showed up was important.  This point might seem like a minor issue, but a debate is a time-honored tradition in American politics that should not be ignored (cough hint to George Allen cough). I congratulate C. M. Hess, Bryan Hutcheson, and Kevin Shifflett for having the courage to stand before the voters (or employers as Mr. Shifflett prefers to call them) and articulate their reasoning for seeking the office of sheriff.

Second, I thought the debate was well run.  Although the periodic announcement of time remaining was a distraction, the time keeping was handled fairly, giving each candidate equal time.  I appreciated that hosts allowed for considerable audience participation (although I’ll delve into a specific negative on this issue shortly.)

Third, in general the audience and candidates were respectful of each other.  There were no wild outbursts or interruptions and although there were differences in levels of applause, clapping greeted each answer.

However, the greatest negative, in my mind, had to revolve around the audience questions.

First, was there any oversight or prescreening on these questions?  Some folks tended to ramble, veer off topic, or jam several questions into one.

Second, it seemed to me that some members of the audience sought to politically assassinate candidates.  Now I understand that most of the people asking questions did so in order to promote the candidate of their choice or to point out the weaknesses of the other candidates, but some of the attacks seemed to me to be over the top, especially the ones directed against Mr. Hess.

As a result of recent news, most citizens are aware of the drinking and driving incident that took place last year involving our current sheriff, Don Farley.  Do I believe that the public needs to be better informed about this issue?  Yes.  If there is proof of misconduct should Sheriff Farley be held accountable?  Of course.  Does the entire Sheriff’s office bear some responsibility for this affair?  Sure.  Well, should we bludgeon Mr. Hess repeatedly over the head with this issue and treat him as if he were drinking and driving himself?  I don’t think so.

I’d compare the event to a three-way boxing match.  Imagine if you will, during the fight several spectators jumping into the ring to pummel one or more of the athletes.  Would you consider such a move fair?  Now, if one of the candidates wished to spend his time tearing into another candidate that is one thing.  I just found the repeated attacks from the audience against all the candidates, but especially against Mr. Hess given their ferocity, quite distasteful.

I think there is something to like in all three of the choices, but each of the candidates seems to have a particular strength.  C.M. Hess gets a leg up with on the issue of experience given his lengthy service with the department.  Although none have run for office prior, Bryan Hutcheson seems to be the most articulate, which can create confidence and clarity among the force and the citizenry.  Given his role in the discipline of the armed forces, one can argue that Kevin Shifflett stands a better chance to reform some of the negative aspects of the office.

If you are wondering who I thought won this debate, given all aspects, I believe that Mr. Hutcheson emerged the winner (or the least unscathed depending on your perspective).  One of his strongest moments emerged when both Mr. Hess and Mr. Shifflett independently stated that he would be supporting Mr. Hutcheson assuming he were not a candidate himself.

Will this trend continue in future debates?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I encourage you to visit the websites of Hess, Hutcheson, and Shifflett as well as their Facebook pages.  The citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County deserve a great sheriff.  Let’s make sure we pick the best one.

Time for a Political Survey

I don’t know about you, but I usually enjoy participating in polls, surveys, and the like.  Well, last week, I received an email from a graduate student asking for participants in her social psychology project.  Here is the bulk of the message:

My name is Maggie Campbell, and I am a social psychology graduate student at Clark University, working under the direction of Professor Johanna Vollhardt.  I would like to invite you to take part in a survey concerning your beliefs about good and evil.  You will also be asked about your worldviews and your opinions on social issues.  It will take roughly 20 minutes to complete this survey and you will be entered into a raffle for am Amazon.com gift card.  We are giving away (2) $50 gift cards and (2) $25 gift cards. The deadline for participating in this study is October 25th.

This survey is anonymous and none of your answers can be traced back to you.  Please do not put any additional identifying information on your survey.  Please only take part in this survey if you are 18 years of age or older.  Your participation is completely voluntary and you are free to leave any questions unanswered. You may drop out of the survey at any time.  At the completion of the survey, you will be directed to another webpage where you will be asked to enter your email address in order to be entered into a raffle for an Amazon.com gift card.  Your answers on the survey cannot be traced back to the email address you supply.  Please feel free to email the researchers (MaCampbell@clarku.edu or JVollhardt@clarku.edu) with any questions, concerns, or if you are interested in receiving information about the results.

To access the survey, please use the following link: http://ww3.unipark.de/uc/good_and_evil

Now, I’ve already been to the site and run through the survey myself to make certain it is on the level.  After all, I would never recommend that anyone should go to a website which masquerades as something that it is not.

I’m pleased to say that I found the survey to be worthwhile.  It explores a variety of topics such as politics, ethics, and various moral questions.  If you have a bit of time to spare, I encourage you to follow the above link and help out Ms. Campbell’s research.  You might even learn something about yourself.

Assuming I get permission from the creators, I’d like to share their results on this blog once they are concluded.  After all, due to the demands of society, so many people wear a facade of some form or another.  So, what do we truly think about the burning questions of the day when we can answer anonymously and without repercussion?  I’m looking forward to finding out!

So head on over and fill out the survey.

Anointed Politicians?

VC Note:  This article is the latest opinion piece from Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for Virginia’s sixth district House of Representatives seat.  As I look forward to the event on October 20th, like Kwiatkowski, I am profoundly disappointed by this trend of incumbents and frontrunners in Virginia to avoid debating.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots are sponsoring a U.S. Senate Candidate’s Debate on Thursday, October 20th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.  This debate will be attended by four of the eight U.S. Senate candidates seeking to represent Virginia in 2013.  Three Republicans and an Independent candidate have enthusiastically agreed to participate.

The format includes a set of questions prepared in advance for all candidates, and will be moderated by WMRA’s Tom Graham, host of the news program “Virginia Insight.”

This debate is a public opportunity for the people of the 6th District to get to see the candidates in action.  It’s an opportunity to become better informed as to what these candidates offer, how committed they are to truly representing the interests of the voters, and how courageous they are.  Can they stand up for what they believe?  Are they proud of their record as politicians, as businesspeople, and as Virginians?   Do they know what they are talking about?

The debate will include Independent candidate Kevin Chisholm, and Republicans Tim Donner, E.W. Jackson, and Jamie Radtke.

It appears the anointed ones in both of the major parties – George Allen and Tim Kaine — will be missing in action.   It is unfortunate but understandable that the Democrats will not be present on October 20th.   But the George Allen’s refusal to face his conservative opponents is less so.

Perhaps Allen takes conservative support for granted.  Perhaps he is afraid of his articulate and impassioned Republican competitors.  Perhaps he is arrogant.   Perhaps he believes that he doesn’t need the voters in the Central Shenandoah Valley to win the nomination.  Perhaps his advisors have told him to ignore the conservatives and maybe they will fall in line.

I know how difficult it can be to get an honest answer or a commitment out of an incumbent candidate.  There seems to be a very real, and very ugly, sense of entitlement among those who hold or have held public office.  As the constitutional conservative challenger to the 6th District’s ten-term incumbent Bob Goodlatte, I’ve formally invited the incumbent to a series of debates, including one sponsored by the JMU Debate Society on March 13, 2012.  Even though I have repeatedly contacted his office and spoken to his staff, I have received not even a form letter or email in response.

It is no coincidence that nine months before the Virginia GOP Primary, the self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Republican George Allen promotes his candidacy using a shared bumper sticker with similar self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Representative Bob Goodlatte.  The presumption of these statist Republicans in this day and age of real constitutional crisis in this country is simply astounding.

While Allen hasn’t had a chance to spend and borrow as a Senator recently, Goodlatte has apparently never met a budget he couldn’t support, as long as he could earn an atta-boy from the Republican House leadership, or a tradeoff for one of his pet projects.  For his current crusade for a Balanced Budget Amendment, all he had to do was not propose savings, or make hard decisions, but simply vote with Boehner and Cantor for over $2 trillion in additional federal borrowing in July 2011.   When you consider this record, and Goodlatte’s repeated votes to fund Obamacare and Obama’s unconstitutional war in Libya, maybe it’s clear why he wouldn’t want to debate a constitutional conservative on the hard facts.

The larger problem here isn’t that Bob Goodlatte presumes his right to avoid any debate with, or even acknowledgement of, a farmer and military veteran from Shenandoah County who has never before run for public office.  It isn’t that George Allen can’t spend an hour or two in Verona on October 20th to talk about issues with his conservative competition for the Senate.

Here’s the problem.  These big-government Republicans exhibit an attitude of entitlement to public office.  Allen and Goodlatte behave as if they have been somehow anointed to represent us, in an era where only 6% of Americans, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, believe candidates keep their promises once elected, and in an era when the U.S. Congress is held in wide contempt by the rest of the country.   I believe we’re smarter than that.  I know we deserve better than that.

Kortney Blythe Gordan: In Memory

1983-2011 (Image from SFLA)

A few moments ago, I received word that Kortney Blythe Gordan has died as a result of injuries sustained as a result of a car accident.  Now who was Kortney Gordan?  Well, I ‘m sure she was many things to many people, but to me, she was a pro-life activist.  Since June of 2010, she held the position as the field director for the organization for Students for Life of America.  If you would like more detailed biographical data, you can find on the SFLA website.

To give you a bit of background information, from January to March of 2007, I served as a field agent for Students for Life in the state of Tennessee.  As you can tell, my brief time with that organization took place before Kortney’s involvement.  Fast-forwarding, in the latter half of 2010, Kortney and I shared a few emails and maybe a phone call or two as SFLA prepared for their now annual conference in Knoxville, TN.  As I was in the area already, visiting family outside of Knoxville, I ended up stopping by the conference to say hello.

As you can tell, I wouldn’t really say that I knew Kortney very well, for all we had were those brief encounters.  Nevertheless, it does sadden me to see a fellow pro-life activist fall in the line of duty.  Adding to the tragedy, Kortney’s unborn child also perished in this accident.  Furthermore, Jon Scharfenberger, another SFLA employee and passenger in the car, survived but is in critical condition.

Tonight all I ask of you is to pray for the friends and family of Kortney Blythe Gordan as well as for Jon.  Let us hope that those who care for Kortney receive comfort for their sorrow in these dark hours.  Let us pray that Jon recovers from his wounds.

Radtke In Mt. Jackson

Yesterday morning, dozens of activists gathered for a meeting of the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives at the Denny’s in Mount Jackson.  Although the group seemed to focus on a lot of issues of importance to Shenandoah County, there were several people who made the journey even though they lived outside the county.  The event hosted hopefuls for a variety of countywide offices including sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, and soil and water conservation director.  Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke was the featured speaker of the day.

This opportunity was the first chance I’ve had to listen to Mrs. Radtke in person.  She covered a considerable range of topics.  Although I recorded a portion of her speech, I did not capture it in its entirety.  Fortunately, fellow blogger and soil & water conservation director candidate, Craig Orndorff (On the Western Banks of the Shenandoah & Shenandoah Sunshine Project) was gracious enough to provide me with the full video.  I hope you get a chance to watch for yourself so that you can get a fairly comprehensive understanding of one of our choices for Senate.

Radtke Triumphant!

Starting on Sunday and running through Wednesday evening, Bearing Drift held a straw poll regarding the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  Impressively, over one thousand people voted over this several day timeframe.

Here is a visual representation of the results, thanks to the folks at Bearing Drift:

The positions of the top three candidates are of particular interest.  As you can see, Jamie Radtke handily won this poll with 45% of the vote.  George Allen, the current frontrunner according to most polls, finished tied with Tim Donner for second place with 24%.   Therefore, while this poll should serve as a boost to both the Radtke and Donner campaigns, it should be seen as a warning for the Allen folks.  As for the Jackson and McCormick campaigns, these results might be troubling as well especially given that “Other/Democratic” more than tripled McCormick’s total.

Now, some people will quickly dismiss the results of this poll.  After all, it was only available online, anyone could vote, and likely only those with a high degree of interest participated.  Furthermore, the author of the poll, Shaun Kenney, writes that it is “wholly unscientific and non-reliable”.  However, it should also be pointed out that the poll was on Bearing Drift, the most (or second most depending on who is doing the tabulating) well-known and well-read blog in the conservative blogosphere in Virginia.

Here’s another interesting fact to consider; George Allen is easily winning the endorsement race.  Why, just about every elected Republican officeholder in the Shenandoah Valley has thrown his or her support behind our former Senator and Governor.  However, does this poll reflect a general weakness of confidence among the grassroots base?  I know that Bearing Drift has contributors and readers who are vocal in their support of Allen.  But, if he is unable to translate this support into less than one of every four votes in this online poll, could that news spell trouble for Allen’s chances in either the primary or general election?  Are most of Allen’s supporters the silent majority?  Do they not read blogs like Bearing Drift?  Or did they simply choose not to participate?   Under any circumstance, you do have to wonder if a sizable chunk of the online political movers and shakers are either lukewarm to his candidacy or have found a better champion.

The next test in the race for U.S. Senate comes in exactly two weeks when the candidates gather to debate in the town of Verona in the Shenandoah Valley.  Will Jamie Radtke win this contest as well?  Will Tim Donner continue to gain ground among activists?  Will George Allen remind us of his successes as Senator and Governor and regain the momentum?  Or will one of the other candidates capture the hearts and minds of the average citizen?  I encourage all of you to find out in person as the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party plays host to the candidates. The debate begins at 6:30 PM on October 20th at the Augusta Government Center.  See you there!

Paul Wins Poll!

If you will recall, on September 9th, I conducted a straw poll on Facebook to gauge the support of the Republican candidates for President.  Voters had a selection of the nine most popular choices as well as an option to pick “someone else/none of the above”.  All in all, 146 people voted.

Well, now that three weeks have passed, I figure that I should announce the results.  Given that you’ve already read the headline, it should come as no shock that Representative Ron Paul won.  Here is the specific breakdown by vote total:

Ron Paul – 52 votes

Rick Perry – 34 Votes

Gary Johnson – 21 Votes

Herman Cain – 10 Votes

Michelle Bachmann – 8 Votes

Someone Else/None of the Above – 8 Votes

Mitt Romney – 6 Votes

Jon Huntsman – 3 Votes

Rick Santorum – 3 Votes

Newt Gingrich – 1 Vote

Given Ron Paul’s popularity around the internet, he routinely does well in online polling.  I was not at all surprised by his victory.  However, I should mention that in the early hours and days of the poll, Gary Johnson held the lead.  I guess that as more and more Paul supporters discovered the poll, Paul quickly came to dominate the field.

One other interesting point is Mitt Romney’s low numbers.  Given his supposed media status as currently one of the top two contenders, I would have expected him to do better.

Here are a few other statistics of note:

Of the 146 voters, I am Facebook friends with only 28 of them.  I’m glad to see that the poll included more than my own personal political circle.  Then again, far more than half of my Facebook friends are politically active.  It is a bit disappointing to find that so few of them voted.

Speaking of people that I know, if we only include my Facebook friends in the totals, we end up with a different set of results.  In that scenario, Gary Johnson takes the top billing with 8 votes, followed by Rick Perry with 7, and Ron Paul settles to third with 5.  But what reasoning explains this change?  Well, looking through the specific votes, this shift likely comes from my associations with libertarians who hold the former Governor of New Mexico in very high regard.  Although many libertarians do prefer Paul, rhetoric around Facebook indicates that a majority of “hard core” libertarians place themselves in the Johnson camp.

Although not concerning the race for President, I should mention that Bearing Drift just put up a new poll for Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.  Stop by their website and cast your vote!  I already did.

Well, thanks to everyone who took a few seconds out of his or her day to vote on my poll.  Keep your eyes open, for there will be more of them coming in the future.