A Bittersweet Anniversary

Photo taken by Jason Lenhart.  Image from the from page of the Daily News Record, April 25th, 2014
Photo taken by Jason Lenhart. Image from the front page of the Daily News Record, April 25th, 2014

On this date last year, I announced to Facebook and the Harrisonburg community that I would be seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council that November.  In that election, I ran as an independent.  Although I had associated with the Harrisonburg Republican Party since the age of fifteen, I had grown increasingly disenchanted with the party over the years as they and their elected officials often endorsed candidates and legislation which stood in stark contrast to their supposed principles.  As a result of our growing rift between what they said they believed compared to what they actually did, I was expelled from that organization in February of 2014.  Once you couple that issue with open hostility from the Harrisonburg Libertarian Party, running as an independent seemed to be the logical choice.

However, that’s not to say that I didn’t have friends in both the Republican and Libertarian camps.  As such, my first official campaign event, taking place on April 24th of 2014, was a signature collection drive on the campus of JMU alongside U.S. Senate candidate Robert Sarvis and 6th district House of Representatives candidate Will Hammer.  An article and photo featuring the three of us appeared the following day in my local paper, The Daily News Record.

In the weeks and months that followed, I learned much, met many new people, picked up new friends, and unfortunately discovered a few enemies.  Having been involved in politics for so long, I’ve certainly seen and faced a lot.

Prior to this campaign, one of my worst experiences centered around a death threat I received while working for Dr. Ron Paul in 2007.  However, soon after making my announcement for council, I received a phone call from some who used to call me the best of friends who promised a barrage of unyielding personal attacks against me if I continued in my effort to seek elected office.  Although I decided to press onward, as you might imagine, this blackmail cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over the campaign, making my effort all the more difficult, and did much to crush my enthusiasm for this project.  As I have been reminded consistently over the years, and last year’s race for city council was no exception, politics often attracts the worst elements of humanity.  However, I should add that while there are certainly those that sought to destroy me, there are others who came forth that evening to lift me up.

April 24th of 2014 was marked by unbridled hope while the following day brought crushing disappointment.  Therefore, even one year later these two days remain a bittersweet memory of the beginnings of my foray to seek public office.

Moore with the Libertarians

Last night, April Moore, a Democratic candidate for the 26th district in the Virginia Senate, spoke at the monthly meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  Although a slightly smaller than usual turnout, Ms. Moore introduced herself to the attendees with a brief speech.  Afterward, those gathered engaged in a lengthy question and answer session in order to learn more about the candidate as well as to share thoughts with her on ways to achieve greater liberty through reducing the power of government.

Although the background noise at O’Charlies was quite loud and obscured the recording a bit, hopefully this video will provide a little more insight into April Moore and her candidacy.

Reaching Across The Aisle

IMG_2133Sometimes it seems as if the political divide in this country is so great that dialogue with members of other political parties is impossible.  We have our side and they have theirs and damned be he that even thinks about extending his hand across the chasm.

But should that be the case?

Four years ago, local Republican sheriff candidate Bryan Hutcheson agreed to speak at a Democratic event.  It sounded like a positive idea to me.  After all, the sheriff ought to represent and protect all of the citizens of his or her locality, not simply those within his own party.  In addition, there was no Democratic candidate in that race.  Now, of course there would be political disagreement between a candidate and an opposing party, but who knows?  They might actually find some common ground and give some of them a reason to support him; it is good for people of all political stripes to learn about their choices.  However, when the Republican establishment heard of this idea, they quickly put an end to it.  Nevertheless, facing no major party opposition, Mr. Hutcheson was elected that November.

In 2013, I repeatedly encouraged the Obenshain campaign to speak to Libertarians.  After all, there was no Libertarian candidate on the ballot for that office and thus Libertarians would need to choose between a Republican, a Democrat, or simply leaving the attorney general’s race blank.  However, the Obenshain campaign steadfastly declined to do so.  Once all the votes were counted, Mark Obenshain lost by a scant 165 votes.

When I ran for city council last year as an independent, I put this philosophy in action, speaking to whatever group would host me, be they Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian.  As was the case with the sheriff in 2011, some leaders of these three political camps were quite upset, furious that I would have the audacity to reach out to their members.  How dare I suggest that I might have more in common with their professed ideology than their anointed party nominees?  Unfortunately, I discovered running without a party label created massive hurdles in terms of both funding and a volunteer base and thus was in no danger of winning.

Just recently, I received word that April Moore, the Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate in the 26th district who is challenging Senator Obenshain, has reached out to the local Libertarian community and will be speaking at the next meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians on April 21st.  Whatever your thoughts happen to be regarding Ms. Moore or the Libertarian Party, I see this move as an encouraging sign, an opportunity to expand political dialogue and bring together people who may never associate otherwise.

Are we more than our party labels?  I should think so.  Is there only one kind of Republican…or Democrat…or Libertarian?  Of course not!  Are all Republican candidates conservative?  Or all Democrats liberal?  Or all Libertarians libertarian?  No.  Just like ordinary individuals, they are as varied as grains of sand.

It is easy to ignore and demonize those who follow a different political brand, choosing to simply follow a label without checking the contents, voting for the candidates of the same party year after year.  And I know it may be uncomfortable and inconvenient to do anything else.  But maybe, just maybe, if we reach across the aisle, speaking to those who think differently or attending meetings of a different political party, we just might learn something new about them, expand political dialogue, and find common ground.  And, just as important, by doing so we might learn something new about ourselves.

Arthur Announces for the 24th

Ellen Arthur
Ellen Arthur

Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Court House in Staunton, Ellen Arthur officially announced her campaign for the 24th district House of Delegates seat.  Seeking the Democratic nomination, she is challenging Republican Delegate Ben Cline who has represented the district since 2002.  The 24th district includes Bath County, Buena Vista, Lexington, Rockbridge County, as well as portions of Augusta and Amherst Counties.

About two dozen people came out for the event which lasted a little less than half an hour.  Introduced by Augusta Democratic Chairman and former State Senator Frank Nolen (D-24), Ms. Arthur explained a little about her family life and her reasons for running, including her three campaign issues: improving medical care, expanding educational opportunities, and curbing the influence of money in politics.  Along these same lines, she spoke out against the Dominion pipeline, saying that it transported a “obsolete source of energy” and mentioned that Delegate Cline has received over $12,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion.

Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur
Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur

During the brief question and answer period that followed, Angela Lynn, a fellow candidate who is running for House of Delegates in the nearby 25th district, spoke in favor of Ms. Arthur, as did Staunton City Council member Erik Curren, and Staunton School Board member and local Young Democrat leader Laura Kleiner.  Lastly, she was joined on the steps by Angela Lynn for a joint photo.