New Challengers Emerge?

Delegate Todd Gilbert
Delegate Todd Gilbert

As hinted in my previous piece, Delegate Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County could also be facing a Republican primary challenger this election cycle.  The 15th district, which Mr. Gilbert has represented since 2006, includes Shenandoah and Page Counties as well as a portion of Warren and Rockingham Counties.  As reported in today’s issue of the Daily News Record, Mark Prince, a retired airline pilot from northern Shenandoah County may seek the nomination as well.  Should Mr. Prince choose to run, his central issues are, as of yet, unknown.

 

Last night at the meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, I had the opportunity to meet with Mark Berg, a 10th district representative on the Virginia Republican State Central Committee.  He announced that he is challenging Beverly Sherwood for the GOP nod in the 29th district.  The 29th district, which Ms. Sherwood has represented since 1994, includes the city of Winchester, Frederick County, and a portion of Warren County.  As Mr. Berg mentioned, Delegate Sherwood is among a number of Republicans who voted for the recent transportation tax hike, called the largest tax increase in Virginia history.

The Shenandoah Valley is quickly entering uncharted political territory, incumbent legislators facing intraparty challengers.  For the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved and active, most elected officials in this region have captured the Republican nomination without question, year after year for as long as they choose to remain in that office.  So is 2013 the dawn of a new era of political competition?  Will even more candidates emerge to challenge the status quo?  Or will this election serve as a mere hiccup in the normal routine?  Only time will tell.

The 25th District Delegate GOP Primary

Republican primaries are rare here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Yes, there are notable exceptions, most recently Karen Kwiatkowski’s run against Representative Bob Goodlatte in 2012, but, in general, they do not happen…except in the case of an open seat caused by a retiring incumbent.

Well, today’s news bucks that trend.

Delegate Steve Landes(From SteveLandes.com)
Delegate Steve Landes
(From SteveLandes.com)

 

 

According to an email from Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, he will be facing a challenger for the GOP nomination for the 25th district House of Delegates seat, a position Delegate Landes has held since 1995.  Today’s Landes campaign email begins “We have JUST gotten the news that Delegate Landes will be opposed for his seat in the Republican nomination…”  Unfortunately, the email makes no mention of the name of Landes’ opponent, but one would assume that this information will be made public soon.

With deadlines to run for the GOP nod fast approaching, one does have to wonder if more candidates will emerge to contest the valley delegation.  For example, given some of his more surprising votes in the 2013 General Assembly session, a handful of organizations and individuals have asked me over the last several weeks if I would be interested in challenging my delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26).  Although I have been disappointed by quite a few his actions lately, I declined this idea.

At this point it is difficult to say whether Landes will be the only delegate with a Republican challenger or is one of several.  Either way, the 2013 elections have just gotten a bit more interesting here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Three YRFV Candidates in Harrisonburg

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Adam Cassandra, Richard McCarty, and Phil Bell

Earlier today, three statewide candidates running for leadership positions in the Young Republican Federation of Virginia (YRFV) visited Harrisonburg.  Despite the falling snow, Phil Bell (who is running for chairman), Richard McCarty (who is running for first vice chairman), and Adam Cassandra (who is running for second vice chairman), all came from northern Virginia to speak to the Shenandoah Valley Young Republicans at the local O’Charley’s restaurant.  The YRs, as the name suggests, is a political organization made up of Republican 18-40 year olds across the commonwealth.

The meeting lasted for several hours as they spoke about their plans to improve the organization, calling for increased communication, not only between the state board and the various localities, but also promoting greater regional ties between the individual member groups.  In addition, they discussed the need to enhance dialogue with Republican candidates and campaigns so that the YRs can more effectively impact local, state, and national elections.  Perhaps the most critical matter was the dialogue of ways to improve YR membership numbers throughout Virginia, rewarding successful clubs, and bolstering weaker ones.  Although not as important an issue, the rather curious plan of holding the upcoming YRFV convention at a bar and grill in Arlington was also mentioned.

As a personal note, I appreciated the opportunity to talk candidly to these three men about politics and the future of the Republican movement here in Virginia.  Although I have known Richard since our days together in the William & Mary College Republicans, I must say that all three seem to be worthy, knowledgeable, and motivated candidates whose skills should enhance the YRFV.  Today, they proved that they care enough about the future of the Young Republicans to visit the various portions of the state, even in less than ideal weather.  Even though I hope to learn firsthand about the rest of the candidates running, I encourage all delegates to the YRFV Convention to be familiar with all of their choices and to give these three folks their due consideration before casting their ballots on April 20th.

Thank you for coming to Harrisonburg and best of luck to Mr. Bell, Mr. McCarty, and Mr. Cassandra.

Jackson on the Patriot Act

E.W. Jackson
E.W. Jackson

Lately, E. W. Jackson has been promoting a very pro-liberty message as he campaigns for lieutenant governor of Virginia.  Currently, on his website, he offers a rather inspiring video encouraging Virginians to “defy, not comply” with the unconstitutional overreaches of the federal government including agencies like the EPA and laws and regulations that rob us of our rights like the Patriot Act and NDAA.  These are all ideas which should make liberty-minded Virginians quite happy.

Although I certainly agree with many of the statements made in this recent video, I do have a few concerns.  As I wrote previously, back in late 2011 a variety of U.S. Senate candidates gathered in Verona to discuss a multitude of pressing issues.  I recall coming away from this forum a bit distressed regarding E. W. Jackson’s position on the Patriot Act as it seemed rather statist.  Later, I spoke with one of his campaign staffers, but that person assured me that I had misunderstood his opinion on this important matter.

Recently, however, I obtained a link to a video of that 2011 forum including Bishop Jackson’s own words on the Patriot Act.

In this clip, E. W. Jackson seems to suggest that we should be willing to jettison both our liberty and property in order to do all we can to preserve American lives.  However, to echo the words of former Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, we must ask, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”  Henry has the answer, “Forbid it, Almighty God!”

So this situation begs an important question.  Has E. W. Jackson had a political awakening, casting off his previous positions and embracing the ideals of liberty by completely rejecting measures like the Patriot Act?  Or, as he seems to say in 2011, does he believe that it is a quality program simply in need of a bit more oversight?  Although I’m greatly hoping that the first answer is the truth, I’ve seen too many politicians play the political shell game to rule out that latter possibility.  As constitutional conservatives and libertarians increase their clout within the Virginia Republican Party, it is becoming increasingly more important, but also more difficult, to differentiate the true believers and converts from the opportunists.

It is an important question that I hope will be resolved prior to the Virginia Republican Convention in May.

Let me close by offering thanks to Sandy Garst for the clip from the 2011 forum.

Update:  In response to this article, I have been sent the following statement from the Jackson campaign:  “Having served in the US Marine Corps, I will not apologize for being open to ways of protecting the American people from those who want to kill us. But we must do that without robbing Americans of our freedoms. NDAA and the Patriot Act both fail that test.”

Goodlatte’s Choice of Damnations

390px-Bob_Goodlatte_Official
Representative Bob Goodlatte

Today in the mail, I received a letter from the office of my member of the House of Representatives, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  At first, I must confess that I was a bit puzzled by it.  After all, I hadn’t contacted Representative Goodlatte in many months and thus wasn’t expecting any sort of correspondence.

Once opening it, I discovered the letter was in response to a query I sent him back in the first week of January, some two and a half months earlier.  It is a bit disappointing to see the response time of his office hasn’t really improved much.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that his office does answer, sooner or later, unlike Senator Mark Warner’s who has never replied to any inquiries.

Anyway, today’s message was in reference to the vote for the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  If you may recall, I, like my 6th district Republican committee, had urged Representative Goodlatte to vote against re-electing John Boehner for that position.  However, much to the disappointment of my conservative friends and associates in and around the Shenandoah Valley, Mr. Goodlatte cast his vote for Boehner anyway.

In his letter, Goodlatte writes “…I voted for Speaker Boehner and not Nancy Pelosi.  Those were the two choices.”  Was the election for speaker a choice of damnations?  Can we all agree that Boehner may be bad, but if we didn’t support him, we would have gotten Pelosi and that outcome would have been even worse?  To further bolster his position, Representative Goodlatte goes on to list several conservative members of the house who also voted to re-elect Boehner.

However, as I wrote in January, this line of reasoning presents a false dichotomy; a few members of the House of Representatives cast their votes for individuals other than either Boehner or Pelosi.  Now, this kind of move was not without risk.  Voting against the person who would become speaker, especially when he is a member of your own political party, can bring all sorts of trouble, such as the loss of a prized chairmanship or a position on a key committee.  It was a tough spot, no doubt.  Unfortunately, when presented with the choice of damnations of upsetting the leadership in Washington versus upsetting the entire 6th district Republican committee and scores of grassroots activists back home, Representative Goodlatte preferred the second option.

Given the vast multitude of political opinions, it is not realistic for an activist to agree with his or her elected officials all of the time.  On occasion, we must expect our leaders to stand their ground, even when it runs counter to our own principles.  However, even if it ends up making you pariah in either Washington D.C. or Richmond, I prefer it when legislators are more worried about the concerns of their constituents than pleasing the lobbyists or the politically powerful.  Maybe that idea is an old fashioned relic from earlier days in our republic.

Tea Party Releases Score Card

TPSCThe Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation released their first ever legislative score cards, ranking the members in the General Assembly based upon their votes in the 2013 legislative session.  As has been the case with special interest groups like the Family Foundation and the NRA, score cards are a useful tool to let voters know how their government officials vote on particular issues of importance.  This new  score card graded based upon 15 different pieces of legislation.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) and Delegate Peter Farrell (R-56) were the only two members in that 100 person body to post a perfect score.  Here in the Shenandoah Valley, most of the other legislators also received high marks with Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) at 95%, Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20) 95%, Delegate Ben Cline (R-24) 95%, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25) 90%.  My delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) scored the lowest of any of those in the region with 60%, though he did vote rather curiously in 2013, supporting the implementation of Obamacare in Virginia and the creation of a state-run EPA.  Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell (R-28) was awarded a rather dismal 35%.  You can download and view the entire House of Delegates score card with the link provided. Tea-Party-Patriots-house_scorecard_2013_v2

Moving over to the Virginia Senate, my state senator, Mark Obenshain (R-26), and Bill Stanley (R-20) were ranked the highest among the 40 with 70%.  Elsewhere in the Valley, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) got 45% and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) was awarded 5%.  By comparison, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3) finished with 30%.  The Senate score card is here. Tea-Party-Patriots-senate_scorecard_2013_v2

As the political landscape in Virginia continually evolves, the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation has been adapting to fit this changing environment.  This tea party score card is one of several new developments that the federation has in the works.  I encourage you to check these cards to see what you think.

Go Belmont!

Photo on 3-17-13 at 12.50 PMSince the beginning of this March, I have often been seen wearing a hat embroidered with the name of Belmont University.  Now, some who see me might think that this behavior is a bit odd.  After all, I graduated from the College of William & Mary and have never taken a class at Belmont.  So why then do I wear this hat?  To answer this question, requires returning to the winter of 2007.

Back in late 2006/early 2007, I began my employment with Students for Life of America (or SFLA).  Although the name might suggest that it is an organization devoted to perpetual studenthood, it is, in fact, a group promoting the pro-life cause on university campuses across the country.  In what I believe was their inaugural effort, they hired about eight or so activists to promote the cause and their group throughout the nation. Each of their field representatives was assigned a state or several states.  I had the states of Tennessee and Kentucky.  Curiously, although bordering or extremely close to my home of Virginia, I had, at that point, never set foot in either.  My farthest trip west in a car only had taken me to West Virginia.

My first assignment for Students for Life took me to Eastern Tennessee State University (or ETSU for short), in Johnson City.  Prior to arriving, I had spoken to a number of students there through a recently discovered website called Facebook and scheduled several meetings to discuss the creation of a pro-life group there.  However, things did not proceed according to plan.  None of the students ever ended up meeting with me.  Nor did they even respond to my messages once I arrived.  I spent several days wandering about the campus, looking for a familiar face, speaking to the administration, and trying to salvage the situation the best I could, but the trip proved to be a dismal failure.  As an additional penalty, given the pay structure of SFLA, I was paid nothing for this time and effort, a particularly disheartening double whammy.

As I returned one night to the local Presbyterian college ministry, which had graciously hosted me during my adventure at ETSU, I got a call from another student I had been in contact with, halfway across the state in a small school called Belmont University.  She requested that I meet with them the next morning.  Although the hour was pretty late, I had hoped to make yet another try the next day to prevent my time at ETSU from being an abject failure, and Belmont was a good four and a half hour drive away, I pledged to attend this early morning gathering.

The next morning, while the sky was still pitch black and my head was a bit groggy due to lack of sleep, I packed up my car and headed to Nashville.  When I arrived, I found a situation far more favorable than ETSU.  Led by a motivated and strong-willed young woman with a Tennessee accent named Susan, I realized that perhaps I could make a positive impact at Belmont, that there were students here that were as passionate about the pro-life movement as I.  It was exciting!  And I’m pleased to say that Belmont did not disappoint. 100_0068

As you would imagine, I visited many other colleges and universities in Tennessee and Kentucky during my employment with SFLA (some successful, some not so much).   I met a lot of fantastic people, including a whole bunch of great students across the two states and Fletcher Armstrong of the Center for Bioethical Reform.  However, due to fantastic efforts put forth by the students at Belmont (and their relatively centralized location), I made Nashville my home base.  Even when not working, I spent a good chunk of my free time in the area, going to watch many of the Belmont Men’s Basketball games.  I bought a dark blue hat so that I could show my support for the school at these events.  And, you know what?  They had a pretty good team, one that earned a spot in the 2007 NCAA tournament, a feat that they accomplished for only the second time (up to that point) in the school’s history.

Although my prearranged contract with SFLA expired in the spring of 2007, the many good memories I had, especially of Belmont (given that it was my first successful venture in this job), remained.  Therefore, as a result, every March, in tribute to Susan, Belmont Students for Life and their great university, I dig my Belmont hat out of the trunk of my car and wear it while the team remains in the NCAA playoffs (or for a couple of weeks in the years that they do not make the playoffs).  Unfortunately, the school has never won a game in the tournament, but I am hopeful that this year will be their first.

As so, as March Madness and the 2013 NCAA tournament gets under way, I am proud to don my hat once more.  They might not be my alma mater, but Belmont University will always hold a special place in my heart.

Update:  I decided to wash my Belmont hat in order to get it a bit cleaner.  Unfortunately, it has become too tight to wear now.  However, a fresh one is on order from their bookstore.  Let’s hope it arrives in time for the game on Thursday!

Go Belmont!

Addressing The Council

Harrisonburg City CouncilLast night, the Harrisonburg City Council assembled for their bi-monthly meeting.  Although I had attended several of their gatherings over the last few months, tonight I went for a specific purpose; I planned to speak with the council regarding pedestrian safety in the city.

When the mayor motioned for me to approach the podium, my heart became a jackhammer in my chest.  For those who know me, this reaction might seem rather strange.  After all, I love speaking about politics with anyone and everyone who cares to listen (as well as many people who don’t).  However, this experience brought back a rather harsh memory, a reminder of the last time that I spoke before the council.

If we rewind the clock, 2006 marked both the first and only time that I stood before the Harrisonburg City Council.  Back then, the council held a public forum regarding selling the Harrisonburg High School building to James Madison University.  As it turned out, the hearing was little more than a formality.  Looking back, it seemed that the deal was more or less made and whatever the public opinion happened to be, it mattered little to the members of council.  As I recall, they weren’t a particularly receptive or sympathetic group and offering my opinion to them was a waste of time.

However unreceptive that council happened to be, the Harrisonburg School Board was far worse.  Arguing that the city schools shouldn’t forgo any usable classroom space, I informed the board about my experiences in 8th grade at Thomas Harrison Middle School; where I spent a good chunk of my days in one of those trailer units and how, when we got a heavy rain, I had to place a trashcan on my desk to collect the rainwater which dripped through the leaky roof.  Once I relayed my thoughts, I left the meeting.  I was told that after I did so, one of members of the school board stated that I was a liar.  As you might imagine, news of this allegation made me so incensed that I located my 8th grade homeroom teacher, a woman that I had not seen in many years, to see if she would either deny or confirm what I had said.  Yes, she told me that my memory was correct.  Another bitter pill to swallow was the fact that most of the councilmen and school board members, including the one who claimed I was deceptive, were fellow Republicans!

So, getting back to last night, with all of these thoughts in my mind as I spoke before the council, I felt that my words were horribly nervous and disjointed and, although I had planned what I wanted to say beforehand, nothing came out right.  It was an important issue, but, at that moment, I thought I was a poor spokesman.  I tried to remedy the situation in my mind by reminding myself that all but one of these men were not the same as the ones from 2006, that I had spoken to each previously and, with the possible exception of Mr. Chenault, each knew me and presumably we had some measure of respect for each other.  In fact, in mid 2012, Mayor Byrd told me that he read this blog.  But the memories from over half a decade ago gone by proved to be too strong.  Hopefully, they will lessen in time, but I believe that I must force myself to go before the council again, (once I have something important to discuss) so that these newly rediscovered demons from the past can be put to rest.

My take-home message to you, the reader, is as follows.  No one should ever be afraid to talk with their elected representatives, be they local, state, or federal.  Don’t ever be tricked into thinking that you exist to serve the government; the government exists to serve you.  And so friends, I encourage you once again to study the important political issues of the day, speak out when the time calls for it, and never be cowed into silence, as I was for many years in local matters.

In liberty, now and always!

Amash’s Tweet of the Month

After Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster over the use of drones to kill American citizens, Senator John McCain responded by calling him and several other legislators “wacko birds“.  In answer, Representative Justin Amash offered an amusing response on Twitter, which reads:

Amash TweetAs you may know, while Senator Paul and other supporters of liberty launched this filibuster, Senator McCain and others in the establishment crowd were absent from the fight, instead enjoying dinner with President Obama.

I’ll applaud the efforts of any legislator who is willing to stand up for our civil liberties against the ever-expanding encroachment of the federal government.  However, even though it is several days old, to offer such a witty reply, as Rep. Amash has done, cannot pass without mention on this blog.

Now I’m sure some politicians (like Senators McCain and Graham) would like nothing more than for the liberty wing of the Republican Party to shut up and go away.  I’m just glad that there are folks like Rep. Amash and Sen. Paul in Washington who are able to lead with both principles and humor.

You call join me in following Rep. Amash on Twitter here.

Going After The Governor

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

With the blessing of Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s General Assembly recently passed a transportation bill has upset huge numbers of conservatives across the state.  Labeled as the largest (or second largest) tax increase in Virginia history, many activists see the move as an outright betrayal of McDonnell’s election pledge to find other ways to fund transportation without a tax hike.

Rumors circulate that after leaving office in November, the governor will set his sights on either the 2014 U.S. Virginia Senate seat or even the 2016 presidency.  In order to thwart McDonnell’s higher political ambitions, a group called the Patriot SuperPAC recently ran an ad in Iowa warning voters in that state that McDonnell is not the fiscal conservative he pretends to be.  Today, the PAC released another ad targeting the people of New Hampshire.

Although the 2016 presidential race will not begin in earnest for at least another year, these sorts of messages clearly illustrate an important reality.  Bob McDonnell has upset a whole lot of Virginia conservatives and his effort to cement a legacy for himself through transportation tax hikes likely makes it almost impossible for him to ever win back the support of this key constituency.