A Troubling Contest

obenshain_headshot
Photo from the Obenshain Campaign

Here in Virginia, the race for our next attorney general is unresolved.  In the days after the election, the totals fluctuated for the candidates with each enjoying the lead at some point.  When the state board of elections certified the official result on November 25th, Democrat Mark Herring led Republican Mark Obenshain by 165 votes out of over two million cast.  As a result, the Obenshain campaign has asked for a recount, which is permitted in races where the percentage difference is one percent or less and paid for by the state in cases where the margin is less than 1/2 of a percent.

Will the recount change the outcome?  The last statewide recount took place in the 2005 attorney general’s race.  Republican Bob McDonnell led before the recount and emerged victorious afterward.  According to a press release sent out from the Obenshain campaign on Tuesday, “There have been four statewide elections in the U.S. since 2000 that finished within a 300 vote margin.  In three of those four statewide elections the results were reversed in a recount.”  Yes, it is possible the outcome could change; Virginia taxpayers shouldn’t grumble about footing this bill.

As we await news of this recount, if Obenshain should fall short some Republican activists have been promoting the idea of something called a “contest”.  In close elections where there are cases of massive voting irregularities, candidates can appeal to the General Assembly to decide the outcome.  The last time a contest took place was in the late 70’s when a Republican candidate contested the result of the election.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the then Democratic-controlled General Assembly decided in favor of the Democratic candidate.  However, as the Republicans control a significant majority of seats in that body, if asked to settle a contest today, presumably they would divide along party lines with Obenshain emerging as the victor.

Although a contest could allow the GOP to salvage some small measure of victory in an otherwise poor election year, without considerable proof of fraud or error, such a move would heavily tarnish any semblance of free and fair elections in Virginia.  Like the troubling decision to allow control of the lieutenant governor’s office to decide the power structure of the Virginia Senate in cases of a tie, I worry that there are elements within the Republican Party which would be willing to take this any methods necessary approach to thwart the will of the voters in the race for attorney general.

Andy Schmookler, my co-commentator and often political adversary on 550 AM, WSVA believes that Obenshain will not ask for a contest.  In the Augusta Free Press he wrote:

“A real conservative would not damage a pillar of the American political tradition by disrespecting the voice of the people expressed through voting.  It is at the heart of American democracy, because it is the means by which we confer power in an orderly and peaceful way.

“And as a matter of honor, a Virginia gentleman accepts the outcome of a duel fairly fought”

Although Andy and I disagree on a multitude of issues, I really hope he is right on this point.

Republican friends, I’m sure that I’d like see Senator Obenshain as our next attorney general as much as any of you.  But absent of proof of fraud, don’t lobby your legislators to overturn the November elections through a contest.  Sure, doing so may result in a short-term victory.  But the long-term consequences could be devastating.   The ends don’t justify the means.  Let’s let the recount and the voters determine the outcome, not 140 legislators in Richmond.

Coulter for Delegate

With news of the surprise retirement of Delegate Onzlee Ware, the citizens of 11th district in the city of Roanoke will have an opportunity to elect a new legislator to serve them in Richmond.

Photo from Caleb Coulter

I’m pleased to say that fellow liberty activist Caleb Coulter will be seeking the Republican nomination for this office.  I have known Caleb for several years and believe that he possesses both the principle and integrity that are sorely needed in all levels of government.  That’s why I was glad that he was elected to represent me as a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Tampa in 2012 and also why I believe he would make an excellent candidate to serve the citizens in our state government.

The Republican primary for the 11 district will be held in just two weeks, on December 10th.  Therefore, I strongly encourage you to visit his campaign website and his Facebook page now to learn more about him and ways you can help him become a delegate.

 

The Libertarian State Central Committee Meeting

Saturday marked a political first for me (given my 18 years active in politics, firsts aren’t all that common anymore).  I attended my first state central committee meeting of a political party.  It has been my experience that the Republican Party doesn’t typically advertise their meetings of their state central committee; by comparison, the Libertarian Party not only posted their meeting on Facebook, but they also invited non-committee members to attend.

IMG_2395Shortly before noon, Nick (the leader of JMU’s Madison Liberty) and I made the trek from Harrisonburg to downtown Charlottesville for the 1 PM meeting.  The upstairs room which held the SCC was packed.  I was told that this gathering was the largest that the party had ever seen outside of one of their conventions.  Besides the leadership of the Libertarian Party, there were a multitude of other familiar faces including Robert Sarvis and former House of Delegates candidate Jonathan Parrish.  The Harrisonburg/Rockingham liberty community was well-represented, with at least seven attendees in the audience.  Although not a member of their party, I was permitted to witness the proceedings.

Major points of business for the group included discussing plans for the 2014 Libertarian Party Convention, tentatively slated for February 8th in Richmond, and issues dealing with the Tidewater Libertarian Party.  Before the November 5th election, the leader of the TLP endorsed Ken Cuccinelli for governor over Libertarian Robert Sarvis and several members of their leadership had made statements either favorable to Cuccinelli or disparaging of either the LPVA or Robert Sarvis.  Although the TLP removed the head of their group in response, some LP leaders wished to disaffiliate the TLP with the state organization.

Unfortunately, as the discussion grew heated, Nick and I had to leave as he needed to travel to northern Virginia for Thanksgiving break.  However, after dropping him off in Harrisonburg, I turned my car around and returned to Charlottesville.  Being the political animal that I am, I found the discussion far too intriguing to simply abandon it.  However, by the time I returned, the meeting had concluded.  Nevertheless, the social that followed was worthwhile and I relished the chance to speak with Robert Sarvis, fellow former RLC-VA board member Steven Latimer, Roanoke Libertarian leader Melissa Scott, 2013 House of Delegates candidate Laura Delhomme, LPVA secretary Marc Montoni, LPVA vice-chairman Dr. Lark, as well as meeting several new folks.  I heard that although the vote was close, the LPVA decided to maintain ties with the Tidewater Libertarian Party.

Although it ended up taking about four hours worth of travel time and gas, I was glad for the opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon and evening with Libertarians from across the state.  It was nice to finally meet quite a few people whom I’ve only had contact on Facebook.

In liberty!

RISE-iversary

Greetings readers.

On a non-political note, I’m pleased to announce that today marks my one year anniversary of attending the RISE church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Although the reasons which first brought me to this faith community no longer keep me there,  during this last year I’ve found an incredible group of individuals including Amanda, the amazing pastor of RISE.  We’ve had our share of joy and sorrows, our challenges and our triumphs.  We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve learned, and we’ve grown.  Although we come with our own histories and stories, we are bound together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Although I’ve invited you before, for those who live in the Harrisonburg area looking for a church, perhaps RISE would be a good fit for you.  Maybe I’ll see you next Sunday at 10 AM at the Court Square Theater.  Or if you’re not into that whole Sunday morning thing, you could try Tuesday nights with RAISE.

Student Politics at W&M

On Wednesday morning, I decided to travel to my alma mater, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  As part of my journey, I hoped to meet with William & Mary Students for Liberty that evening.  While on the grounds, I decided to stop in to the office of student activities to discover what sort of political organizations existed on campus.

Besides the aforementioned Students for Liberty and the fairly traditional College Republicans and College Democrats, I also discovered William and Mary Students for Life, a pro-life group created by my former employers, Students for Life of America.  After a few email exchanges, I ended up attending a meeting of this organization.  Although the local Catholic church held a pro-life event at the same time, as thus lured away some of their attendees, Students for Life still had a pretty good gathering.

The William & Mary College Republicans
The William & Mary College Republicans

Even though I planned to leave campus on Thursday afternoon, when I heard that Pete Snyder would be speaking to the College Republicans, I decided to stick around, interested to hear what Pete had to say and to offer him a friendly hello.  Unfortunately, several minutes before the start of the CR meeting, the leader of the group announced that Mr. Snyder was unable to attend.  It was disappointing and cut their meeting pretty short, but these things do happen.  Nevertheless, despite the statewide losses and the defeat of Delegate Watson in the 93rd, the CRs seemed to be in pretty good spirits.

Although not an exhaustive search, I’m glad to see that political activism is still alive and well on the campus of William & Mary.

Liberty’s Frost

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”  So begins Robert Frost’s immortal poem and so too the liberty movement in Virginia now faces two or more roads.  Nowhere can this divide be seen more clearly than in the 2013 race for governor where many liberty activists supported Republican Ken Cuccinelli and others rallied behind Libertarian Robert Sarvis.  As attacks mounted, each side grew to despise the other.

The question now becomes what should be done?  Many people declared that the Republican ticket of Cuccinelli, Jackson, and Obenshain was the most liberty-minded statewide slate of candidates Virginia had ever seen.  However, Cuccinelli and Jackson both fell in defeat and Obenshain is a few votes behind Herring; at this point, that contest and the recount to likely follow isn’t terribly promising.

On the Libertarian side of things, although Robert Sarvis performed leaps and bounds better than Gary Johnson’s presidential run in 2012 or Bill Redpath’s 2001 gubernatorial race, he was unable to reach the 10% mark, which would have given tremendous legitimacy to the Libertarian party and awarded them official status within the two major parties in the state.

Some of my fellow liberty activists remain firmly committed within the Republican camp, arguing that taking over the GOP is the only realistic hope for liberty.  However, there are grumblings within the establishment of that party, whether fairly or not, using 2012 as an example of what happens when the party drifts too far from the center.  Although perhaps mere rumors, there is talk of expelling the tea party and the liberty movement from their ranks.  And, given the proclivity of some Republicans to pass massive tax increases and meddle too much into personal affairs, an increasing number of libertarians see the GOP as a major part of the problem.

Others declare the Libertarian Party to be the path of the future for liberty.  However, given the party did not achieve its 10% goal, it still faces significant hurdles both electorally and, just as important, the wasted vote syndrome embedded within the minds of scores of Virginia citizens.  The party is still quite small and underfunded, thus the challenges are enormous.  And some of their positions are unpalatable to liberty-minded social conservatives.

As you likely know, during this election cycle I looked at the choices and was…“sorry I could not travel both”; ultimately taking “the one less traveled by”.

Like I stated as the campaign cycle began to take a particularly nasty tone, one of my greatest concerns was the rift in the liberty faction.  The Republican wing considered the Libertarian to be fools, wasting their time on a candidate and cause that clearly could not win, while the Libertarian wing thought the Republicans to be sell-outs, supporting candidates who did not really adhere to the message of liberty.

Regardless of which party you believe is the best vehicle for advancing liberty (or if you choose no party at all), the liberty movement needs to heal, respect each other, and come together in some fashion if we wish it to advance.  My advice to all sides is to reach across the partisan divide and search out like-minded Republicans, Libertarians, and even Democrats (yes, they do they exist.  However, they were troubled by Cuccinelli’s supposedly radical social agenda.)  At least that’s what I’m trying to accomplish.  At the end of the day, it is my great hope that we can say, “and that has made all the difference.”

Veterans Day 2013

Today, we take time from our busy schedules to remember and honor the veterans who fought and died on behalf of our nation and our liberty.  In the spirit of the day, I took a trip to a small community in Rockingham County near the West Virginia border known as Briery Branch.  In many ways, it was a return home.  I lived in this area from the ages of two to six and, at one point, both sets of my grandparents lived there.

IMG_2383In remembrance of Veterans Day, I spent some time at the cemetery of the Briery Branch Church of the Brethren.  In it, one can find the graves of a multitude of veterans, including several of my own relatives.  In recognition of their sacrifices, I’d like to take a moment to remember my grandfathers who served our nation in World War II as well as a great uncle who gave his life at the age of twenty-nine, leaving behind his wife and a multitude of young children.

The anniversary of the end of World War I is a fitting day to remember those brave men and women, many of whom gave so very much for the sake of our people and our principles.

Thank you to each and every one of you.

2013 Post Election Thoughts

Vote HereWell, ladies and gentlemen, it has been nearly a week since the election of November 5th.  Perhaps it is time for a little analysis.  Before I begin, I should add that the week before the election, Bearing Drift asked their readers to offer their predictions on how things would turn out.  Therefore, in each race, I’ll start by mentioning my predictions.

Governor

Prediction: McAuliffe 51%, Cuccinelli 43%, Sarvis 6%

Actual: McAuliffe 47.74%, Cuccinelli 45.23%, Sarvis 6.52%

The four November polls in the lead up to Election Day predicted Cuccinelli down by significant percentages, 12%, 7%, 6%, and 7%.  Only one, Emerson College placed him within two points and the margin of error.  As Cuccinelli had not been leading in a poll since mid July, the general thought was that it wasn’t going to be a particularly close race.  However, the Cuccinelli campaign tried two tactics right before judgment day.

The first involved Obamacare.  Given that citizens across the country were having tremendous difficulty signing up on the official website, this frustration and anger proved to be fertile ground for the Cuccinelli camp given that Cuccinelli had been attacking the program within hours of its passage.  If the Cuccinelli campaign had latched onto this message sooner rather than relentlessly attacking McAuliffe, then perhaps they would have stood a good chance of actually winning.

Second, as negativity was their style, the Cuccinelli campaign and their allies attempted last minute smearing of Robert Sarvis, declaring that he was not a real libertarian and that he was secretly funded by Democrats.  Although neither of these claims were grounded in much fact, as they were distributed by both leaders in the liberty movement and a handful of well-known media sources, some voters accepted them as true and passed them on to their friends and neighbors unquestioned.  Although these tactics likely enraged a number of Sarvis supporters and turned them further from Cuccinelli, it did drive others to switch their votes from Sarvis to Cuccinelli.  Although I predicted that Sarvis would pull equally from both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, exit polls show that either his presence didn’t affect the overall outcome or he drew more from the Democratic side than the Republican.  However, this last ditch effort to win Sarvis support likely caused an even deeper fracture within the liberty movement in Virginia.

10% was the hurdle that Sarvis needed to reach and, as I predicted, he fell short.  However, assuming these false attacks were not launched, it would have been interesting to see how close he would have come.

Lieutenant Governor

Prediction: Northam 55%, Jackson 45%

Actual: Northam 55.11%, Jackson 44.54%

If you account for rounding, I hit this one exactly on the mark.  Unfortunately, as I stated upon the conclusion of the 2013 Virginia Republican Convention, by nominating Jackson the Republicans had surrendered the LG race.  If you will recall, in Jackson’s previous attempt at a statewide race the year before, he picked up a scant 4.72%.  Although Jackson strongly resonated with the hard-line social conservatives within the GOP, many of his previous statements regarding alternate religions and lifestyles hurt him tremendously among average Virginians.  Although Ralph Northam did not run a particularly impressive or vigorous campaign, all he needed to do was to air some of Jackson’s more controversial statements and victory was all but a certainty.

Attorney General

Prediction: Obenshain 52% Herring 48%

Actual: Obenshain 49.88%, Herring 49.88% (as of 11/10/13)

The Obenshain/Herring contest turned out to be a real nail-biter, with the results still unknown and likely headed to a recount.  Originally, I expected Obenshain to win based upon the fact that the Democrats had not won the attorney general’s spot since 1989 and that Obenshain had been working hard to capture this office for the last several years.  Although, in my opinion, the Obenshain team ran the best of the three Republican campaigns, they were no doubt hampered by troubles at the top of the ticket.  Once news of a possible recount emerged, I was still under the impression that Obenshain would win, but with the addition of “missing” ballots from Fairfax, the results seem a lot more unclear.  We likely won’t know anything definitive for at least a month.

House of Delegates

Prediction: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

Actual: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

With all of the excitement surrounding the three statewide races, the hundred seats in the House of Delegates weren’t much more than an afterthought for many Virginia voters.  Although I didn’t know where, I assumed that the Democrats would pick off a Republican somewhere.  It looks as if the GOP lost in the 2nd district, picked up the previously Republican leaning independent seat in the 19th, picked up the vacant seat in the 78th, picked up the vacant seat in 84th, and lost the 93rd.  Elsewhere, there were a considerable number of close contests.  Prior to the elections and vacancies, the Democrats had 32 seats.  Now they have 33.  Although I’ve written extensively on the 93rd in previous posts, it seems that even with a bit of gerrymandering the seat was too difficult for the GOP to hold for long.

So I guess the question now is, will Obenshain win?  And, especially if he does not, given their string of successive statewide losses since the 2009 election, what will become of the Republican Party of Virginia?

Sarvis’ Thank You Note

This weekend, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis offered his thoughts and thanks to his staff, volunteers, and supporters.  Although, as Sarvis pointed out in his letter, in the early stages some activists declared that the Sarvis vote total would amount to very little, he managed to make waves by capturing a much higher percentage than any previous statewide Libertarian candidate.

Also, I appreciated the fact that the Sarvis campaign was issue driven, remaining remarkably positive in one of the ugliest brawls between the Republican and Democratic candidates that I had ever witnessed.  The efforts of the Libertarian stood in stark contrast, which likely improved his standing among disgusted and disillusioned voters.

Yes, it is tempting, especially for those limited government conservatives, to wish failure upon our new governor.  After all, most of us did not vote for him.  However, Sarvis gets it right when he declares, “as I said in my Election Night speech, we must do our duty to support him [McAuliffe] as our Governor to move public policy in the right direction. We should rally behind him when he is doing what we agree is right, and we must be constructive in our criticism when we believe his actions or decisions are ill-advised.”  At the end of the day, we must remember that we are all Virginians, first and foremost.

Lastly, I must say that I appreciated being recognized by Mr. Sarvis alongside so many good liberty-minded folks across our great state.  It was an interesting adventure and I look forward to hearing what the future has in store for Robert Sarvis.

If you didn’t click on the link above, you can find the full text of Robert Sarvis’ letter here.