The $55,000 Question

Several months ago, I began to think of ways in which I could improve the political climate here in the Shenandoah Valley.  When I came up with the answer, it seemed so obvious.  Why not bring Representative Ron Paul to the area?  After all, there are a growing number of folks in the area, especially younger voters, like the students of James Madison University, that hold Dr. Paul in high regard.  In addition, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t been here in recent times; he didn’t have a campaign stop here during his presidential run in either 2007/08 or 2011/12.

PaulSo, with these thoughts in mind, I contacted Representative Paul’s office in order to arrange for him to speak in Harrisonburg.  Working in tandem with Madison Liberty, a JMU student group devoted to the principles of individual freedom and limited government, the idea of bringing Ron Paul to the Valley was transforming from a dream into a reality.  It was an exciting prospect!

And then came additional bits of favorable news.  The students of Madison Liberty secured a good location at JMU for Dr. Paul.  Plus, I was told that Ron Paul himself was interested in coming here.  I could get the necessary paperwork within days.  Only one hurdle remained.  Securing the funding for the event.

Now, I had expected that it would cost a good bit of money for Ron Paul to come to Harrisonburg.  One had to consider issues of transportation, lodging, and whatever he sought in the way of a speaker’s fee.  Nevertheless, I was stunned by the amount quoted to me.

As indicated by the title of this piece, I would need $55,000 for this event.  Yes, you read that figure correctly.  If he can make this kind of fee, then I suppose I can’t speak ill of it.  After all, free market principles dictate that he should charge whatever he is able to get.  Unfortunately, in the process, this kind of money will exclude many, myself included.  Part of me wishes that I could simply cut a check myself to cover the costs, but, like a vast majority of Americans, I don’t have $55,000 lying around.

Yes, perhaps my idea of bringing Dr. Paul to Harrisonburg might never amount to anything; a dream deterred.  Nevertheless, hope remains.

In closing, should any wealthy conservative and/or libertarian read this post and care to generously contribute to this project, please let me know.  Dr. Paul is and continues to be a hero to many of us in the liberty movement, myself included.  Is it too much to ask to share him with the fine folks of the Shenandoah Valley?  I suppose that’s the $55,000 question.

Lunch With Salahi

Picture from Tareq Salahi’s Facebook Page

Guest article by Steven Latimer

On December 19th, I had the opportunity to meet Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tareq Salahi over lunch in downtown Charlottesville.  Salahi is a winery owner and businessman best known for crashing a White House state dinner in November 2009 while his (now former) wife Michaele was on the cast of Real Housewives of D.C.

Having lunch with Tareq and having the chance to quiz a Republican candidate for governor was truly a coincidence and chance meeting: I was casually strolling up and down the Downtown Mall, since I had about an hour to kill before my shift at work was to begin.  I ran into Joe Oddo, who I have known for a few years, and who is chairman of the Independent Green party in Virginia.  (“More trains, less traffic”)  Joe asked me if I’m interested in meeting Tareq Salahi, who was in Charlottesville for the day to be interviewed by the media, and conduct his “listening tour,” and I expressed my interest.

After shaking Tareq’s hand, he asked me what’s on my mind and what my concerns are, and I told him I want the federal government to get off our backs, and we want to pursue our own industry here in Virginia.  Salahi said that he agrees, and said something almost identical earlier in the day, on a morning radio show.

I learned that as part of his listening tour Salahi plans to travel to every place in the commonwealth.  Salahi lives in Warren County, and owns vineyards in Fauquier County.  He adds that we’ve got it made in Virginia because we have beaches, ski resorts, and great wine.

I asked Tareq if he is a self-made man.  He said yes, that every business he has owned he built from the ground up, and that he and his father planted some vines that were previously new to Virginia.  When I asked if “you built it,” a sly reference to what President Obama said in Roanoke, Salahi said yes, he built his business.

Tareq Salahi spoke favorably of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (who suspended his own campaign for governor last month), and does not particularly care for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Salahi was very critical of the Republican Party of Virginia’s decision to hold a convention rather than a primary because it moves up the deadline for candidates to file to seek the Republican nomination from March or April to January, perhaps reducing the candidate pool.  Salahi feels this is hypocritical, since Cuccinelli supported Virginia law earlier this year when only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified to be on the Virginia presidential primary ballot.

Cuccinelli has sued Salahi for violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, concerning wine tours that were allegedly paid for, but never given, or for which no refund was given.  Salahi accuses the attorney general of “grandstanding,” adding that Cuccinelli views this as another opportunity to get in front of the camera and be seen doing something.

I asked Tareq Salahi if he likes Chris Christie.  After pausing for a few seconds, Salahi told me he likes Governor Christie, the things that he is doing in New Jersey, and that Christie was able to work together with Barack Obama following Hurricane Sandy to help out the people of New Jersey.

I asked Tareq what concerns he has heard from Democrats and independents as he travels Virginia.  And Salahi said that jobs and the economy is the number one issue for Democrats, but women’s issues are a close second.  Salahi said that the ultrasound bill from last year’s General Assembly session could have been handled better, and while he despises abortion, Salahi struck a tone that is somewhere in between pro-life and pro-choice.  I offered to compromise that good people can disagree, but we should agree that government should not be in the business of funding abortion, and Salahi said that is a reasonable compromise.

I am very happy that Salahi expressed his support for industrial hemp.  He does not see a reason why hemp should be illegal.

Unfortunately, Salahi wants to use Virginia government to promote Virginia wines – he says that tax dollars from wines sold help fund the General Assembly, and that tax revenues can go to fund mental health, to prevent atrocities from happening to Virginians, such as the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  I asked Salahi if he feels government promotion of products should be limited to wines.  Should the state government also promote Virginia peanuts?  Tareq Salahi says “absolutely”, because it brings in more revenue for the commonwealth.  I disagree with Salahi.  Helping the private sector do their marketing is not a core function of government, and if Virginia wines and peanuts really are superior, they can stand on their own strengths, without assistance from Richmond.

Tareq Salahi hopes to be in a town near you.

About the Author: Steven C. Latimer is a lifelong Virginian, holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Virginia Commonwealth University, and is the Vice-Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.  He lives and works in Charlottesville. 

The (More Important Than It Should Be) LG Race

Good afternoon, readers.

Glad to be with you once again.  First, let me apologize for the two-week hiatus in posts.  If you are wondering why the lengthy break took place, every time that I would come up with a topic that I wanted to write about, my mind would keep drifting to thoughts of a rather remarkable woman.  But the Virginia Conservative must go on and go on it will!

Now that Virginia Republicans have come to terms with the disappointing results of 2012, they are turning their attention to the 2013 contests.  After all, every year is an election year here in Virginia.  Next November, Virginians will vote for a new governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.  In addition, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be up for grabs.

Normally, the race for lieutenant governor is a rather low-key affair.  In most circumstances, the lieutenant governor has about as much relative clout and power as the vice president of the United States.  He or she presides over the Virginia Senate, only casts a vote to break a tie in legislative matters, and assumes the role of governor if the sitting governor resigns or is incapacitated.  Typically, the office is also a placeholder for a person who will seek the role of governor in the next election.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling also was given the role of Chief Jobs Creation Officer from Governor McDonnell, a rather curious title.  After all, don’t conservatives believe that it is not the role of government to create jobs, but rather to create the most business friendly environment possible where taxes are kept low and bureaucratic red tape is minimized?  But we can delve into that topic on another post.

However, after the 2011 election, the lieutenant governor gained an additional function.  When the dust settled in November of that year, the 40-member body of the Virginia Senate was split evenly between members of the Republican and Democratic Parties.  In that rare circumstance, many people assumed, given that neither party held a majority in the body, a power sharing agreement would be the outcome.  However, as the lieutenant governor was a Republican, the GOP declared that they controlled the Virginia Senate and thus no power sharing agreement was reached.

Although the move to claim victory in the Virginia Senate may have been politically smart for the Republican Party at the time, I personally opposed the plan.  In some ways, it felt as if it circumvented the will of the people.  After all, the voters elected an equally divided Senate and ought to have a Senate that reflected this result.  However, this action gave the lieutenant governor considerably more power.  As a result, I knew that it would put a greater emphasis on a race that is typically considered second tier.  After all, even though we will not elect a single new senator on November 5th, 2013, control of that body will hinge upon the outcome of the lieutenant governor race.  If the Democrats win,  given what happened in 2011, I’m certain that they will ignore any pleas for a divided Virginia Senate.

Unlike the election for governor and attorney general, the Republican nomination for lt. governor is very much up in the air.  There are a whole host of candidates: former State Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, 2012 U.S. Senate candidate E.W. Jackson, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, State Senator Steve Martin, Chairman Corey Stewart of Prince William County, Chairwoman Susan Stimpson of Stafford County, and 2012 Virginia GOP Victory Chairman Pete Snyder.  Although many liberty-minded folks that I know are lining up behind Stimpson, I still need to learn more about the candidates and thus remain uncommitted at this time.  At this point, none can claim front-runner status and, if the field remains so large, the outcome of the 2013 GOP convention could very well yield surprising results.

On the Democratic side, we have Aneesh Chopra, the first person to hold the role of the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and State Senator Ralph Northam.

Will the Libertarian, Constitution, and/or Green Parties field a candidate to run for lieutenant governor as well?  And, if so, what sort of impact will he or she make in the race?

The bottom line is that due to outcome of 2011, the 2013 race for Virginia’s lieutenant governor is far more important than it has been in previous cycles.  Therefore, I encourage all of my fellow conservative activists to consider each of our choices carefully before selecting or dismissing a candidate prematurely.